In his final video interview as IAM International President, Tom Buffenbarger talked about his years of service as the union’s top leader, its pressures and what he sees for the future.
“What I’m going to miss the most are the great people I have worked with,” said Buffenbarger. “I’ve been blessed in my entire career to have the best people to work with, to have them as a team to help me get the job done for our members.” Buffenbarger emphasized that, although he is looking forward to being able to set his own schedule, there are still unfinished tasks in front of him to save the jobs of members who are facing company closures. “I want to see that through and I am glad to do that,” said Buffenbarger. “Because in those plants I know those members and they’re friends… We have to save those jobs and I hope to always be able to lend my services to help protect peoples’ jobs.” Regarding incoming president Bob Martinez and the IAM’s future, he left no doubt about his confidence in his leadership. “You’re being left in very capable hands,” said Buffenbarger. “Bob has a very well-rounded idea of what the job entails… It’s time for me to step aside. It’s time for a younger person like Bob Martinez to take over and I have every expectation that Bob is going to do a fantastic job.” After more than 18 years as president, Buffenbarger admits there are certain pressures he will not miss in retirement. “There have been many, many nights you don’t sleep hoping you’re making the right decision,” said Buffenbarger. “Do the members benefit by it? Will they be better off? Are their futures secure? Their jobs secure? Are their families going to be okay? That goes back to Bob Martinez. Bob understands the value of caring for our members.”