International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

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International Association of Machinist.JPG
Full name International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Founded 1888
Members 570,423 (2014)[1]
Country United States, Canada
Key people R. Thomas Buffenbarger, International President
Office location Upper Marlboro, Maryland

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is an AFL-CIO/CLC trade union representing approx. 646,933 workers as of 2006 in more than 200 industries with most of its membership in the United States and Canada.


The forerunner of the IAM was the Machinists and Blacksmiths' Union, founded in 1859; this organization collapsed shortly after the Panic of 1873. In 1888, Thomas W. Talbott, an Atlanta railroad machinist, revived the union and dubbed it the IAM. The immediate object of the IAM was to raise wages and it membership like that of many top-tier craft unions was restricted to white males. In 1895, the IAM joined the American Federation of Labor (AFL), two years after AFL President Samuel Gompers urged that IAM drop its white-only policy. The IAM grew rapidly in the early 20th century. By 1915, many of its members had won an eight-hour workday, and by 1918, the IAM had more than 331,000 members.


IAM membership sharply dropped off, plummeting to 80,000 by 1923. The situation worsened during the Great Depression: By 1933, membership was at only 50,000 and 23,000 of those workers were unemployed. Beginning in 1935 the machinists started organizing within the airline industry and won several victories. In 1936, the Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington, signed the industry's first labor agreement. By 1938, the IAM negotiated the first union agreement in air transportation with Eastern Air Lines.

Recent history[edit]

IAM membership nearly doubled in the 1950s, in large part due to the burgeoning airline industry, from 501,000 members in 1949 to 903,000 members in 1958. As a result of the influx of members from the airlines and the new American space program, the delegates voted to change the name to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers at the 1964 convention.[2]

In 1982, due to individual and corporate bankruptcies IAM membership dropped to 820,211 from a high of 927,000 in 1973.[3] Also, in 1982 boycott was initiated by the IAM against Brown & Sharpe, a machine, precision, measuring and cutting tool manufacturer, headquartered in Rhode Island. The boycott was called after the firm refused to bargain in good faith (withdrawing previously negotiated clauses in the contract), and forced the union into a strike, during which police sprayed pepper gas on some 800 picketers at the company's North Kingston plant in early 1982. Three weeks later, a machinist narrowly escaped serious injury when a shot fired into the picket line hit his belt buckle.

The National Labor Relations Board later charged Brown & Sharpe with regressive bargaining, and of entering into negotiations with the express purpose of not reaching an agreement with the union. It was not until 1998, nearly seventeen years after the strike began, that the Rhode Island Supreme Court ended the legal battle, ultimately siding with Brown & Sharpe in its plea that it had not illegally forced the strike. By this point, both Brown & Sharpe and its erstwhile work force were retreating from manufacturing in Rhode Island.

From 1981 to 1990 the union owned and operated an Indy Car racing team, Machinists Union Racing.

On September 7, 2008 the union began a strike against Boeing over issues with outsourcing, job security, pay and benefits.

See also[edit]



External links[edit]

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