Skip to main content
Home » Diversity & Inclusion » Diversifying Canada's Skilled Trades » Providing Faithful Representation and Advocacy for Skilled Trades Workers
Michelle Park_IAM

Michelle Park

CNC Machinist & IAM Member

Antoniette Yap_IAM

Antoniette Yap

Millwright Apprentice & IAM Member

Janelle Dodge_IAM

Janelle Dodge

Journeyman Welder, Promac & IAM Member

Annie Bellemare_IAM

Annie Bellemare

Technical Writer, Air Canada & IAM Member

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers’ advocacy covers skilled labour shortages, labour market policy, and preserving skilled trades’ integrity.

Workers in the skilled trades need representation and advocacy, and that’s exactly what the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) offers.

Formed in Atlanta, Georgia in 1888, the IAM’s first Canadian Local Lodge, Local Lodge 103, was formed in 1890 in Stratford, Ont. The association is the leading union in the aerospace sector and the air transportation industry. It currently represents over 40,000 Canadian workers in air transport and a wide range of manufacturing including aircraft, auto parts, autobuses, aerospace, electronics, light and heavy machinery, tools, and appliances. The IAM also represents a growing number of workers in the health care and hospitality sectors as well as office, technical, and other white-collar workers. The association is one of the few unions in Canada that has represented and advocated for skilled trades since its inception.

Addressing labour shortages

The IAM has a vested interest in advocating for its members and also of ensuring that the industries in which they’re employed continue to thrive in the future.

For many skilled trades, labour shortages are a major current challenge. Some of the IAM’s most well-known advocacy is centered on this troublingly low unemployment-to-job vacancy ratio. The IAM actively lobbies governments to increase funding for skilled trades programs and apprenticeship training programs and to ensure that programs prepare students for the world of work. It also lobbies for defunded skilled trades councils to be re-established as a forum for all sectors of skilled trades.

The skilled trades offer great career opportunities — a message that IAM members are keen to share with potential recruits. “There are a lot of different types of jobs within the trades and a lot of opportunities to grow,” says Michelle Park, a CNC machinist and IAM member. “I’m grateful for the IAM because it has advocated me to better and further myself.”

There are a lot of different types of jobs within the trades and a lot of opportunities to grow.

Supporting women

Encouraging women, in particular, to take advantage of the lucrative and rewarding jobs available in the skilled trades is a particular area of focus for the IAM. The association has consistently shown its commitment to supporting women in the skilled trades, particularly in light of the labour shortages, which require new recruitment and hiring strategies — including ones aimed at women and other non-traditional groups.

The IAM’s lobbying strategy puts members at the heart of advocacy at the provincial and federal levels. Through an internal initiative, it supports women within the organization to step into leadership positions, and through partnerships with allies, it aims to offer support to women in skilled trades.

“The IAM has been great at giving me advice on anything I have questions on,” says Antoniette Yap, a millwright apprentice and IAM member. “I’m a strong supporter of anyone who’s interested in the trades and the labour movement, as it’s a very empowering community. The most rewarding part of the trades is definitely the people and the community. You learn to curate a community of support, learning, growth, and inclusion.”

During contract negotiations and by sticking together, I’ve often felt supported by the strength of the union.

Protecting workers’ rights

The IAM also advocates for labour market policy and preserving the integrity of skilled trades. For example, it has been an active advocate in addressing micro-credentialling in skilled trades training, which has been shown to de-skill trades, making skilled trade labour cheaper.

The IAM encourages its members to get involved in its advocacy efforts. In turn, its members are grateful for its unwavering support and dedication.

“During contract negotiations and by sticking together, I’ve often felt supported by the strength of the union,” says Janelle Dodge, a journeyman welder at Promac and IAM member.

“The IAM is representing me in a grievance we have currently for our structural technician job outsourcing or non-respect of the collective agreement,” says Annie Bellemare, a technical writer at Air Canada who previously worked as a licensed structural technician.

Next article