A truly historic milestone was achieved at the William W. Winpisinger (WWW) Education and Technology Center as members from several IAM Territories took part in the first-ever Spanish Organizing I program. The pilot program provided members the latest skills, training and tools to organize the fastest growing sector of our labor workforce.
“This is an intense program that explores every area of organizing and turns all the conventional training inside out,” said Milwaukee Local 66 Educator Joseph “Pepe” Oulahan. “The organizers use actual IAM organizing campaigns, which are scrutinized for their strengths and weaknesses. And the eight-week organizing committee role-play scenario puts you right in the middle of the action, allowing every member to use their training first hand.”
“I am excited to go on my next organizing drive, use the skills I have acquired and be a part of this historic time in our union. Sí se puede!” exclaimed Mariaelena Fuentes, Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Steward of Local 2917 in Hinesville/Fort Stewart, GA.
“For the past several years, the U.S. has experienced a huge boom in the Spanish-speaking population. This has dramatically changed the demographics of America’s workforce,” said WWW Center Director Chris Wagoner. “As we move forward, the IAM has positioned itself to take the lead and embrace this change by offering programs in Spanish that will serve both current and future IAM members, officers, activists, and organizers.”
“This signals a new direction for the Machinists Union and its aim to organize Spanish-speaking workers in this country, Canada and Puerto Rico,” said Jay Nava, a Local 2024 Steward at Boeing in Huntington Beach, CA. “With immigration reform on the horizon, it is crucial members receive this important training to be effective and active.”
“There are so many opportunities to build ties with Spanish-speaking communities and help the workers in the shadows find resources to better their working conditions, while also bettering the image of the labor movement,” said Monica Pasillas, Local 2339-O Recording Secretary at Chicago O’Hare. “This program will allow just that and more.”
Spanish Organizing I is the fifth Spanish program the Winpisinger Center and complements four Spanish Leadership Programs currently available to Machinist members.
"History was made at the Winpisinger Center last week, when the first-ever staff program was offered in a language other than English,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “From the very early days at the Winpisinger Center, Leadership Programs have been offered in English and French, reflecting the diversity of our membership." In 2006, Spanish language programing was added to the Leadership line-up to ensure that education was available to the fastest growing segment of the workforce – and a key part of our current and future membership." In recognition of that growth and the abuse and all too frequent exploitation many Spanish speakers confront in the workplace, providing the education to develop our capacity to organize Spanish speakers is essential.
“I am incredibly proud of the members and staff who participated, as well as the IAM Representatives and activists who did the heavy lifting to make the Spanish Organizing I Program a reality. They did a journeyman's job,” said Buffenbarger.