March 29, 2007 – The Democratic Governor of Oregon, Ted Kulongoski, received a standing ovation from more than 200 delegates, staff and guests on the opening day of the 2007 IAM Aerospace Conference in Portland, OR. The applause grew louder during his remarks as the former truck driver displayed a solid understanding of the issues that matter to working families and a sincere appreciation for the contributions made by union members.
“Every time this nation has asked for a sacrifice, it was you and your children who stepped up – whether it was the economy or wars – it was you,” said Kulongoski, who pledged to continue the fight for good jobs and unions’ right to bargain. “You are what this country is all about and you should take great pride in that.”
Local and district leaders gathered in Portland for the three-day working conference also heard from IP Tom Buffenbarger, who thanked the delegates for their accomplishments in the last election, calling it a victory, but not a complete victory. “You delivered big time, but we still need to recover the White House so that legislation on health care, pensions and organizing rights can get signed and become the law of the land.”
GST Warren Mart reviewed financial programs and initiatives designed to give the union every chance to thrive despite rampant outsourcing, political pressures and increased costs. “From the Centralized Accounting System, to the steadily growing Organizing Fund, our programs are working,” said Mart. “But we cannot expect to have real financial stability until our organizing efforts start paying dividends in the form of new members.”
The theme of this year’s conference, “Focus on Growth” was apparent in every presentation. “The entire aerospace industry is going through changes, but there are opportunities amid the turmoil,” said Headquarters GVP Rich Michalski, who chaired the conference. “From organizing workers under the Service Contract Act to negotiating new contracts that feature the IAM National Pension Plan, there are ways to grow this union. And we need to remember, there has never been a shortage of workers who want to join the Machinists Union. We need to find ways to give them that opportunity.”
The IAM Aerospace Conference is held every 18 months and is being hosted this year by District 24 and Willamette Local 63, the oldest IAM local west of the Mississippi River.