IAM Western Territory Grand Lodge Representative Maria Santiago Lillis was recently featured in an article published in the Hawaii Landscape magazine titled, “Sisters Under the Skin: Diversity of Women and Labor in Hawaii.” The article, written by Dr. Leslie Lopez who specializes in labor education curriculum at the University of Hawaii’s Center for Labor Education and Research, highlights women for their contributions to labor and workers’ rights in Hawaii.
Lillis is featured for her outstanding work in organizing and representing workers in Hawaii since 1996. In her fight for safe working conditions and fair pay and benefits, she has more than doubled the number of collective bargaining agreements achieved during this time.
Lillis has a reputation for fairness and creating a welcoming and empowering space for all IAM members. She credits her success to General Vice President Gary R. Allen, her Local 1998 Executive Board and the support from her fellow Grand Lodge Representatives.
“Sister Lillis is the senior representative in the Western Territory; she mentors and imparts wisdom to others about our valiant movement and the ‘Fighting Machinists’,” said Allen. “Maria truly is the personification of a great leader and devotes herself to the quest of improving lives on a daily basis. Diversity and inclusion are not just a motto to her; it is a deep-seated belief in empowering all people to make difference that makes us all stronger and her such an impressive leader.”
Lillis represents workers ranging from the Tripler Army Medical Center to the Punchbowl Cemetery. She jokes that she serves workers from the “womb to the tomb.” She has great instinct for relating to her members in Hawaii, who are predominantly women who work as nurses, teachers, hotel cleaners, secretaries and food servers.
“Sister Lillis demonstrates daily all the qualities and beliefs that the Machinists Union stands for,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “Her dedication and diligence as a Grand Lodge Representative have helped better the lives of thousands of IAM-represented workers. While these accomplishments speak for themselves, what makes Maria special is her sensitivity and ability to communicate with a diverse group of members. Her recognition is well-deserved.”
Lillis became an IAM Organizer for Local 1998 in Honolulu, in 1996. In late 1997, she was appointed as a Grand Lodge Representative for the Western Territory.