For Tom Buffenbarger, the International Association of Machinists is family. His father was an IAM member, and Buffenbarger got his own start almost five decades ago as a journeyman tool and die maker at GE’s jet engine facility in Evendale, Ohio. He rose quickly in his union’s ranks and made history in 1997 when he became the youngest IAM international president ever elected.
Always committed to fairness, organizing and winning, Buffenbarger bargained industry-leading contracts, amplified the voices of working people in the halls of power and made good on the IAM’s promise to diversify its local and senior leadership.
Today’s IAM Executive Council is among the most diverse in the labor movement, including men and women of African American, Hispanic and Native American heritage. He also has served as a valuable member of the AFL-CIO Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice.
Over the past several years, Buffenbarger rallied IAM members against Fast Track for the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership, and his efforts helped send shockwaves through the American political establishment when that all-but-assured piece of bad legislation suddenly was pushed to the brink of defeat. On trade and so much more, Buffenbarger has been a strong voice for good jobs, quality health care, fair trade and raising wages. He also has been an effective and outspoken critic of the tax on union health plans and has worked hard to win its repeal.
As chair of the AFL-CIO International Committee, Buffenbarger brought solidarity and strategic acumen to global labor issues and international workers’ rights. As vice chair of the Finance Committee, he was widely recognized as a pragmatic problem solver. He was a leader for budget transparency and fiscal responsibility. He was never afraid to make a tough or unpopular decision in the interest of the labor movement and our members.
Tom Buffenbarger has spent his career bettering the lives of IAM members and all working people. The AFL-CIO Executive Council wishes him a long, happy and healthy retirement.