Social Media Roundup for Day 6 of the 40th IAM Grand Lodge Convention.
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond is the highest-ranking African American officer in the history of America’s labor movement. He has spent his entire life fighting for racial justice in the workplace and throughout our communities.
Redmond encouraged IAM delegates at the 40th Grand Lodge Convention with a message of faith in the American worker and confidence in the future of the Labor Movement.
“America is finally waking up to how critical organized labor is to the future of this country, and the Machinists Union, you showed this country that it does not run without you,” said Redmond.
He referenced Local S6’s strike in 2020 when 4,300 IAM shipbuilders at Bath Ironworks walked off the job in the largest strike in America at that time.
“Every union member in this country had their backs, and they won a fair contract for themselves, their families, and their communities,” said Redmond. “Once again, it was the fighting machinists who showed America that solidarity pays off, you showed America the power of what it means to be a union member.”
Redmond voiced his strong solidarity with Machinists Union members on strike with Weyerhaeuser timber company, saying that IAM’s display of large-scale solidarity is what gives workers the strength to stand up to disrespect from powerful corporations making record profits off the backs of union members.
“Those woodworkers, they kept the timber industry moving during the pandemic, and America’s labor movement will not rest until Weyerhaeuser comes back with an offer that our brothers and sisters deserve,” said Redmond. “We will not rest!”
He spoke on the labor movement’s history of standing alongside workers, challenging inhumane working conditions, creating safety standards, and “transforming grim and dangerous jobs into good family-sustaining careers, industry by industry.”
“Workers all over the country, especially young people, they are embracing unions as a vehicle to speak up at work, as a vehicle, to demand respect on the job and to strengthen our communities,” said Redmond.
Redmond ended with a call for unity and strength among working people at the ballot box, prompting union members to vote for politicians who lift the working class.
“We need the Machinists now more than ever. We need you to keep organizing, mobilizing, keep being a force for working people, and keep building an America that works for all of us. Let’s show the nation what grass-roots power looks like,” said Redmond.
IAM Canada Research Director Ivana Saula led a panel discussion at the 40th IAM Grand Lodge Convention about Artificial Intelligence and its impact on workers in the Machinists Union’s heaviest industries.
“This is the next fight on the horizon, for all workers, not just Machinists,” said Saula.
To understand the impact of automation on workers in industries like air transportation, manufacturing, shipbuilding, aerospace, healthcare, and hospitality, and to offer a worker perspective, the IAM launched a study of automation and published a report, “Charting Change: Workers’ Voices in an Automated World”, which offers conclusions and recommendations that come from focus groups with union members’ experiences, needs, and daily realities regarding automation.
“What we found out is that technological change isn’t only about job losses, it’s also about de-skilling, wage stagnation, surveillance, merging of tasks, and of course job loss, which is often the last stage of technological change,” said Saula. “There are many signs that precede job losses, and with that, opportunities to intervene.”
READ: Charting Change: Workers’ Voices in an Automated World
The panel consisted of Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) Executive Vice President Larry Rousseau and Director of the AFL-CIO Technology Institute Amanda Ballantyne.
“Every single worker that you represent is going to be affected by technological change, artificial intelligence, and automation,” said Rousseau. “We are very concerned that the government has not given a second thought to what labour can do to help that transition into what we’re going to be seeing.”
IAM Canada and the CLC are putting pressure on the Canadian government to add a representative from labour to its AI advisory council. The Council currently includes leading AI experts from Canadian industry, civil society, academia, and government – but none from labour.
TAKE ACTION: Sign the Petition if you agree that workers need to be represented on the government’s Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence.
“We need to make sure, as trade unionists, that worker voice, worker rights, and our democratic principles, are at the core of the development of United States artificial intelligence technology, it’s really important,” said Ballantyne, speaking to the American workers’ perspective.
Ballantyne added that workers need to ensure that the U.S. and Canada are able to domestically enforce regulation of AI technology, as opposed to relying on global trade agreements, which are often unenforceable, to govern the development of AI technology.
“There are a lot of different ways that AI could impact the workforce,” said Ballantyne. “Some of them could be really good. Some of them could be improving worker safety and making work processes more efficient, and really moving towards assistive technologies that make work better, safer, faster.”
“The fact that our union has survived for 134 years, speaks to our resilience and adaptability,” said Saula. “The IAM has withstood the test of time, proving that no challenge is too great to overcome; it’s clear that we have adapted to every challenge.”
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten delivered a lively speech on Thursday honoring the fighting spirit of the Machinists on behalf of workers’ rights and the labor movement. Weingarten also emphasized the importance of education for the advancement of the middle class and how the upcoming elections are critical for working families.
“It’s in our DNA to fight for a better life, not just for ourselves,” said Weingarten. “[It’s] for the next generation to have a voice at work, to get pay that families can actually live on, high-quality affordable health care so we are not one disease away from bankruptcy, and for retirement benefits so people don’t have to grow in poverty.”
The AFT and IAM continue to be close allies when partnering to advocate for workforce development programs and fair trade policies.
More than a year ago, the IAM and AFT formed a partnership to jointly organize healthcare workers across the United States leading to a groundbreaking healthcare organizing victory in New Mexico.
“People get the transformative power of collective bargaining, that’s why we are trying to do it together, starting with healthcare organizing and we have seen results already,” said Weingarten. “We are going to represent together [giving workers] a voice to advocate and negotiate for themselves and their patients.”
Weingarten reaffirmed AFT’s commitment to working together with the IAM not only around organizing efforts but also advocating for policies that include training, funding, and support for high-skill careers to improve the lives of working men and women.
“The AFT will always stand with the IAM,” said Weingarten. “We will be with you walking that line anywhere and everywhere we are because we are in this moment together, not just this moment, but each and every single moment.”