Executive Council Statement

On the Retirement of Robert Martinez Jr.

We congratulate our brother and friend, Robert Martinez Jr., on his retirement as international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

During his eight years as international president and throughout his 43-year union career, Martinez proved to be a tireless advocate for working families and our communities.

A U.S. Naval Air veteran, Martinez’s journey in the labor movement began in 1980 when he was hired as an aircraft assembler in Fort Worth, Texas, and became a member of IAM Local 776A.

As an educator and safety advocate, Martinez held numerous positions at the local, district and Grand Lodge levels before becoming, in 2003, the general vice president assigned to the Southern Territory and the first Latino to join the IAM Executive Council. He became resident general vice president in 2013, overseeing the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center and a number of departments at IAM headquarters.

In January 2016, Martinez was installed as IAM’s 14th international president, becoming the first person of color to lead the international union and the first Latino president of a major labor union in the history of the American labor movement.

As international president, Martinez steered the union through a number of crises, notably the COVID-19 pandemic, where his determined advocacy helped secure unprecedented relief for airline, aerospace, defense, railroad and other workers, saving hundreds of thousands of jobs and protecting the livelihoods for countless families.

Under his leadership, the IAM employed robust and innovative organizing tactics and strategies to reach workers in new and emerging sectors, created groundbreaking member-assistance programs, and expanded pathways for women and other underrepresented groups to develop into leadership roles.

On the AFL-CIO Executive Council, Martinez was a valued member of the Executive Committee, and served as vice chair of the Committee on International Affairs and chaired the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council.

He was a leading voice for domestic manufacturing and defense production as a member of the U.S. President’s Export Council, and was a strong advocate for workers worldwide as IndustriALL’s global aerospace chairman.

Throughout his career, Martinez’s dedication to working families and to all of North America’s trade unionists has been exemplary. He made his union and the entire labor movement stronger, and the AFL-CIO Executive Council wishes Bob Martinez, our brother and friend, a long, healthy and happy retirement.