IAMAW – Building a Strong Air Transport Membership From The Ground Up

This article was featured in the IAM Summer 2024 Journal and written by IAM Communications Representative John Carr. 

Building bargaining power is critical to negotiating a strong IAM contract. One of the ways the Air Transport Territory team is doing that is by being out on the shop floor and accessible to the membership.

“I think it’s important for our members to see our faces, know who we are, and know that we come from the rank and file, that we aren’t just someone they read about on the website, we come from the ground, worked our way up, and are fighting on their behalf,” said IAM Air Transport Territory General Vice President Richie Johnsen. “A strong, active union in the workplace where workers pull together to make a real difference is the only way we can improve the lives of IAM members.”

The idea is to foster open communication, encourage members to communicate openly, and share ideas, concerns, and feedback. Establish a culture where everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and all opinions are valued.

It goes further than that. Since June 2021, Air Transport Territory leadership has traveled to visit dozens of cities each year to meet with the membership face to face, creating an informal network of workers who are committed to mutual aid, direct action, and building shop floor power by reinforcing solidarity and building the communication network needed for a successful bargaining unit. The IAM Air Transport Territory, which includes IAM District 141 and IAM District 142, represents more than 100,000 air transport members. The IAM is the largest air transport union in North America.

Members are significantly more likely to feel the union is effective in helping obtain job-related improvements through their interactions with leadership on the shop floor.

Shop floor interactions also have strategic objectives:

  • To show members that the union is dedicated to job-related improvements.
  • To express concern for those members on the front lines
  • To encourage members to seek the union’s help in solving contract-related problems.
  • To promote participation in organizing and other union activities.
  • To foster optimism toward the negotiating power of the local.
  • To obtain immediate feedback on issues and concerns at any level.
  • To build relationships with the rank-and-file.
  • To ask directly for union involvement in a specific way.

Open dialogue and feedback sessions are one way to uncover what motivates our members. Taking the time to build relationships and foster trust is the cornerstone of solidarity practice. Another effective method is regular check-ins with shop floor members to gauge their satisfaction levels and address any concerns or challenges they may face. This shows members’ input is valued and that the IAM is committed to supporting their growth. Many members had the chance to be briefed and to ask Grand Lodge, District Lodge, and Local Lodge representatives questions.

Posted in News and tagged , , , .