WASHINGTON, Aug. 23, 2023 – After nearly eight years leading the union, two decades on the Executive Council and more than 43 years of membership, IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. has announced that he will retire, effective Jan. 1, 2024. IAM Resident General Vice President Brian Bryant will succeed Martinez as the IAM’s next international president.
Martinez’s historic tenure as the IAM’s 14th International President includes forging through some of the most challenging moments in the history of the IAM and the labor movement. He is the first Latino international president of a major American labor union in the history of the American labor movement, the first Latino elected to the IAM Executive Council, and the first international president of color in the history of the IAM.
His leadership allowed the IAM to emerge from the pandemic with financial stability and historic membership growth through robust and innovative organizing, while putting the IAM in its strongest financial position in generations.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Martinez and the IAM led the way to win unprecedented relief for airline, aerospace, defense, railroad and other workers. The quick action, including the airline Payroll Support Program (PSP) and the Aviation Manufacturing Jobs Protection Program, saved hundreds of thousands of jobs and protected the livelihoods of countless families and communities.
Martinez helped the IAM grow into new industries, including healthcare professionals, gig workers, tech workers, veterinary technicians, museum workers, architectural workers and more. Martinez’s creation of an IAM Healthcare Department has allowed the IAM to emerge as a leader in organizing this critical sector. Using new organizing tactics and strategies, the IAM was the leading AFL-CIO affiliate in National Labor Relations Board union election victories from 2018 through 2022.
At Martinez’s direction, the IAM also created groundbreaking membership programs that assist members and their families, as well as expanded opportunities for underrepresented groups to advance in the IAM. Martinez commissioned a new department to provide IAM members and their families who are military veterans with VA claims assistance free of charge, as well as an addiction services program and a women’s leadership initiative known as the Leadership Excellence Assembly of Dedicated Sisters, or IAM LEADS.
“As I reflect on my incredible journey as the International President of the IAM, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the privilege and honor to serve our dedicated members across North America,” said Martinez. “The time has come to pass the torch to the next generation of leaders. It has been an honor to stand alongside our skilled and hardworking members and fight for their rights, livelihoods, and a better future for themselves and their families. As I bid farewell to this amazing chapter of my life, I feel proud of our collective work to grow our union and strengthen its foundation built on the spirit of solidarity and justice. My dedication remains steadfast, and I eagerly anticipate our great union’s continued growth and prosperity.”
As a member of the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council, chairman of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Council, and a member of the U.S. President’s Export Council, Martinez has long been a leading voice for domestic manufacturing, especially for defense production. He has led the charge to increase “Buy American” standards and served as a strong voice for workers worldwide as IndustriALL’s global aerospace chairman. Martinez made history by initiating a rank-and-file membership vote for the IAM’s endorsement for U.S. president in 2020.
As chair of the 39th and 40th IAM Grand Lodge Conventions, Martinez presided over delegate action to pass a Membership Bill of Rights, greatly expand resources for organizing, increase strike benefits, implement electronic meetings, and launch a Committee on the Future to listen to our members and chart the IAM’s next chapter.
Martinez, a U.S. Naval Air veteran, began his IAM career as an aircraft assembler at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth, Texas. As an educator and safety advocate, Martinez held numerous positions at the local, district and Grand Lodge levels before joining the IAM Executive Council in 2003 as Southern Territory General Vice President. Before his January 2016 installment as International President, Martinez had served since 2013 as the IAM’s Resident General Vice President, overseeing the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center, among many other IAM departments at IAM Headquarters.
Bryant, a native of Maine, has exemplified the true essence of unionism throughout his 34 years as an IAM member, advocating for the rights and welfare of workers with unwavering commitment. Starting as a pipefitter, he became an integral part of Local S6 at Bath Iron Works, actively participating in various committees and holding key positions like Shop Steward, Trustee, and President before being elected District 4 Directing Business Representative in 1998.
“I am honored to follow in the footsteps of an amazing leader and educator such as International President Martinez,” said Bryant. “Bob has been a great mentor and has left our union in a great place. I am humbled by the support of my colleagues on the IAM Executive Council for putting their faith in me and I am committed to building upon the legacy of the 14 international presidents who came before me. The time is now to shape a strong, diverse and new future for the IAM, and I look forward to listening to our membership as I travel throughout North America.”
Bryant’s journey with the International began in 2004, joining the IAM Eastern Territory staff as an IAM Special Representative. He has held the positions of Eastern Territory Chief of Staff, Headquarters General Vice President, and General Vice President in the General Secretary-Treasurer’s Office. From a Pipefitter in Local Lodge S6 to holding his latest position of IAM Headquarters General Vice President, Bryant’s career has demonstrated his passion, leadership and deep understanding of the labor movement’s core values.
Among other duties, Bryant is currently overseeing the IAM’s Committee on the Future Listening Sessions across North America. The meetings give union members the opportunity to personally give IAM leadership feedback about shaping the IAM’s future.
“Brian is a proven leader who deeply understands the challenges facing our union,” said Martinez. “IAM members should be proud to have someone who will fight tirelessly for them, their families and their communities. His experience in organizing, servicing, and managing staff and finances will serve the membership well. He is the right person to lead the IAM into the future.”
Bryant will take office as the IAM’s international president on Jan. 1, 2024.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is one of North America’s largest and most diverse industrial trade unions, representing approximately 600,000 active and retired members in the aerospace, defense, airlines, railroad, transit, healthcare, automotive, and other industries.