Every four years the Machinists Union holds its quadrennial Grand Lodge Convention, this year’s convention was held at the Hilton Chicago from September 4-10 and was hosted by the Midwest Territory and General Vice President Phil Gruber.
To put it simply, this year’s convention was a historic event and Local 701 was there and played a big part. In addition to acting as the convention’s Master Sergeant At Arms, Directing Business Representative Sam Cicinelli was also chosen by the Executive Council to act as Temporary Co-Chair of the Convention and to welcome the more than 1,200 Delegates from across the United States and Canada to Chicago during the opening ceremony.
“Chicago is home to many of the most historic events in America’s labor history.” said DBR Cicinelli, “Unfortunately, many of the same struggles workers faced over 100 years ago, are still prevalent today. Working men and women, now more than ever, need a strong Union – they need the IAM. And all Unions, regardless of who they represent, need to stand with one voice in solidarity.”
Also welcoming the Delegates to Chicago were Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and the President of The Chicago Federation of Labor , Jorge Ramirez. To ensure that the Delegates were pumped and ready for a long week of work, the Delegates were treated to a performance by the Soul Children of Chicago who had the crowd on their feet by the end.
Following the opening ceremonies, our new International President Robert Martinez Jr. gave an exciting keynote speech where he vowed to “Put the fight back in The Fighting Machinists!” By the end of the IP’s speech (see video below) the room was overflowing with excitement and the delegates were ready to begin the work ahead. It was also pointed out to the delegates that nearly 70% of the Delegates attending the 2016 Convention were first time delegates having never attended another Grand Lodge Convention. “It was great to see so many first time delegates.” said Assistant Directing Business Representative Mark Utley. “The more people are involved the more democratic our Union will become”
Pictured above are the oldest delegate, Anthony Mastandrea, a life member of Boston Local 264, who has attended every convention but one since 1960 and the youngest delegate elected this year Eric Dahm, from Local 1947 in Fond du Lac, WI, a three-year member and Steward who is attending his first Grand Lodge Convention.
Throughout the week, the Delegates worked hard every day to get through the long list of proposed changes to the IAM Constitution and proposed Resolutions. They first heard the full reports from the Law Committee and Resolutions Committee before collectively determining which should be adopted. “It was important work we did here this week.” said DBR Cicinelli who went on to say, “these changes to our Constitution and resolutions adopted will help guide our great Union for the next four years and beyond.”
By far, one of the most important and widely supported constitutional changes made was the addition of a “Membership Bill of Rights”, which will ensure our membership will enjoy a fully democratic Union for generations to come. “The addition of the Bill of Rights to our Constitution proves that we are one of the most democratic and progressive Unions in the world” said Local 701 President Joe Schafer. Literally hundreds of Delegates were lined up at the microphones to speak in support of the Membership Bill of Rights which in the end was passed by a nearly unanimous vote.
Throughout the week Delegates heard from many speakers including (among others) Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, President of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka, Secretary – Treasurer of the AFL-CIO Liz Schuler, International President of the United Auto Workers Marc Perrone and Congresswoman (hopefully
soon to be Senator) Tammy Duckworth who spoke at length about the importance of bringing back good manufacturing jobs to the state of Illinois.
One of the best speeches of the week however was from the President of the North Carolina NAACP Rev. William Barber II who literally brought the house down with his speech. (See video below) I will admit it is a lengthy speech but do yourself a favor and watch this man’s amazing speech and lesson about civil rights and labor history and the challenges facing this country.
Delegates also heard reports from the many various committees of the convention including (among others) the Organizing Committee, the Communications Committee and the Health & Safety, Benefits and Apprenticeship Committee who’s secretary was Local 701’s very own Business Representative Terry Kimmel who read the report of that committee to the delegates. These reports are intended to update the delegation of the various state of affairs of each department and outline the goals of the committee for the next four years. “Representative Kimmel represented our membership well on the committee” said DBR Cicinelli. “Our Local is proud of the work that he and the rest of the committee did throughout the week.”
In addition to the many constitutional amendments that the delegation worked through throughout the week, several proposed resolutions were brought to the delegates which required much deliberation before being voted on. Resolutions, unlike constitutional amendments which must be followed under law, equate to somewhat of a policy
or guideline that the Union commits to follow moving forward. The resolutions are still incredibly important though which is why the delegates took much time to deliberate and discuss each one before finally making a decision.
One resolution in particular, which was submitted by another Local addressed the IAM National Pension Fund. While we are sure the Local who drafted the resolution had good intentions, the unforeseen side effects of the resolution if it had been adopted could have actually had a negative effect on the National Pension Fund. Among other delegates who stood up to speak in opposition of the proposed resolution was Local 701 Business Representative Bill LePinske. “One of the most important things we can do is take every opportunity to defend our Plan so it is there for the benefit of our membership for years to come” said Lepinske afterwards.
Local 701 also had the honor of bringing the 21 foreign delegation from other International Unions from across the globe on the IAM bus back to Local 701 for a tour of our state-of-the-art training center. “The foreign delegation was really excited to take the tour of our facility” said Mike Wendling, Local 701 Organizer who helped guide the tour. He added “The Canadians had lots of questions about our school, many of them want to open their own apprenticeship training centers and wanted to duplicate what 701 has done.”
It was a great week in Chicago, the delegates from across the IAM did an excellent job making sure our great Union will stay on the path to success for the next four years until the Grand Lodge Convention again convenes in 2020.