Tom Buffenbarger, the international president for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, is the keynote speaker at Thursday’s Wichita Aero Club meeting.
Buffenbarger began his career as a journeyman tool and die maker at GE’s jet engine plant in Evendale, Ohio.
In 1997, he was elected as the 13th international president in the Machinists’ 112-year history; he leads 730,000 active and retired members in the U.S. and Canada.
Buffenbarger is no stranger to Wichita, where the union represents thousands of hourly workers at Spirit AeroSystems, Boeing, Hawker Beechcraft, Cessna, Bombardier Learjet and elsewhere.
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He invited President Obama to visit Wichita to see the importance of the city’s aviation industry after Obama blasted the use of business jets and their owners, calling them “fat cats.”
Four years ago, Buffenbarger, a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton, became a YouTube hit when he blasted the then-Sen. Obama.
“Hope. Change. Yes we can. Give me a break,” Buffenbarger said during a speech in 2008. “I’ve got news for all the latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust-fund babies crowding in to hear him speak. This guy won’t last a round against the Republican attack machine. He’s a poet, not a fighter.”
The Machinists union now formally supports Obama for re-election.
“Jobs are the central issue of this campaign, and only President Obama has a plan that would put millions of Americans and thousands of Machinists back to work,” Buffenbarger said in a statement released from the union in February, the Washington Post reported at the time. “We’re convinced the job growth we’re now seeing, particularly in the critical manufacturing sector, is a direct result of President Obama’s policies and leadership and we want that growth to continue.”
However, Buffenbarger told TheStreet in August that his members are upset with both parties and with Congress.
The union typically has about 100 delegates at a Democratic National Convention. It sent four to this year’s convention in Charlotte, N.C.
“Unlike in 2008, there is a lack of interest this year," Buffenbarger told TheStreet.
Buffenbarger is a member of the executive council of the AFL-CIO. His also serves on the Executive Committee of the International Metalworkers Federation and is a member of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Advisory Committee to the International Monetary Fund.
Buffenbarger and his wife, Linda, have two children and live in Brookeville, Md.
He will speak at noon at the Doubletree Hotel by Hilton at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.
For more information on the luncheon, call 316-681-4471 or go to www.wichitaaeroclub.org.