Machinists Union Celebrates May 5th Anniversary

05.05.2009 – The first IAM Charter was signed by Thomas Talbot and issued to Local Lodge 1 of the National Association of Machinists.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers celebrates its 121st anniversary today. On the evening of May 5, 1888, railroad machinist Tom Talbot held a secret meeting with eighteen fellow machinists in a locomotive pit in Atlanta, Georgia. That meeting was the beginning of the IAM.

Tom Talbot went on to become the union’s first president and with the help of traveling Machinists organizers known as “Boomers,” the union’s membership grew to 4,000 in just two years.

Recessions back then were known as “panics” but one thing that never changed was how workers suffered most during bad economic times. Unemployment was high in the 1880s and people were still hurting from the ravages of a severe panic in the 1870s. Work days were longer, conditions unsafe and journeymen machinists were earning about half as much as they did twenty years earlier. The need for workers to unite and organize was never greater.

“The IAM started in tough times, has endured through some of North America’s darkest days of wars, recessions and the Great Depression, and it will continue to prevail,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “As we endure some of the toughest economic times in our lifetimes, our members have the same type of bravery and resolve that inspired those original 19 railroad men to fight for justice on the job and a better future for their fellow members and families.”