Machinists President at NAN Convention in Washington D.C.

Collective bargaining rights are an essential means to securing the economic equality that has been an elusive goal of the civil rights movement for decades. That was the message from IAM President Tom Buffenbarger and a panel of labor leaders at the 14th Annual National Convention of the National Action Network (NAN) in Washington D.C.

“The attack on workers’ rights and voting rights is really an attack on America,” declared Buffenbarger. “My hope, as we move through conferences like this one, is that we’ll find ways to again unite people in the civil rights community and the labor community.”

Click here to view IAM video coverage of the conference.

Buffenbarger also emphasized the epic scale of the current and ongoing recession, citing continued high unemployment levels in a diverse cross-section of the electorate, including: 860,000 disabled Americans; 1.9 million college graduates; 976,000 teenagers and 3.3 million high school graduates, among others.

“For the jobless, life is getting worse, not better,” said Buffenbarger. “And it won’t get better unless we convince them to go vote against their tormentors – in both political parties.”

Joining Buffenbarger at the NAN Convention, which also featured presentations from U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, was Annie Hill – Secretary-Treasurer, Communications Workers of America (CWA), Francine Lawrence filled in for Lorretta Johnson – Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Eliseo Medina – Secretary-Treasurer, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Lee Saunders – Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME).