IAM Retiree Honored as Human Rights ‘History Maker’ – 21st Century Labor Union – IAMAW

Retired IAM Local 1000 member Ruth Waddell was the first African American to work at the General Electric plant in Bloomington, IL. (Credit: McLean County Museum of History)

The IAM’s 125-year history has its share of noted human rights leaders and activists, but never before has the union’s rolls been graced by a woman quite like Ruth Waddell.

Ruth, a sharp, vibrant 90-year-old retired IAM Local 1000 member, was the first African American to work at the local General Electric (GE) plant in Bloomington, IL.

The kind, but unapologetic, local human rights activist was recently honored as a “History Maker” by the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington.

When GE came to Bloomington in 1953, Ruth, a former house cleaner, took an employment test and was hired. She was the only African-American applicant at the time. For months, she waited for a call to report to work and watched as one-by-one, each of her white female counterparts were called into training. An increasingly frustrated Ruth called and visited the GE training center nearly every day to inquire when there would be a job for her.

After months of waiting, one Wednesday morning Ruth decided she had had enough.

“They always had an excuse,” she recalled. “I just went down there one day and I told them I’m going to put this chair here and I’m going to sit right here until you put me to work.”

Ruth was in training by Monday morning.

Retired IAM Local 1000 member Ruth Waddell, left, and IAM District 8 Business Representative Ron Stanley, right, at the McLean County Museum of History’s “History Maker” event in Bloomington, IL.

Though faced with racial discrimination throughout much of her early days, Ruth says she picked up the work quickly and never backed down.

Her husband, Oscar Waddell, also found employment at the GE plant, and the two of them played an instrumental role in integrating IAM Local 1000, which represented GE’s blue collar workforce. Ruth would visit various communities in the Bloomington area to organize. Oftentimes, she was the only woman. She served as Shop Steward for nearly 29 years.

“Everyone came across the factory to me because they knew I was going to fight,” said Ruth with a proud chuckle. “I didn’t take any guff. I’d get right up and go to that office and raise all kinds of sand.”

During her 35 years on the job, Ruth only missed 11 days of work. She retired in 1989.

She credits her union job for helping her purchase her first home – made of brick, as she always wanted as a child – and for ensuring her secure retirement.

“The pension is good, Social Security is good and I’m in good shape. Real good shape,” she affirms.

Ruth received the City of Bloomington’s Human Relations Award in 2000. Both she and Oscar were active in the Bloomington-Normal Black History project.

After 50 years of marriage, Oscar passed away in 1990. Their daughter, Nancy, just celebrated her 68th birthday.

“Ruth’s story is one of triumph over racial discrimination,” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Philip J. Gruber. “We are very proud of Ruth. She truly is a ‘History Maker’ as a human rights activist in the Midwest. In a year when we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, there could have not been a better honoree than Ruth Waddell.”

via IAM Retiree Honored as Human Rights ‘History Maker’ – 21st Century Labor Union – IAMAW.

GLR Steve Nickel Moves to Western Territory – 21st Century Labor Union – IAMAW

IAM Western Territory General Vice President Gary Allen is pleased to welcome Grand Lodge Representative Steve Nickel to the Western Territory staff – effective August 1. Nickel is moving from the Midwest Territory to serve the membership of the southwestern region of the Western Territory.”Steve’s wealth of knowledge, talent, and experience as a Grand Lodge Representative will serve our members in the Southwest well,” said Allen. “All of us in the Western Territory look forward to the contributions Steve will make toward improving the lives of our members and their families.”Nickel was appointed to the IAM Midwest Territory staff as a Special Representative on August 1, 2006. He became a Grand Lodge Representative on August 1, 2007.Prior to his appointment to the Midwest Territory staff, Nickel was the Assistant Directing Business Representative of IAM District 10 in Milwaukee from 2004 to 2006. He held the position of Business Representative from 2000 to 2004. Nickel became an Apprentice Organizer for the IAM Organizing Department in 1999.A second-generation IAM member, Nickel worked as an Erector Assembler at Beloit Corp. in Beloit, WI from 1979 to 1999, where he joined the IAM. He became a member of Local Lodge 1197, District 68 and served as Union Steward, Bargaining Committee and Committee Chair, Safety Chair, and as a member of the Organizing

via GLR Steve Nickel Moves to Western Territory – 21st Century Labor Union – IAMAW.

Dropkick Murphys Turn Up the Volume for Organized Labor – 21st Century Labor Union – IAMAW

Click here to see The Dropkick Murphys video!
The Dropkick Murphys, a union-friendly punk-rock band, made it a night to remember for working families in Cincinnati, OH.

Major music artists often shy away from putting their name out in front of a political cause, but not so with the Dropkick Murphys, a famous punk-rock band that hasn’t been bashful in their support of organized labor.

A new Machinists News Network video highlights a recent concert the band put on for union members in Cincinnati, OH, where the GOP-led state legislature has been pushing “right-to-work” laws that strip workers of their rights and result in a weaker middle class.

“That’s why we want to jump in the fight and help,” said Dropkick Murphys bass guitarist Ken Casey. “It’s sad to say we’re the underdog from what I see in here, but we want to help change that. We have the ability to have the ear from a lot of young fans. Maybe they’re not from union families or union jobs, but maybe they can vote on the side of common sense and for what is right for everybody.”

IAM Local Lodge 1943 member Mike Creekbaum said he was glad to hear from a friend of labor, especially since their voices have been largely drowned out by state Republicans who are working to drive organized labor out of the state.

“Well we’re definitely not getting it from our Ohio politicians; especially with the ‘right-to-freeload’ laws they’re trying to put in now,” said Creekbaum.

And thanks to a partnership with the Ohio AFL-CIO, Creekbaum and other union members were able to enjoy the show at a discounted price.

“The Dropkick Murphys have your back,” said Casey. “I feel like what’s going on here in the battle for labor is right and just. I believe that if people do the right thing and keep standing up for themselves that it’s infectious, the word will spread and we will do our little part and do what we can.”

Click here to see the Machinists News Network video with clips and interviews from the concert.