My Conversation with IP Tom Buffenbarger: How Tom Became a Union Leader and How You Can Too


Dan Janssen, an Air Canada baggage handler and vice president of IAM Local 2323 in Toronto, sat down with IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger for a frank discussion on the importance of young workers’ involvement in the labor movement.

Dan Janssen, a 34-year-old Young Machinist and vice president of IAM Local 2323 in Toronto, recently sat down with IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger during a week of leadership classes at the William W. Winpisinger Center.

Janssen, an Air Canada baggage handler who has worked his way into a leadership position at his own local, asked Buffenbarger about his past, his passion for the labor movement and how young people can get more involved in their union.

Click here to read Janssen’s article.

IAM International Tom Buffenbarger began his union career as an apprentice shop steward at General Electric Jet Engines in Evendale, OH. (Photo: Bill Burke / Page One Photography)

“I felt a deep kinship with Tom right from the start,” writes Janssen. “I had started safety reporting only a few years back. The reason I enjoyed it so much was because you could create change to make the workplace better for your coworkers, whether they realized it or not.”

Janssen contrasts his own story of getting involved with the IAM, a Young Machinists conference in which he says “a spark ignited within me,” with Buffenbarger’s beginnings as a young apprentice shop steward at General Electric Jet Engines in Evendale, OH.

“I will never forget the machinists and tool and die makers who took me under their wing when I did my apprenticeship,” Buffenbarger says. “They were true blue, died in the wool, rocked ribbed trade unionists, and besides teaching me the technical aspects of my craft, they taught me to be a real machinist.”

Buffenbarger would go on to become the youngest International President in Machinists Union history. His advice for young workers today: “Be open to new ideas and encourage others to step up with you, that’s how the union survives.”

Click here to read “My Conversation with IP Buffenbarger: How Tom Became a Union Leader and How You Can Too.”