IAM members are leading the charge in the fight against the coronavirus. Our work in the airline, aerospace, defense, railroad, healthcare, transportation, manufacturing, federal sector and more is keeping North America running during these difficult times. Here are just some of the stories from our Sisters and Brothers on the frontlines—making all of us proud by doing the work that needs to be done.

JESSICA ANTES

IAM Local 1930 Member

911 Communications Center Specialist
Long Beach, CA

I am a public safety dispatcher. Every day I go to work, disinfect my station, adjust my keyboard and chair, then plug in to start my shift.

I always joked that the best part of working for 9-1-1 was the job security. Now that the rest of the world has stopped in its tracks because of COVID-19, I appreciate my job security even more. Like everyone, I worry about getting sick, about exposing my family to germs I may come in contact with at work, about the future, and the economy.

I’m not classified as a first responder, but if I don’t respond, people get hurt. I go to work every day because I care about my community. I want people to be able to get the help they need and to know that even though their world may be upside down, that they can still count on me. When they call for help, I will answer. We are still going out into the world to do our jobs. We are the ones who hold up the infrastructure we all rely on. We were always essential.

AMANDA BAER

IAM Local 837A Member

Process Mechanic, The Boeing Co.
St. Louis

Boeing is dependent on its employees. Experienced employees are valuable.

Some of my former employers have contacted me to ask if I would sew face masks for them. My mom sewed 20 masks over the weekend. I asked her, “Are those for people at work?”

“No, everyone at work already has face masks.”

So, I asked her why she was making the face masks. “Oh, you know…”. What?

I am a seamstress in a small department at Boeing’s St. Louis plant. Our regular work has been put on hold for the last few weeks. Instead, a few employees from other departments are helping us sew face masks for Boeing employees.

Many of the plants were shut down due to the Corona crisis. As most everyone already knows, the face masks help prevent you from spreading the virus to other people. So, if everyone wears a mask, by process of elimination, everyone will be as best protected from contracting the virus. Over the past few weeks, Boeing plants have gradually begun to re-open.

Boeing is protecting its money through production of the face mask. The union allows us extra security to depend on that income and the company’s wonderful working culture.

KEITH GILBERT

TCU-IAM Local 90 Chairman

Station Cleaner, Long Island Rail Road
Babylon, NY

I am a 13-year TCU-IAM member and a station appearance maintainer for Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) at the Babylon Yard Employee Facility and Train Station. My family has been doing railroad work for four generations.

My father worked 34 years on the LIRR and was part of the IBEW union board. I saw first-hand the hard work and stability a good union job has on a family. He raised and provided for myself, my five siblings and our stay-at-home mother.

At 18, I put in for a job on the LIRR and began work in Queens at 19. I started with the union because I saw the hard work my father put in, not only providing for his family but for the working families he served in the union.

Our work has changed so much lately. Garbage removal, bathroom cleaning and power washing has turned into total sanitization, focused on touch points and the locations necessary to keep our members and the traveling public safe.

I am so very proud of the work the TCU-IAM members are doing and I am confident we can keep people safe. We are cleaning all 123 Long Island Rail Road stations around the clock. I am thankful for the support the union provides and for the proper protective equipment that we have from LIRR.

I look forward to a return of normalcy, but we will continue to do the job for as long as it needs to be done.

DAN GONZALEZ

IAM Local 1930 President

Harbor Patrol Sergeant,
Port of Long Beach
Long Beach, CA

Local government employees, along with most of the members of Local 1930, are still working. My shop is the Port of Long Beach Harbor Patrol. We are proud to be serving and contributing to national infrastructure.

Our mission is homeland security and to ensure the safe flow of commerce through the port. Although our risk is elevated, my union is working to ensure safety in the workplace. Members on the frontlines are dedicated to stopping the spread and have been coordinating and communicating if they have been exposed.

They want to do their best to protect their brothers and sisters. Shop Stewards are constantly sharing concerns and Business Representatives as well Grand Lodge Representatives help fight more than ever to make our workplace as safe as it can be in these uncertain times, with limited supplies of protective equipment.

Never has there been more of a demand on the members in my shop and we are rising to the challenge. I, along with my brothers and sisters in Harbor Patrol in my union are dedicated to prevail.

More than ever, we are stronger together.

ERIKA HAMILTON

IAM Local 776A Safety Coordinator

Union Safety Coordinator,
Lockheed Martin
Fort Worth, TX

Our committee is unique because we are the only full-time safety committee throughout the Lockheed Martin Corp. As safety coordinators, we help all represented employees across the entire plant, or as they say here “from the lake to the gate, and the road to the runway.”

We help people navigate the workers’ compensation system and cover all things OSHA related in order to ensure we are compliant, and various other safety-related tasks. I genuinely miss my regular safety job, because when COVID-19 hit the plant, everything changed.

We have helped to process over 500 work accommodation requests for people who have underlying health conditions, taken hundreds of phone calls, and have basically been the hub of information for hourly and salary employees alike because unfortunately a lot of information is being withheld.

We have been and will continue to be here every day to help our membership because we take great pride in our jobs. Our No. 1 goal is to keep people safe and informed during this uncertain time. Our job is essential. We are coping and staying calm and doing the best we can to protect ourselves.

ASHLEY JACKSON

IAM Local 2003 Member

Lead Aircraft Mechanic,
M1 Support Services
Fort Rucker, AL

I’ve had the honor of working at Fort Rucker for the past 13 years. I am currently working under a contract with M1 Support Services, leading a crew of six mechanics. Since the start of COVID-19, our daily duties on the base have definitely changed. Today, instead of just focusing on the job that needs to be done, I need to make sure my team is safe when preforming maintenance tasks and that the work won’t interfere with the current social distancing measures that are in place.

I also have to protect my team when six feet apart can’t be executed. I take precautions these days to make sure I don’t bring the virus home to my wife Katlyn and my two daughters. My team members are doing the same. One change I’m very honored to witness is my union brothers and sisters from all job classifications at Fort Rucker coming together to sew nearly 15,000 face masks to distribute throughout the base.

But even while we tackle new daily challenges during this crisis, our No. 1 mission continues without delay. We are here to support the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence while they train first-class aviators who will protect our freedom no matter the situation.

GREG JAMEAU

IAM Local 100 Shop Steward

Inspector, Boston Water and Sewer
Boston

Long before the devastating pandemic facing us daily brought the term “essential employees” into our households, I think most of my Brothers and Sisters at Boston Water and Sewer knew the work they do day in and day out is essential.

As a Shop Steward for IAM Local 100, my mornings start with reviewing and returning calls from members with realistic concerns – most likely the very same concerns shared by many worldwide at this moment in history. They want to keep themselves and their families safe. For those deemed essential employees, it means questions about safety procedures to protect them and prevent them from infecting their families. We also want to make sure we are doing what it takes to get the job done.

That job is servicing the city of Boston with all aspects of water, sewer and drain distribution, as well as maintenance of infrastructure. Doing that takes a wealth of skilled and professional workers covering laborers, clerks, foremen, equipment operators, inspectors, leak detection, meter technicians, inventory and stock personnel, facilities and engineers.

Even as we get the job done, new emerging studies are showing pathogens at higher than expected levels in the sewer systems. One of the typical hazards of this job we train for is avoiding puncture or prick of needles disposed of improperly. The COVID-19 virus isn’t a typical hazard.

This is why I got involved with my union—to help others get the information and tools necessary to protect themselves. It is important now more than ever to have a voice at the table ensuring our safety, and my union provides that voice. I am a proud member of IAM Local 100.

ALICE MARTINS

IAM Local 914 member

Customer Service Agent,
United Airlines
Newark, NJ

A helping hand from the sky… it’s not a religious quote, it is a description of what our airline family has done in these difficult moments. There was a moment when we were just competing airlines or segregated departments within our own airline, but from these trying times I have seen the best of us emerging. We are a true united and caring family.

When I found myself taking a leave of absence to protect myself and to help my co-workers, I realized I had to quickly find something to occupy my mind and time. Social media is one of the fastest sources now to help us find and reach people. So, I reached out to my family—my airport family—and one by one we started forming this chain of help in different areas. From mask making to food delivery, we shared fast changing information within the company and even about our own health and faith. It all started coming together, growing and spreading from our own station to different states and even other airlines.

I know that these are some of the most difficult moments our country has ever experienced, but I am also extremely grateful to look up at this blue sky and see the hope trailing behind our airplanes flying. United in strength, we will make it!

MYRTLE MILLER

IAM Local 1231 Chief Shop Steward

Personal Support Worker,
Spectrum Healthcare
Brampton, Ontario, Canada

We are healthcare professionals who provide care and support to individuals both in their residence and in retirement or long-term care homes. Sun or snow, we spend a minimum of 12 hours each day commuting to different homes to bring some cheer. They can tell us the same story 40 times and we still laugh like we are hearing it for the first time.

As an essential worker, COVID-19 has negatively affected personal support workers, particularly due to the shortage of personal protective equipment. Stay at home and social distancing guidelines are not possible for us for obvious reasons, but we are not willing to leave our patients without care.

I am extremely proud of the IAM Healthcare Union for all their support. This union has been a tower of strength to us and helped to provide us with personal protective equipment, which has reduced the stress level among our members. They have continually advocated on our behalf to our employer and at all levels of provincial and federal government to secure our safety, as well as having us recognized for the critical work we do.

As a union representative who is part of a team providing healthcare, I am extremely proud to be a valuable frontline worker in this crisis. It has given me the opportunity to provide care and give hope to clients who are fearful and need assurance. I have also received a lot of gratitude from family and clients who truly appreciate the work I do. The fact I am able to alleviate some suffering has humbled me. I have developed a greater love for humanity. Life is fragile.

To all the hardworking dedicated personal support workers, I send you a big thank you for your invaluable contribution to the healthcare system.

DAVE NEGUS

IAM Local 754 President

Machinist Federal Inspector, Long Island Rail Road
Queens, NY

Our work on Long Island Rail Road and our personal lives seem to have changed forever. There is no telling if we will ever go back to normal. Maybe this is a new normal, but we hope not.

One of our close colleagues became very sick during the second week in March. He ended up in the ICU with double pneumonia and could have died. From then on, we have been doing whatever we can to protect ourselves. We received a crash course from experts on how to stay safe. The guidance continues to change, sometimes by the hour. Thankfully, our IAM District Representative started a communication system just before we were hit with the effects of COVID-19.

We began with a 25-person conference call with our General Chairman and every Local 754 representative to discuss how we would communicate and distribute information. It worked well, and our Recording Secretary relayed all information from the General Chairman to us and then to all members. We even had our Vice President checking to see that information was getting to the members. This was a huge undertaking and it was great to have it set up before we needed it.

Everyone was scared in the beginning, but having this communication system in place helps a lot. At times we had issues that couldn’t be handled locally, but our General Chairman was able to get us in contact with the people we needed to talk to. Several times we had the LIRR Vice President of Safety on a conference call well after 10 p.m. and sometimes after midnight.

Being able to communicate at any level is getting us through this time. It gives us peace of mind while we provide transportation for the public and other essential workers.

DEVIN RIDDLE

TCU-IAM Local 794 Member

Intermodal Equipment Operator,
BNSF Railway
Memphis, TN

My job is to load and unload essential goods on and off trains and trucks from destinations all over the country—from New York City to Los Angeles. These goods are becoming ever more critical as the shipping has become more critical equipment.

Everything was routine before the coronavirus scare. Now, we are aware of everything. Social distancing and protective equipment are all needed for work, briefings and interacting with the crews on the trains. We have to spray and wipe down all the equipment more often. All the employees I work with are stepping up to keep us safe.

We are getting more work from the hot spot locations every day. The essential equipment we are transporting has gotten to be more and more important. Cleaning and protective equipment are so essential to keeping us healthy and working so that supplies will continue to get where they need to be. Keeping people on the job ensures the people working on the frontlines of this crisis will be properly protected.

We support all the workers on the frontline. Our work supports them and we know what a big job they are doing every day.

YVONNE STAPLES

Chief Shop Steward, IAM Local 16

Airport Screening Officer,
Victoria International Airport
British Columbia, Canada

Airport screening officers are considered “essential.” We operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The airline transportation industry cannot operate without this vital service. We are responsible for the safety of the traveling public, the airlines, aircrew, employees and vehicles that proceed to the ramp area on airport property.

As a union advocate, I have always been mindful of workers’ rights, health and safety, and fairness in the workplace. Airport screeners across Canada still have no personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect from possible contamination. The IAMAW has worked tirelessly having to reach out to the highest levels of government to enforce the employer to comply and provide PPE for airport screeners working on the frontlines.

The impact COVID-19 has had on the airline transportation industry is quite unprecedented. We have no comparison, and we see frontline workers experiencing high levels of fear, worry and uncertainty. One-by-one, amenities close and employees disappear as airline schedules grind to a stop. Outside the airport, there are no taxis and parking lots are empty. There is an eerie silence. It feels surreal.

The reality is that we do not know how long this is going to last. Could it be the new normal? If so, airport screening officers are able to adapt quickly to the ever-changing industry and will continue to provide the security needed to keep everyone safe. We will ride this wave and the next, and learn from it. We will adapt to all changes, and will always do so with a friendly smile—standing proud on the frontlines.

KYM VALDEZ

NFFE-IAM Local 1 President

Coordinator, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – VA Supportive Housing Program
Santa Rosa, CA

I am proud every Monday when I can drive the 55 miles to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and do my 25 percent time representing our members. All of them are frontline health care workers taking care of our veterans during this COVID-19 pandemic.

The union office provides them hot coffee, tea and snacks from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to support and sustain these dedicated and hardworking VA employees. I come here an additional day, every other week on my day off, to make sure the union is here for them, that they are safe and that their voices are heard.