The IAM is mourning the passing of retired General Vice President George Poulin, a 72-year gold member of the IAM who served on the union’s Executive Council for 20 years. Poulin, 91, passed away on Sept. 1, 2023.
Poulin, the son of Canadian immigrants, rose through the IAM to become Resident General Vice President, where from 1977 to 1983 he was responsible for departments at IAM Headquarters and handling vital duties on behalf of legendary IAM International President William W. Winpisinger. He was then assigned as General Vice President of the IAM’s Northeast Territory, and then the restructured Eastern Territory, before retiring in 1997.
“George Poulin will always be a giant in the history books of the IAM,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “He represented the IAM in the highest places with the utmost regard for our members and their families. He never lost his connection to the shop floor, and dedicated his life to our great union. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Toni, and the entire Poulin family during this difficult time.”
Throughout his tenure, Poulin was a visionary leader on emerging technologies and their effects on workers, a fighter for retirement security, and an outspoken advocate for fair trade. Poulin ran organizing campaigns, coordinated bargaining with other unions, handled strikes, negotiated contracts, processed arbitration cases and more. He also specialized in job evaluation and time study programs.
He was on a team that planned the IAM’s founding of its one-of-a-kind labor education facility, the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center, prior to its opening in 1980.
By Winpisinger’s side, Poulin was also a critical part of the IAM’s interfaces with outside organizations and movements, such as the civil rights movement, elected officials, and international affairs.
During one such effort, Poulin traveled to South Africa in the midst of the anti-apartheid effort, which was being aided by the IAM and other North American unions. Poulin was asked to speak to a union gathering in Cape Town.
“It sort of propelled me into what was a serious thing happening in that country, going away from apartheid and the election of Mandela,” Poulin said in a 2011 interview with the Georgia State Labor Archives.
Poulin also chaired the IAM annual Electronics and New Technology Conference and headed the union’s collective bargaining team with General Electric, Westinghouse and Lockheed Martin, as well as the American National, Silgan Corp. and Crown Cork & Seal Can companies.
Before joining the Executive Council, Poulin served as a Special Representative and Grand Lodge Representative for more than 20 years.
After leaving school at the age of 16, Poulin took a job for the Plax Corp. in Hartford, Conn., where he joined IAM Local 354 (District 26). He was quickly elected Shop Steward and became Local 354’s President at 19. He would go on to be elected District 26 President and later became a full-time district organizer.
At his retirement address, Poulin recollected telling those carrying the IAM’s torch into that future that they’re “the last stop between us and annihilation.”
“If you don’t get off your ass and save the labor movement, who’s going to do it?” asked Poulin.
Upon his retirement, Poulin got his high school diploma and then earned an associate’s degrees in general science and paralegal. He relocated to Pennsylvania and founded the IAM District 98 Retiree Club.
Throughout his career and in retirement, Poulin was very active in New England political life on a local, state and congressional level. His hobby was flying and he held a private pilot’s license.
Poulin is survived by his wife of 70 years, Toni, his son James, grandchildren, and many more extended family.