Young Machinists Gather to Plan Labor’s Future

More than a hundred union members from IAM, TCU and NFFE worked all day to construct frames for six Habitat for Humanity homes in San Antonio, TX.

It’s a common refrain from critics, or maybe a family member or colleague: “Young people are too apathetic to care about labor unions or workers’ rights.”

It couldn’t be further from the truth. Just ask any of the more than a hundred activists who came together at the IAM’s 2014 Young Workers and Emerging Leaders Conference in San Antonio, TX, to plan the labor movement’s future.

Organizing Apprentice Joe Cicala of Local 1486 and Shop Steward Daniella Ferioli of Local 389 are part of a growing contingent of Young Machinists who are making their mark on the IAM.
Young Machinists joined over 175,000 union members and others in San Antonio’s MLK Day March, the largest in the country.

Joe Cicala, a Young Machinist and Organizing Apprentice who previously served as President of Local 1486 in Chesapeake Beach, MD, says it was a mentor at his Local who sparked his passion for the IAM.

“Once I started getting active in the union, I really realized that this was something I wanted to do,” said Cicala. “I was helping our members and I was helping our community. I can’t stress enough that our younger members need to get involved.”

Daniella Ferioli, a Pipefitter at General Dynamics NASSCO and Shop Steward for Local 389 in San Diego, got involved as a younger member because of the scarcity of women in her trade. After being mentored herself, she is preparing a 22-year-old member to take her position as Shop Steward.

“As I get older, I’m no longer the young one and I don’t want to be,” said Ferioli. “I want to see the IAM continue to thrive when I’m no longer here.”

National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE/IAM) National Business Representative Amy Burns, IAM Local 837A member and Missouri state Rep. Clem Smith, and Transportation Communications Union (TCU/IAM) Curriculum Training Manager Joel Hernandez also shared stories of how they got involved as Young Machinists.

The conference coincided with the AFL-CIO’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil and Human Rights Conference and included workshops on communicating, organizing, collective bargaining and community involvement. Members age 40 and younger from the IAM, NFFE and TCU also took part in a day of service with Habitat for Humanity.

With hard hats on and hammers in hand, they raised frames for six houses that will soon be homes for San Antonio families.  

“This is an opportunity to get involved and see what other people are doing in the community,” said Sandy Kekawa from Local 1998 in Honolulu, HI. “It’s like organizing. It’s the foundation for me to go back home and get motivated and get something great rolling.”

IAM General Vice President Diane Babineaux, who chaired the conference, recalled that it has been union and civil rights activists who have won human and workers’ rights battles in the past.

“We’re reaching a generation of workers that many people say don’t know or don’t care about unions,” said Babineaux. “All of you are proving those critics wrong. It’s reassuring to see your enthusiasm and your participation.”

Click here to see more photos from the conference, community service project and the Martin Luther, King, Jr., Day March on the Young Machinists’ Facebook page.