Organizing Into the Future: Improving Workers’ Lives One Win at a Time

The IAM Southern Territory has intensified its efforts to organize diverse groups of workers. They’ve recently had impressive organizing wins at Lufthansa Technik, Zenetex, Maytag, Akima Technical Solutions, and Servicon Systems Inc., to name a few.

Many new Machinists are now experiencing respect on the job and improved family lives for the first time.

Being a Machinist Makes a Difference

“We want a better quality of life in the work area, resulting in a better home life. I have high hopes that we will accomplish great things with the team we have and the IAM by our side.”

Keith Pérez (pictured right) has been a mechanic at Lufthansa Technik in Puerto Rico for over four years. His primary job assignment is to the A320 family’s landing gear and hydraulic systems.

Pérez is part of a group of over 200 mechanics and related groups who provide service for United Airlines, Allegiant, Spirit, and Avianca.

Pérez and his coworkers sought IAM representation due to various workplace issues, including reduced work hours, irregular work rules, inadequate wages and benefits, and not having a voice on the job.

Before organizing with the Machinists Union, many workers decided to resign and study for their certification or find a job in another career field to escape the company’s control.

“Before we won the election to join the Machinists Union, we had a set starting time but no definite time for our shift to end,” said Pérez. “My coworkers and I were not strangers to working over 12 hours daily for six consecutive days. Like many other mechanics, I love my island and wanted to stay here and not worry about leaving my family behind for better work opportunities.”

Joining the IAM was a long, complicated process. The National Mediation Board (NMB) election results came months after aggressive tactics and appeal to stop Lufthansa Technik workers’ right to join the IAM.

The new Machinists know there are still obstacles ahead.

The company has tried implementing policies to retain control and instill fear in the workers. They have also made false promises that the workers would receive pay raises and promotions.

“This is not our first rodeo nor our first time hearing these rumors,” said Pérez. “We don’t trust the rumors the company is spreading. Many mechanics took winning the union election as a relief because we know only good things can come from being part of the Machinists Union.”

Anything Worth Doing is Worth Doing Right

That is just one core value that Anthony Dailey (pictured right), a Team 6 member, believes in while working for the U.S. Army’s Parachute Team.

Dailey and his team, who work for Zenetex in Fort Bragg, NC, worked without a union for over two decades before joining the IAM. He believes dedication and devotion set their team apart from other groups in their industry.

“Being a contractor, sometimes things get left on the table,” said Dailey. “Things can always improve in retaining staff to provide long-term dependable service to the customer, but, sometimes, that is not always the case. Joining the IAM was the most logical step to improve our organization and benefits.“

Bringing the IAM on board was a seamless process. From the moment they called to inquire about information, it has been a transparent and good partnership. This group knew their voice was being heard, and it became clear that IAM was in their corner.

“My initial phone call to the IAM was quickly answered, and a plan was immediately implemented, with each subsequent step clear and concise,” added Dailey.

“I was advised on all aspects, and every concern that arosewas handled without delay. The IAM visited our team, and this personal interaction empowered our team.”

With the team now on board, the next step happened fast. The IAM quickly organized their election vote, and Team 6 overwhelmingly voted to join the Machinists Union.

“Since we started negotiations, our team feels we are in good hands,” said Dailey.

“With the IAM’s help, I feel we are heard and not just listened to. We are confident there will be a successful resolution to our first contract.”

Born Organizers

The Southern Territory has organizers who have paid their dues and understand the value of having a union contract, which affords them and their families benefits and competitive wages.

IAM Local 2340 (District 776) member Valaree Villanueva- Ramirez has been in organized labor for 17 years as an aircraft mechanic and has witnessed many changes in the workplace and society.

Before becoming a Machinist eleven years ago, Villanueva- Ramirez worked at United Auto Workers (UAW-L3 Communication I.S.) on the RJ-135, TACOPS King-air, and Boeing 757 for six years, honing her skills and becoming more proactive in her union. She began her career as a Machinist at Vertex Aerospace, working on the Goshawk T-45 Trainer Jet.

This is where her affinity for organizing and bettering the lives of others grew.

“I’ve always been an organizer,” said Villanueva-Ramirez. “Whether it was organizing family functions, local functions, school functions, or working political campaigns and fundraisers, being a humanitarian first and a leader second, organizing came along with it.”

“I was fortunate to grow up in a very political family, and several relatives held local and state positions,” added Villanueva-Ramirez. “It was a way of life for our family.”

Villanueva-Ramirez considers herself lucky to have participated in inplant organizing, organizing site campaigns, and all the arduous hours of leg work required. She knows each campaign has a different strategy, and incorporating all the tools the Machinists have at our disposal will lead to more organizing wins for the Southern Territory.

Tesha Mungin, a single mother of a 10-year-old adopted daughter, started her journey as a general warehouse worker at IKEA in 2009. She often volunteered for duties outside her job requirements to learn not only that position but also the total company operation.

“While at IKEA, I transitioned from general warehouse worker to several other job titles,” said Mungin. “I soon was voted shop steward and appointed as chief shop steward.

I enjoyed both positions because they offered a chance to advocate for the IKEA members and understand the union’s function and benefits.”

Earlier this year, she was offered the opportunity to become an IAM Organizer.

“I was honored to be asked and quickly accepted,” added Mungin. “Being part of the Machinists Union has allowed me to be a more hands-on parent and flexible work schedule to better manage my child’s education. It has also provided me with a better living wage and an improved lifestyle for my family.

As a new District Organizer, Mungin has been allowed to travel, meet and network with other members of the IAM family. She speaks firsthand to potential IAM members about the benefits being part of a union has given her.

She wants to continue learning and developing new, diverse strategies to communicate with the organizing groups she’s involved with. Some of the groups Tesha is currently working on or considering are Apple, Amazon, Hyundai and Shaw Industries.

“One way we can organize going forward is communicating positive information about unions more accessible to the future generation of workers,” adds Mungin. “We can do this by visiting Job Corps programs and community events and attending local career expos at high schools, trade schools, and colleges. A problem we face is that when we can talk to workers, they have already heard negative things from their employers. We can counter that by getting the truth about the benefits of unions to them earlier.”

“The Southern Territory is grateful to be able to increase our union density and provide our new Machinists with improved benefits and the quality of life they deserve,” said IAM Southern Territory General Vice President Rickey
Wallace. “We have some great organizers and shop stewards with a new perspective and gained knowledge that will continue to help grow our union well into the future. I am incredibly proud of the work done to expand our footprint throughout the Southern United States and U.S. Territories.”

Lufthansa Workers in Puerto Rico Look Forward to Securing First Union Contract


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