A union job means the guarantee of a contract. A contract is a legally binding and enforceable document which establishes “wages, hours and terms and conditions of work.” There are currently more than 4,400 contracts in effect between the IAM and various employers.
A typical contract secures such things as raises, vacations and holidays; life insurance, medical, dental and vision coverage; a pension plan; sick leave; maternity leave; shift differentials; transfer and promotion rights, and agreed-upon methods of settling differences between the members and management.
As an IAM member, you elect the union committee that negotiates the contract and vote to approve or reject any proposed agreement.
So, who works to protect my contract?
The Shop Steward is a co-worker elected directly by the members or appointed by your elected union officers and trained to be the “front line” representative for the IAM membership. IAM Stewards are trained to “iron out” problems between employees and managers and, if necessary, settle issues more formally through the grievance procedure.
The Business Representative, an IAM member who works full-time on union business, backs up the Steward and makes sure your employer lives up to the union contract. They also help negotiate contracts and organize new members.
The Local Lodge (or Local) is the basic building block of the IAM. Here members meet to share ideas, vote on issues and elect officers for all levels of the union, right up to the International President. The Local Lodge selects negotiating teams to bargain contracts and holds membership votes on contracts. They keep members informed through union newsletters and websites. Their clubs and committees involve members in everything from lobbying the state house and Congress to sponsoring softball teams and community service work.
The District Lodge (or District) includes several Locals across a large geographical area and allows more services to be delivered more efficiently to more members. District officers are elected in a secret-ballot vote, either directly by the membership or by district delegates who, in turn, are elected by the membership.
The International Union represents the entire membership throughout North America, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam and provides most of the programs and services described in this booklet. International officers, including the International President and General Secretary-Treasurer, are nominated by IAM members in open meetings, and then elected by a secret ballot vote of the entire IAM membership.