Who is the IAM?


  1. What is the IAM?

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is a union of more than 600,000 active members employed in 200 basic industries in Canada and the United States.

The IAM’s years of negotiating experience has led to top quality contracts for thousands of workers, providing them with better wages, benefits and working conditions.


  1. What does the IAM do?

The IAM’s primary role is to negotiate and administer collective bargaining agreements, or contracts, with employers. These agreements are binding legal documents that establish IAM members’ wages, shifts, working conditions and other benefits such as medical, dental and pension plans. The IAM also represents members having day-to-day problems with management on issues such as pay disputes, discipline, work rule or seniority violations, harassment, or discrimination.

In addition to negotiating contracts, the IAM and its members are active in areas such as human rights, workplace safety, women’s issues, retirement security and community services.


  1. What are the benefits of joining the IAM?

Unions are one of the few organizations in Canada that represent workers’ interests on the job, in legislative halls and in the community. By joining the IAM, you and your co-workers no longer face your employer alone. Your collective strength means you and your fellow members will be treated with respect on the job.

IAM-represented employees earn higher hourly wages on average than non-union workers in similar jobs. Many members have benefits such as fully company-paid medical insurance and protected pensions.

Other benefits include access to IAM Scholarships and the AFL-CIO’s Union Plus Program. The IAM awards a number of college scholarships to eligible members and the children of members each year. The Union Plus Program offers union members exclusive benefits such as a credit card, a home mortgage program, legal services, life and accident insurance, and a personal loan program.


  1. How do we win IAM representation in our shop?

Rules for winning union representation are spelled out in the Labour Relations Act. The Act designates the Labour Relations Board to administer the law and conduct secret ballot union representation elections.

The first step to winning IAM representation is to contact the IAM and tell them your shop is ready to organize. The next step is to collect authorization cards (a-cards) from a majority of workers to petition the employer to voluntarily recognize the union. If the employer refuses, the IAM will request that the LRB conduct a secret ballot election. If a majority of employees vote for IAM representation, the IAM will begin negotiating a first contract.


  1. Who conducts the election?

In most cases, the IAM, controls the entire election process. The LRB, a Government agency, handles the preparation and counting of ballots and conducts the on-site ballot election. At each stage, the law says the LRB must maintain the confidentiality of the voters. Neither the company nor the union will ever know how you voted.


  1. What happens after the election?

After the representation election, the IAM will form a negotiating committee made up of experienced IAM negotiators and members of the newly organized workplace.

Before negotiations begin, all workers have the right to submit contract proposals for issues they want addressed. The negotiating committee will then sit down with the company to negotiate a first contract based on the submitted proposals.


  1. What issues can be negotiated?

Almost all aspects of your work environment, including economic issues such as base rates of pay, raises, overtime pay, medical coverage, pension benefits, vacations, tool insurance and pay for training. Other areas include management rights, shop work rules, safety conditions, how work is assigned, shift assignments and more. In all contract negotiations, the IAM uses the proposals submitted by the workers to ensure the contract meets the needs of the particular shop.

  1. How long do negotiations take?

Negotiations begin soon after the election. How long it takes to negotiate a new contract depends on the complexity of the issues involved and the resolve of the members. Most new contracts are settled within the first year after the election.


  1. Do I get to vote on the contract?

Yes. Once negotiations are complete, the negotiating committee will provide the membership with a proposed contract. Workers will have an opportunity to review the proposed contract and then vote by secret ballot to accept or reject it. A simple majority of members must vote to approve the tentative agreement before it becomes valid.


  1. How much are dues?

Dues rates are approximately two point three (2.5) times your hourly rate of pay for hourly workers For salaried workers or part time workers the dues rate is 1.5% of your base hours paid.  Workers will not pay any dues until the IAM has negotiated, and the employees have ratified, their first contract. There are no back dues or fees. The IAM believes that all members have a duty to pay their fair share of their union’s operating costs. Everyone gets the benefits of the contract; it’s only fair that everyone shares the expenses of operating the union.

What it costs a member in dues is returned many times over in higher wages and more company-paid benefits than non-union workers.


  1. How are dues spent?

Dues pay for operating the union, including contract negotiations, grievance handing, and arbitration. In addition, dues make union publications; legal representation; legislative activities on your behalf and training programs are possible. Dues also provide community service; safety and health; human rights; women’s and many other programs that benefit IAM members.


  1. What about strikes?

The IAM believes strikes are a last resort, used only when all other means of reaching an agreement fail. The IAM negotiates almost 99 % of its contracts without a strike. In the IAM, you can’t go on strike unless you and your fellow members vote to do so. Strike approval requires a majority “yes” vote of the membership in a secret ballot election.


  1. What is the grievance procedure?

The grievance procedure is an important right that comes with IAM representation. It gives every worker a voice. If you believe that management has violated your rights, the contract, or subjected you to harassment or discrimination, you can file a grievance through the IAM.

You and your steward put your complaint in writing and file it as a grievance with management. That way, the dispute can be resolved in a professional manner and doesn’t become a personal fight between you and management. Both the company and the union agree to make an earnest effort to ascertain the facts and seek a fair and equitable settlement.

  1. What if I have a grievance?

Resolving a grievance starts with your shop steward, who is your IAM representative in the work area. When you have a problem, talk to your steward as soon as possible. The steward will determine if a contract violation occurred and will try to resolve the matter with your immediate supervisor. If this effort fails, the IAM can appeal the supervisor’s decision to a higher level of management. If all these efforts fail, the IAM may request that an impartial arbitrator be called in to settle your grievance.


  1. Who runs the IAM?

The members do. Every level of the IAM operates on the democratic principle of majority rule. IAM members have the right to participate in local lodge meetings, vote for local, district and international officers, contracts and convention delegates. The Grand Lodge Convention, which convenes every four years, is the highest governing body in the union. Elected delegates set union policy and have the power to amend the IAM Constitution.


  1. How is the IAM structured?

The IAM operates on three levels: local, district and international. All members belong to a local lodge which has jurisdiction in their city, town, or area. Members elect their own local officers and conduct their own day-to-day business. Every local must hold at least one monthly meeting for members to vote on expenditures of union funds, conduct local business and discuss member concerns.

Most locals are also organized into districts covering a particular type of industry or geographical area. All locals and districts come under the jurisdiction of the International, or Grand Lodge. The International has its headquarters near Washington, D.C. Its officers and staff implement programs and policies mandated by the Grand Lodge Convention.

Headquarters departments handle administrative functions and provide special services to the membership, including Collective Bargaining, Communications; Community Services; Human Rights; Legal; Organizing, Strategic Resources, Safety and Health, and the Women’s Department.


  1. How are IAM officers elected?

International officers, including the IAM Executive Council, are nominated and elected by the membership every four years according to the terms spelled out in the IAM Constitution.

In most district lodges, officers and business representatives are nominated and elected by the members of their respective districts according to the terms of their district bylaws.

All local lodge officers are nominated and elected by the members of their local, also according to the terms of their local bylaws.


  1. Is the IAM affiliated with other labour organizations?

Yes. The IAM is part of the Canadian Labour Congress. The IAM is a recognized leader in the fight for worldwide labour rights. It maintains close ties with several major international labour organizations such as the 18 million members International Metalworkers Federation, the International Labour Organization and the Confederation of Free Trade Unions.


  1. Is the IAM involved in politics?

Yes. Legislation at the federal and Provincial level has a tremendous impact on our members. The IAM has a very effective Legislative Department that monitors legislation in parliament that could affect the lives of our members and their families.

The Canadian Political League raises voluntary contributions to assist pro-labour candidates and defeat those who consistently vote against the interests of working families.


  1. When I join the IAM, how will I know what’s going on in the union?

You can stay informed by going to union meetings and participating in your local’s activities. Your steward and local officers can answer your questions about specific IAM policies and programs. In addition, you can read local, district and international union publications. Every member gets the IAM Journal, a publication from Canadian headquarters the IAM also maintains a web page at www.goiam.org.