Machinists Union Celebrates 125th Anniversary in Canada


From left: IAM Canadian GVP Dave Ritchie, Stratford Perth Museum Curator Micaela Fitzsimmons and IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger don white gloves to handle the first minutes book  – circa 1890 – from the first Canadian Local Lodge 103.
International President Tom Buffenbarger addressing delegates of the Ontario Council of Machinists annual conference.

It was on June 27, 1890 that Canadian Machinists formed Local Lodge 103 in the City of Stratford, Ontario, 168 kilometers west of Toronto. Like their brothers in Atlanta, Georgia just two years before, it was railway workers, employed by the Grand Trunk Railway that brought our union to Canada. With that charter it became known as the International Association of Machinists or IAM.

At the Ontario Council of Machinists annual conference, which hosted the celebrations of the 125th anniversary, International President Tom Buffenbarger told more than 170 delegates and guests that being a Machinists member is all about loyalty.

“It’s genetic, you either have it or you don’t, it’s loyalty to the ideal of justice on the job and service to your community,” said Buffenbarger. “It’s worth fighting for and it’s worth working hard for and that’s what you have been doing for the past 125 years in Canada and we all have a better life for it. Honour your past, it deserves it.”

“We began with the railways,” said Canadian GVP Dave Ritchie. “We only represent two small railways today but it gave us the foundation to branch out to become one of the most diversified unions in North America and it’s time for us to celebrate our achievements while forging our future.”

The celebrations were highlighted by exhibits from the Stratford Perth Museum promoting the contributions of Machinists toward the growth of Stratford. The museum was the recipient of a bronze railway bell, refurbished by members of IAM Local Lodge 717T to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the IAM in Canada.