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International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers


International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

Full name International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Founded 1888 (1888)
Members 570,423 (2013)[1]
Key people R. Thomas Buffenbarger, International President
Office location Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Country United States, Canada
Website .org.goiamwww

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.


  • Origin 1
  • Racial exclusion 2
  • 1920-40's 3
  • Recent history 4
  • Composition 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Archives 8
  • External links 9


On May 5, 1888 Thomas W. Talbott, an Atlanta railroad machinist, formed a small group called the Order of United Machinists and Mechanical Engineers. Thomas W. Talbot and 18 others had been members in the Knights of Labor. Thomas W. Talbot believed that a union needed to be formed for railroad machinists. He believed that there needed to be a union specifically geared toward machinists that would resist wage cuts. Thus, he wanted to provide insurance against unemployment, illness, and accidents but wanted railroad machinists to be recognized for their craft skill. Unlike the Knights of Labor who accepted everyone, Talbot’s union consisted mainly of all-white U.S. born citizens. The union excluded blacks, women, and non- citizens. The founders invented secret passwords in order to keep the group a secret. Despite the secrecy, the order spread beyond Georgia thanks in part to the "boomers". Boomers were men who traveled the railway line for work. The boomers established local lodges in areas where they were not already present. Within one year there were 40 lodges, and by 1891, there were 189. On May 6, 1889 machinists held their first major convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Thomas [Tom] Talbot was elected the grand master machinist (later known as the international president), and William L Dawley was elected as grand secretary (now known as the grand secretary- treasurer).[2] The Organization's name was changed to the National Association of Machinists and a constitution was created. A journal, Machinists Monthly Journal, was published monthly consisting of sixteen pages. In 1889, the machinists wanted to design a union emblem. Frank French designed an emblem for the union. The emblem depicted a flywheel, friction joint caliper, and the machinist's square with the initials of the organization. The flywheel was significant because it generated power when it got started. French also explained that the caliper signified an extended invitation to all persons of civilized countries.[3] The square signified that IAM was square and honest. In 1890 and 1891 the machinists' union reached Canada, making Canadians the first international members. Locals were also formed in Mexico. In 1891,in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the name Order of United Machinists and Mechanical Engineers was changed to International Association of Machinists. In 1892, IAM signed a contract with the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe railroad making it the first Railroad Company and organized shop in the United States. Because IAM had a color bar, the American Federation of Labor did not accept IAM right away. In 1895 after joining the American Federation of Labor, President Samuel Gompers urged IAM to drop its white only policy. IAM maintained racial segregation arguing that it needed to retain southern members.[4] Thomas Talbot's primary objective was to establish a union that consisted strictly of a fraternity of white men born in the United States who possessed good moral character.

Racial exclusion

IAM recruited members into the union based on three major influences, Knights of Labor, Southern influence and a pure and simple trade union. The Knights of Labor tradition consisted of having an individual moral improvement, an interest of political programs and traditions of a secret society. The Southern influence emphasized a nonegalitarian approach emphasizing that upheld the superiority of whiteness. A pure and simple trade union meant that IAM concentrated on problems that had an effective job control.Thomas Toblat said “none but white free born citizens who must be practical machinists capable of commanding the average rate of wage are allowed into the union".[5] This also meant no production workers, no specialists, no women, and no blacks were allowed to join the IAM union. Membership was restricted to white male machinists only; IAM did not accept blacks into the union. IAM did not want any affiliation with blacks because they saw them as an inferior group that would burden the union. If Negroes were allowed to join the IAM, it was feared that southern white members would secede from the union. There was strong opposition against colored members. When the issue of accepting blacks was put to a vote, the majority of IAM members retained the discriminatory clause of not allowing Negroes in IAM. However, union lodges in New York and Pennsylvania passed Fair Employment Practices Acts. Members like those of Anthony Ballerini, a member of the San Francisco Local Lodge, believed that IAM should allow Negroes into the union. It was debated that the Fair Employment Practice Commission laws saw this as unconstitutional in the IAM union. During the IAM convention, General Secretary- Treasurer Davison, who was a southerner, said that it did not really matter what was voted on; each local would probably do what they wanted to do anyway.[6] During World War II, President Roosevelt issued an executive order and appointed a President’s committee on Fair Employment Practices. This order allowed for Negroes to enter IAM. District Lodge 727 accepted Los Angeles Negroes as well as Local Lodge 1327 in San Francisco. In the long run, there were factors that abolished the discrimination against Negroes into the IAM union. The National Labor Relations board refused to permit IAM to discriminate like it had done for the past sixty years. Leadership in IAM permitted the establishment of colored locals, giving the colored machinists ability for leadership recognition. Thus, colored locals were incorporated into the established white locals.[7] The issue of dropping the white only clause was debated in the 1945 convention, but it was not until 1947 that the race clause was eradicated. The passage of the Taft- Hartley Act made it necessary for IAM members to remove the race clause. Many Lodges in 1958 including Georgia began to admit members irrespective of race.[5] A lodge in Pittsburgh negotiated the IAM's first 9- hour day contract in 1898. International President of IMA signed an agreement with the National Metal Trades' Association (NMTA), a group representing company owners' and employers' interests. The Murray Hill Agreement was a contract that provided no discrimination against union labor, stipulated extra pay for overtime, adopted an apprenticeship ratio, and promised a 54- hour week that would go into effect May 1, 1901.[8] However, one year after the agreement was signed NMTA refused to pay workers the same pay for fewer hours per week. In 1911, IAM began allowing some new members into the workers ranks. Composed primarily of skilled white male railroad workers, IAM allowed unskilled machinist and female workers into the union that year in 1911. 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.[9]


The Machinists' membership reached 300,000 during World War I which at the time made it the largest union in 1918. As the war ended and wartime production came to an end membership dropped to 80,000 in 1923. Membership declined in 1933 to only 50, 00 due to the effects of the Great Depression. Of those 50,000 members, 23,000 workers were unemployed. In 1935 the machinists started to organize with the airline industry. 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.[10] In 1944 IAM union members established an education department to publish a supplemental journal. This journal would be published weekly by the Machinist the IAM newspaper. Eventually the Journals production was cut back to twice a year and was voted out of existence in 1956.[11] It was replaced with a quarterly magazine entitled The IAMW journal. The break was over a failure of the AFL to settle a jurisdictional dispute between IAM and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America as well as the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees of America.IAM disaffiliated with the AFL in 1945.[12] In 1947 Congress passed the Taft Hartley Act it was officially known as the Labor- Management Relations Act, which placed restrictions on union activities. This act also contained provisions that made closed shops illegal and outlawed boycotts. The second section of the Taft Hartley Act was controversial because it allowed states to pass right-to-work laws, which enabled them to regulate the number of union shops. Furthermore, the machinists worked with AFL unions to repeal the act. The limitations imposed on union political activity by this act led to the creation of, the Machinists’ Non- Partisan Political League.[13] In 1948, Lodge 751 went on strike against the Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington. The machinists preserved longstanding seniority rules that the company wanted to abolish and achieved a 10% per hour raise. IAM also competed for members with the United Auto Workers of America in the automotive industry and with the United Aerospace Workers for aircraft working in that union. In 1949, IAM signed no- raiding agreements with both unions.[14] Those agreements become the model for other unions when AFL and the CIO merged in 1955.

Recent history

Membership (US records)[15]

Finances (US records; ×$1000)[15]
     Assets      Liabilities      Receipts      Disbursements

The 1950s was a period of rapid growth for IAM. The production of jet engines during the war led IAM to expand to the aircraft industry. By 1958, IAM had more than 900,000 members. This was because IAM took steps to begin to move away from its racist past. In 1955, under the leadership of President Al Hayes IAM became more of an industrial union it began to shift from railroad to metal fabrication. IAM had more union members as well as workers in the aircraft industry. Thus, Aerospace workers were attracted to join IAM. In 1964, IAM changed its name to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. IAMAW began to strike against five major airlines, including Eastern, National, Northwest, Trans World, and United Airlines. 35,400 IAMAW members in 231 cities grounded the airlines for 43 days finally winning 5% raises in three successive years.[16] 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.[17] In 1982, due to individual and corporate bankruptcies IAM membership dropped to 820,211 from a high of 927,000 in 1973.[18] 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.

The union continues to expand into different companies today.


According to IAM's Department of Labor records since 2005, when membership classifications were first reported, the union's membership has been generally in a slow decline, including "dues paying," "retired," and "exempt" members. Despite this, "life" members report a 22% increase during this period, and "unemployed" members momentarily increased to a peak in 2009 before also declining. Members classified as "on strike" have varied considerably throughout, though remaining less than 1% of the total membership. IAM contracts also cover some non-members, known as agency fee payers, which since 2005 have grown to number comparatively just over 1% of the size of the union's membership.[15] As of 2013 this accounts for about 145,000 "retirees" (25%), 52,000 "life" members (9%), 26,000 "exempt" members (5%) and 14,000 "unemployed" members (2%), plus about 7,000 non-members paying agency fees, compared to about 333,000 "dues paying" members (58%).[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 000-107. Report submitted March 31, 2014.
  2. ^ "International Association of Machinists' Digital Publication". 
  3. ^ Rodden G., Robert (1984). "The Fighting Machinist : A Century Of Struggle.". 
  4. ^ Murolo, Priscilla (2001). From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend: A short, Illustrated History of Labor in the United States. New York: News Press. 
  5. ^ a b Perlman, Mark (1961). The Machinists: A New Study in American Trade Unionism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. 
  6. ^ Perlman, Mark (1961). The Machinists: A New Study in American Trade Unionism. Cambridge, Massachustess: Harvard University Press. 
  7. ^ Perlman, Mark (1961). The Machinists : A New Study in American Trade Unionism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University. 
  8. ^ Zieger H., Robert (2002). American Workers, American Unions: The Twentieth Century (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 
  9. ^ Rodden G, Robert (1984). "The Fighting Machinist: A century of Struggle". 
  10. ^ Arnesen, Eric (2007). Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working- Class History (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group LLC. 
  11. ^ 
  12. ^ Murolo, Priscilla (2001). From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend: A short, Illustrated History of Labor in the United States. New York: New Press. 
  13. ^ Arnesen, Eric (2007). Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working - Class History. New York, NY; Taylor & Francis Group LLC. 
  14. ^ Weir, Robert (2013). Workers in America: A Historical Encyclopedia (2nd, Vol 2 ed.). Santa Barbra,California: ABC-CLIO, LLC. 
  15. ^ a b c US Department of Labor, Office of Labor-Management Standards. File number 000-107. (Search)
  16. ^ Aresen, Eric (2007). Encyclopedia of U.S. Labor and Working- Class History. (2nd. Vol.2. ed.). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group LLC. 
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ "IAM History".


  • Preliminary Guide to the International Association of Machinists Hope Lodge 79 Records. 1932-1941. 25 items.
  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Aerospace Industrial District Lodge 751 Publications. 1939-2008.
  • Jackie Boschok Papers. 1979-2011. 16.32 cubic feet (22 boxes), 2 oversize folders.
  • George E. Rennar Papers. 1933-1972. 37.43 cubic feet.
  • Matthew C. Bates Papers. 1988-2002. 0.48 cubic feet (1 box and 1 oversize folder)

External links

Media related to at Wikimedia Commons

  • Official website
  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, Canada
  • IAMAW Collection. Historical materials related to IAM held by Georgia State University, Special Collections,Southern Labor Archives. Online guide retrieved April 27, 2005.
  • Aero MechanicInternational Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District Lodge 751
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