‘Just Win Baby’: How North Carolina IAM Members Turned the Tide on ‘Right-to-Work’

Phoenix Management workers at Camp Lejeune and New River Marine bases were just some of many eastern North Carolina workers to vote to join IAM District 110.

By June 2014, the membership of IAM District 110 in eastern North Carolina had fallen to 588 members. The lack of dues money coming in meant the district, which mainly represents civilian workers at area military bases, was finding it difficult to adequately represent workers in each of its four locals.

IAM Local 2297 Chief Steward Paul Spinner, right, is congratulated by Grand Lodge Representative Joe Greaser after receiving a Machinists leather jacket for organizing more than 25 members.

Their plan to get the district back on its feet started with organizing the members they already represented. North Carolina is a so-called right-to-work state, meaning workers can choose to not pay dues even as they benefit from IAM representation and a collective bargaining agreement.

Stewards were challenged to hit the shop floor to ask every non-member to join the cause. Grand Lodge Representative Joe Greaser incentivized the challenge by offering an IAM-monogramed leather jacket to any member who brought in more than 25 members.

The district got a big jolt in November 2014 when URS contract workers at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point ratified their first Collective Bargaining Agreement, adding over 50 new members. Organizing efforts for eight more employees on that contract continue today.

A year later, after winning an election to represent 135 EMS Services maintenance workers at Camp Lejeune and New River Marine Bases, workers ratified their first collective bargaining agreement.

Hot off the heels of the first contract for EMI Workers, Phoenix Management workers at Camp Lejeune and New River were granted recognition and are now working on proposals for a first contract. The 15 employees unanimously signed authorization cards to petition for recognition, which the company granted recognition.

“Their solidarity has already convinced the company that an election was not necessary,” said Anthony Cruz, directing business representative for IAM District 110. “The Marine Base is well aware of the growing solidarity of Service Contract Workers.”

As of December 1, 2015, membership had risen to 900 members and continues to grow. Local 2297 Chief Steward Walt Doyle was the first to receive a leather jacket for his organizing efforts. Another Local 2292 chief steward, Paul Spinner, also received a jacket.

“Everyone wants to be on the winning team, and ‘just win baby’ is the motto of the Southern Territory when it comes to organizing,” said IAM Southern Territory General Vice President Mark Blondin. “The future of organizing in District 110 continues to grow today with several outside targets and internal organizing efforts underway.”