|From left to right, IAM Headquarters General Vice President Bob Martinez, Jr., Local 340 Vice President Willis Pinney, Local 340 President Mervyn Constantine, Jr., and International President Tom Buffenbarger at IAM Headquarters in Upper Marlboro, MD.|
Two IAM Local 340 members have made history by becoming the first IAM members from the U.S. Virgin Islands to attend classes at the William W. Winpisinger (WWW) Education and Technology Center in Southern Maryland.
Local 340 President Mervyn Constantine, Jr., of St. Croix, and Local 340 Vice President Willis Pinney, of St. Thomas, recently took part in WWW’s weeklong Leadership I class. Constantine and Pinney make up the leadership team for IAM-represented dock masters, like themselves, and approximately 80 seamen, caretakers, custodians and office workers at the Virgin Islands Port Authority.
“We learned the first phase of our education, which is understanding the union and labor history,” said Constantine. “The fight didn’t just begin. It began in the 1800s and it has to continue for us to get a piece of the pie.”
Constantine called his experience at WWW “incredible,” and both he and Pinney said they would encourage Local 340 shop stewards to come for classes.
“We wanted to set a standard for people who are going to be IAM leaders in the Virgin Islands to come here,” said Pinney.
They credit IAM Grand Lodge Representative Dave Porter with providing invaluable support and knowledge while they worked to organize the Port Authority. After employees unanimously voted to join the IAM in 2010, then-Southern Territory General Vice President Bob Martinez, Jr., said they would have a contract within a year.
“I said ‘man, this guy is crazy,’” Constantine said with a chuckle.
But Martinez kept his promise. They had a contract within 10 months.
Since then, upward mobility has increased, wages and benefits have improved and “we brought dignity back to the workplace,” said Constantine. Recently, Local 340 added all the Waste Management Authority bargaining units on the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. Johns.
“We enjoy doing what we’re doing, and that’s most important,” said Pinney, who named Local 340 after the Virgin Island’s area code. “Even though it’s hard work, we enjoy it.”