Frequently Asked Questions

About The Union

  Q – Who are the members of the Machinists Union?

A – Nearly a million men and women who work in more than 350 job classifications or industries, as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor, in the commercial, manufacturing, non-manufacturing, private, public Federal, state and local government in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Panama, Puerto Rico, and the 10 provinces of Canada. Although the Machinists Union began as a railroad union, today it has one of the most diversified memberships of any organization of its kind.

Q – What are some major industries employing IAM members? 
A – Aerospace, air transport and auto repair are three industries where the Machinists Union is the largest, or among the largest, unions representing employees. They work in occupations ranging from front office, computer, clerical, medical and technical positions all the way to the shop floor as tool and die makers, machinists, production, maintenance and security jobs.

Machinists Union members are also employed in metal products manufacturing facilities, on the railroads, in the Federal, state and local government, and in design, construction, repair, support and maintenance work in an almost endless variety of skills and occupational endeavors.

Q – How many employers have contracts with the Machinists Union?

A – A total of 6,338 employers have contracts with the Machinists Union. They cover members in the smallest one-employee shops to workers at giant multi-billion-dollar conglomerates – most of them on Fortune Magazine’s list of the nation’s top 500 corporations.

Q – Are most Machinists Union members actually machinists?

A – No. Originally, Machinists Union members were all skilled craftsmen. Today, however, the union’s membership includes, professional, office, clerical, computer, technical, and medical employees, as well as journeymen and apprentice crafts persons, helpers, production, maintenance and specialists of all kinds. Membership includes women and workers from nearly all racial, ethnic, and religious groups.

About Authorization Cards/Petitions


Q – When I sign an authorization card or Petition will it be submitted to my employer? 

A – No! Your employer is forbidden by law from asking if you signed an authorization card/petition. ‘A’ cards, as they are referred to in the Union, are used as proof of majority support. The cards/petitions are necessary to receive recognition from the employer of the lAM. It necessary, the cards/petitions will be submitted to the National labor Relations Board (also called the NLRB, or labor Board) along with a formal petition to request a secret ballot election.

Q – What is the NLRB/Labor Board?

A – The NLRB, or labor Board, is an agency of the Federal Government whose responsibility it is to enforce the law giving employees the right to be represented by the Union.

Q – If I sign an authorization card or Petition, does this mean I have joined the Union?

A – No. Joining the Union is a separate and distinctly different action. Before joining the lAM, you must complete a membership application.

Q – If I sign an ‘A’ card/petition, does this obligate me to vote for the Union in the secret ballot election? 

A – No. We hope, of course, that all employees vote for the lAM, whether or not they signed an ‘A’ card or petition. The labor Board election is a secret ballot and you are free to vote as you choose in the privacy of your secret voting booth. However, signing an ‘A’ card/petition should be a sincere commitment to support the organizing program.

About Your Secret Ballot Election


Q – If a majority of employees vote YES in the Labor Board election, do we automatically become members of the Machinists Union? 
A – Again, the answer is no. A ‘YES’ vote in the secret ballot election by you a majority of your fellow employees means only that you win the right to be represented by the Machinists Union, to have a voice in deter- mining your wages, hours, benefits and working conditions. As we mentioned before, joining the Union is a separate and distinct action.

Q – Why do employers fight so hard to defeat employees’ efforts to join the Machinists Union? 
A – Because they know that the Machinists Union provides a balance of power between you, the employee, and the employer. They know the Machinists Union brings skills and training to the bargaining table that results in contracts with improved wages, sound working conditions, out- standing pensions and substantial health insurance benefits. To summarize: he fights so hard because he simply doesn’t want to pay you what you’re worth.

Q – Will anyone know how I voted in the election?

A – Absolutely not. As we pointed out earlier, the election is conducted by the labor Board by secret ballot. No one – neither your employer nor the Union will know how you voted.

Q – If me and my fellow employees vote for the Union, what happens if we’re not satisfied later on? 

A – The same law that gives you the right to vote for union representation also gives you the right to vote it out if you’re not satisfied.

About Initiation Fees And Dues


Q – Will we have to pay an initiation fee? 

A – Representatives of newly-organized groups may, and in most instances do, request the International to waive the customary initiation fee for all employees employed in the plant, regardless of whether they supported the Union during the campaign or not. The International, almost without exception, approves such re quest. As far as paying dues during the negotiating process, we usually handle this situation in accordance with the desires of the newly organized members. In some in- stances, such as for benefit purposes, it’s beneficial to pay dues right away. In other cases, it’s not. Your Union representative will discuss this matter with you and other members of your newly organized group to insure that your rights, and those of your peers are fully protected.

Q – What happens to dues money paid to the Local Union? 

A – A portion of it pays the salaries of Business Representatives and office staff. The largest portion pays for rent of office space and equipment, representation, legal fees, grievance and arbitration fees, office sup- plies, printing costs, transportation, strike fund benefits, etc. The members must, in accordance with our Constitution, approve every dollar spent.

About Your Contract


Q – After we win the secret ballot election, does my employer have to negotiate with us? 

A – Federal Law requires that employers “negotiate in good faith.” And while some employers try to circumvent the law any way they can, the Machinists Union has a remarkably good record of successfully helping employees achieve a first contract.

Q – What is a union contract? 

A – A union contract is a legal document that is binding by law. It is negotiated with the employer and provides for I among other things, wages, benefits, hours and general working conditions.

Q – Who draws up our contract? 

A – You do with assistance from skilled, trained professional Union negotiators. All employees in the bargaining unit contribute their ideas for the proposals. Areas where there is usually room for improvement include, but are not limited to:

  • Wages and inflation protection
  • Employer-paid health insurance for employees and their dependents
  • Effective grievance procedures.
  • Job security
  • Seniority provisions
  • Additional paid holidays. Paid sick leave
  • Improved vacations
  • Work rules that spell out your rights on the job
Q – Is it possible to have our insurance paid completely by the employer and cover our dependents, too? 
A – YES! Most union contracts include fully- paid insurance for employees AND dependents.
Q – Is there any limit as to what we can ask for in regard to wages and/or benefits?
 A – No. Keep in mind, however, that what you ask for should be reasonable and justified.Q – Who will do the negotiating? 

A – The employer and his designated representative on one side of the table. On the other, a negotiating committee elected by you, together with your local union representative(s) and your International Representative.

Q – Do we have to accept what has been negotiated? 

A – NO! If you do not feel you have gained enough in negotiations, you have the right to vote to reject the contract offer.

Q – If we vote to form a union, can the employer cut our wages or reduce the few benefits we now receive? 

A – NO! That would violate Federal Law! Therefore, you will negotiate UP from current wages and benefits.

Q – If there is no union, what will the policy of the employer be as to wages, working conditions and fringe benefits? 

A – Without the union, you are at the mercy of your employer to decide wages, benefits and working conditions. Just think how much farther ahead you would be now if you had a union contract to cover you for the past year. Vote YES.

Q – What if some union goes on strike elsewhere? What happens to us? 

A – Nothing. You would continue to work. You would not go out on a strike in support of another union and you would not be assessed, either.