The International Association of Machinists has long been run under the leadership of Thomas Buffenbarger who treats his union as his own personal fiefdom.
Raking in more than $300,000 last year, according to reports on file with the Department of Labor, Buffenbarger has overseen his union steadily lose over 153,000 members since 2000.
Even with his union’s assets falling from nearly $230 million in 2000 to $155 million last year, Buffenbarger still spent more than $1 million on the union’s Learjet.
Then, of course, there all of the maids, groundskeepers, and bartenders that the union employs at its headquarters in Maryland.
Now, in addition to the furor Buffenbarger and his cronies face in Puget Sound, he and his fellow union bosses have some challenging times ahead.
For years, rank-and-file members have complained that union rules stymie opportunities to nominate candidates to top leadership positions. No candidate opposing incumbent leaders and their allies has won enough endorsements to get on the ballot since 1961.
Now, after the Labor Department found some of the union’s locals violated law by making it difficult for members to vote, dissident hopefuls are stepping up to run in a new election that the federal agency will oversee early next year.
“The IAM routinely promotes themselves as the most democratic union in the world,” said Jay Cronk, who is running against longtime president Thomas Buffenbarger. “They omit the part where it’s been over 50 years since anyone actually got to vote.”