May 12, 2009 – Hundreds of activists from every level of the IAM are gathered in Washington, D.C. this week for the 2009 Legislative Conference; four days of legislative planning and grassroots lobbying on Capitol Hill to build on the successes of the 2008 election.
“What a difference a year makes,” declared IAM President Tom Buffenbarger in a keynote address to open the busy agenda. “When we gathered last year, George Bush was president. Your dedication and faith along with the work of our IAM brothers and sisters throughout this union turned things around. We now have Barack Obama as president, a cabinet who believes their job is to improve the lives of the American people and a Congress that is trying to address our concerns.”
Buffenbarger outlined the challenges ahead in the face of the worst economic crisis in decades and challenged delegates to carry a strong message to those we elected to office. “We want you send a message loud and clear to Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill to bring back jobs and to bring back dignity and respect for those who work for a living,” said Buffenbarger.
Delegates to the Legislative Conference will spend the afternoons on two days of the Conference lobbying their elected representatives in Congress. Buffenbarger gave delegates an overview of the how the IAM is weathering the economic storm and the need for action by government on issues ranging from trade reform, universal health care, solving the manufacturing crisis, protecting the aerospace industry, more skills training and education improvement, “express carrier” reform to close a legal loophole that allows FedEx to block organizing to winning passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. “The best way to counteract the serious challenges we face in today’s economy is to organize,” said Buffenbarger. “We have a president who will sign the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s up to us to make sure Congress passes it and puts it on his desk.”
“All of you worked hard in the last election. When you visit your representatives this week, remember that we’re not asking for their support. We’ve earned the right to demand it,” said Buffenbarger. “As Machinists union members I know you’ll get the job done.
“You are our strongest voice on these issues,” said Headquarters GVP Rich Michalski. “These are your legislators and we must stay strong on all the issues that affect IAM members across North America.”