After a rousing address to the Convention and a call to endorse Presidential candidate Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton received an honorary IAM membership, only the third person in the last sixty years to do so.
Shouts of welcome echoed through the halls of the Convention when delegates gave a rousing welcome to a close friend of the Machinists union, Senator Hillary Clinton. The packed convention hall rose to their feet repeatedly during Clinton’s remarks and displayed unequivocal support for her request to back the candidacy of Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
“You were with me from the start, and I want you to know that I will stand with you as we try to change what’s going on in this country,” Clinton told the delegates. “I believe this country is worth fighting for, and that’s why I am fighting to elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.
“I don’t think there’s ever been higher stakes in an election than what we’re facing this November. Barack and I may have started on different paths, but we are on one journey now, and it’s a journey to take back our country because Americans do better when we have a Democratic president,” declared Clinton.
“I know Senator Obama. I’ve seen his passion and determination. He understands both the economic stresses here at home and the strategic challenges around the world,” said Clinton. “We’ve got to start with a president who actually understands the changes we have to make. And no one has more at stake in this election than the American labor movement.”
Immediately following her remarks, delegates unanimously passed a resolution endorsing Barack Obama for president. “This union is not half-hearted with its endorsements,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger, who was an early and strong supporter of Sen. Clinton in the primary race. “We will have boots on the ground in every state to make sure our members understand that Barack Obama is the best chance in a generation to reclaim the American Dream for working families.”
The endorsement of Obama will trigger a massive education campaign among IAM members and extensive publicity in union publications and worksites nationwide. The IAM is a significant political presence in the key industrial states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The IAM, which was the first union to endorse Clinton’s presidential campaign, paid tribute to the close friendship with the Senator from New York by awarding an honorary IAM membership, only the third person in the last sixty years to do so. “We found a partner who never gave up, never gave in, never quit until the last vote was counted,” said Buffenbarger. “We found a partner who fought like hell, was knocked down and refused to stay down. We found a Democratic leader who would fight for blue – collar families.”
Delegates from Local Lodges founded in every decade since 1888 gathered on the stage to mark the IAM’s 120th anniversary.
The Machinists Union commemorated 120 years of fighting for workers’ rights with an opening-day ceremony that featured a procession of delegates from locals founded in each decade from 1888 to the present.
Wearing work clothes and hailing from every territory in the U.S. and Canada, the delegates gathered on the main stage and provided a living link to those early IAM members who rode the rails and helped get the Machinists Union off to a roaring start.
Machinists Local 123 member Windell Gregory from Paducah, Kentucky, kicked off the event by stepping up to a microphone and requesting permission to come forward with more than a dozen delegates from local lodges founded between 1888 and 1897.
Eleven more groups followed, each led by a spokesperson who described key IAM events in the decade of their local’s founding. With each successive decade, the group at the front of the hall grew larger, louder and stronger.
Temporary chairman Johnny Walker welcomed each group to the stage and concluded the event by summoning delegates from District 19, who brought the convention to its feet with traditional ringing of the IAM railroad bell.
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) President Bill Lucy urged delegates to throw their support behind Barack Obama and end the failed policies of the Bush administration.
“Organized labor has the opportunity to change the course of this nation, a course that for eight years has seen the nation slide backwards into economic chaos for millions of working families,” said Lucy.
“Barack Obama has jumped through every hoop, leaped over every hurdle and shattered every barrier to assume the leadership of this party, and he has done it with dignity and class,” said Lucy.
The most impassioned response from delegates came after Lucy spoke frankly about race relations in our country. “There are folks who say, ‘I just can’t bring myself to vote for him. I just – I just can’t do it,’” said Lucy. “Well, we’ve got the incredible opportunity of choosing a black friend or a white enemy, one of the two.”
Transportation Communications International Union (TCU) Bob Scardelletti also addressed the delegates, echoing Lucy’s call for change in the upcoming elections. TCU affiliated with the IAM in 2005. “Senator McCain is North American workers’ worst nightmare,” said Scardelletti. “He is no friend to our veterans. He is no friend to our senior citizens. He must be defeated at all costs. Barack Obama needs the fighting Machinists. We need him and America needs Barack Obama.”
The 37th Grand Lodge Convention will feature live streaming video feeds at www.goiam.org and the The 37th Grand Lodge Convention Website that will make selected portions of the proceedings available to members across North America. Member of Digg? Digg this stream by click here. Member of Reddit.com? Vote up here.