Military veterans are essential to America’s workforce – By Robert J. Martinez

As a U.S. Navy veteran, I’m honored to lead the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) as we champion for measures aimed at helping make sure our nation’s military veterans are treated with respect in the workplace and beyond.¬

Advocacy for veterans comes natural for our union, which has such a high density of veterans among our approximately 600,000 active and retired members.

Many Machinists Union members work in the military and defense industry, proudly building and servicing our nation’s planes, ships, submarines, and other defense products. They know that now is the moment to invest in America’s future. Our union is fighting tirelessly for increased investment in American manufacturing and we are ready to roll up our sleeves to get America moving again.

As the largest defense labor union in the United States, we are steadfast in our aggressive advocacy for several measures that would improve workplace conditions and help increase job opportunities for former service members.

In addition to strong labor contracts that reward the dedication of these many frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are lobbying for laws and policies.

For example, the IAM lobbied aggressively for measures like the American Rescue Plan and other rescue packages to help keep our members employed and their families secure during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our IAM legislative team is also urging lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to fully invest in the F-35 program, which is proudly built by IAM members in Fort Worth, Texas.

As a former aircraft assembler at Lockheed Martin’s facility in Fort Worth, I know firsthand the importance that defense manufacturing has on the security of our nation while also providing good-paying union jobs that help communities thrive.¬

The F-35 supports more than 254,000 high-tech, high-paying American jobs annually with thousands of those workers who are skilled union members.

We are also aggressively advocating for other measures, like “Buy American” requirements for major defense programs.

The U.S. Senate is now¬ considering an amendment¬†from Sen.¬ Tammy Duckworth¬†(D-Ill.) which would grow our industrial base and help give thousands of working Americans the chance to improve their lives. The “Buy American” amendment would also increase the number of domestic manufacturers throughout the country. I applaud the members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted in favor of this amendment, which was introduced by Rep.¬ Donald Norcross¬†(D-N.J.).

Investing in American workers, modernizing our military superiority, and ensuring domestic production of critical supplies, like masks and computer technology, is essential for ensuring our position as a world leader.¬

The military and defense industry injects billions of dollars into our economy and creates hundreds of thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs from coast to coast.

Our union has been sounding the alarm for decades about the ever-expanding supply chains of U.S. parts, components, and equipment to overseas manufacturers. Our members have witnessed firsthand the decimation of our industrial base as company after company sends critical work offshore.

We urge elected officials to consider the long-term impact of today’s defense budget on our national economy years down the road. It takes decades, and even generations, to recover from the loss of high-quality manufacturing jobs that provide good benefits and wages.

While the IAM is working on our nation’s current workforce, we are also looking at helping our members who have moved into retirement.

Our union is helping to ease the process for our members who are veterans to get access to their earned health care benefits, education benefits, death benefits, and spousal benefits, just to name a few.

We are currently training union staff and interested members to file VA claims on behalf of our veterans.

Yes, we are helping fully handle the filing of VA claims for our members who are veterans. We¬

This is a first in the labor movement, and I can’t be more proud of this great work!

IAM District Lodge 166 © 2014