Liz Shuler, the first woman leader of America’s labor movement as president of the AFL-CIO, spoke to delegates of the 40th IAM Grand Lodge Convention, congratulating the Machinists Union for taking on some of the nation’s largest employers, winning legendary unionizing campaigns, and creating a new program to elevate women in the movement.
“You used your collective power to wage the largest strike in 2020 at Bath Iron Works with IAM Local S6,” said Shuler. “Winning incredible contracts at Boeing Defense in St. Louis, United Launch Alliance, Pratt and Whitney in Connecticut, and Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth.”
Shuler gave accolades to the Machinists for recruiting new people and organizing in non-traditional union industries.
“You’re organizing in industries and communities across the country,” said Shuler. “The first unionized Apple Store in Towson, MD, to public library employees in Baltimore, vet techs in Rochester, NY, aircraft mechanics in North Carolina, and museum workers at the Milwaukee Art Museum, the first-ever union in private architecture at Bernheimer Architecture, not to mention the thousands of ground operations workers at JetBlue.”
President Shuler called for activists to stand together against CEOs and companies continually looking for weakness in the movement.
“It’s going to take all of us to push back against these corporate giants and leaders like Jeff Bezos who are treating their workers like robots so that they can make record profits and buy rocket ships.”
Shuler praised the IAM LEADS program for lifting women up to be part of the fight and for giving IAM women opportunities to use their voices.
“I’m so excited about your new mentoring program, Leadership Excellence Assembly of Dedicated Sisters – LEADS – because it creates new pathways for IAM sisters to take on that next challenge and move up within the union.”
“Together we’re going to build the next generation of union leaders and members,” said Shuler, “by reaching into more communities, and including people who have traditionally been on the margins or underrepresented in our training programs, and haven’t had access to these life-changing opportunities.”
Talking about technological advances, Shuler stressed that workers need to and will be part of the development and implementation of innovations that impact workers.
“Working people know our industries better than anyone. We have to make sure our voices and worker protections are included upstream,” said Shuler. “We should be at the table during the research and development process, not just at the end when we’re told what it’s going to do when it’s implemented. We should be guiding the next generation of invention and innovation so that the future of work works for workers.”
Shuler concluded with an upbeat call for action and unity: “Let’s keep working. Let’s keep fighting. Because when we organize together, we rise together. I can’t wait to see where we go together from here.”