During Women’s History Month this year, the IAM is highlighting current trailblazers in the union. Are you an IAM Sister interested in taking a more active role in your union? Reach out to your District leadership about the IAM Leadership Assembly of Dedicated Sisters (LEADS) Program.
Kim Valliere began her union career as a member of Local 103 in Ontario, Canada. In the past 32 years, she has been involved in many different roles for our union, including Shift Steward, Health and Safety Co-Chair, Negotiation Committee member, Local Lodge President, Labour Council Delegate, President of the Ontario Provincial Council of Machinists (OPCM) and to now currently serving as District 78 Directing Business Representative (DBR).
Valliere says there have been obstacles, especially as she became more involved. She admits time away from home and her two small children was challenging and is thankful she had support at home and that her family allowed her the time to get involved and take on more and more responsibility.
“I can’t say that there haven’t been challenges, or difficult situations over the years,” said Valliere. “I lost elections, it’s hard to take, but I never walked away. I ran for other positions, I volunteered when I could, I wanted to stay involved”.
“Kim is a shining example of the classic labour expression ‘up from the ranks,’” said IAM Canadian General Vice President David Chartrand. “She worked hard and stayed involved in her union, despite the many obstacles society places in front of women in general. She now stands as a model for IAM women everywhere. With the number of women increasingly joining the IAM, she stands out as an exceptional leader and sets a great example for a new generation. Kim’s resilience and perseverance have proven that with these qualities and hard work you get results. We are especially pleased she is being recognized this month and know she will continue working for our members with all the creativity, energy and dedication she has demonstrated throughout her career. The future is bright!”
Valliere has had a few mentors along the way that have come in many different ways.
“Sister Pauline Pegnam who was, and continues to be the driving force of the OPCM,” said Valliere. “Pauline’s knowledge and guidance benefits me to this day.”
Valliere says that she doesn’t feel the mentoring was intentional.
“They were just doing the work,” said Valliere. “They included me, and for that I will always be grateful.”
Valliere says she experienced first-hand their knowledge, ability and integrity representing the members while holding the employer accountable.
“I can’t talk about mentors without mentioning the Winpisinger Center,” said Valliere. “The leadership classes at W3 changed my life. When I first went to the W3 my eyes opened, connections were made, a spark was ignited and the realization that I belonged to this amazing union working together to better the lives of our members and workers everywhere was inspirational.”
Valliere says she admires Winpisinger Center Assistant Director Mary McHugh.
“The first time class I had with Mary at the W3 was a ‘wow’ moment,” said Valliere. “Mary is so dedicated to improving the lives of working people. She has a ‘do the work’ spirit that’s truly infectious when you are in her company.
Valliere remembers advice that McHugh gave her after a leadership class.
“Mary said to me, ‘you are a leader; I won’t be surprised to see you as a rep. someday,’” said Valliere. “Little did I know then, but with the support and guidance along the way from people like Mary, I’d be a rep.”
Valliere’s advice is to keep doing the work, since there is always opportunities for leaders in the IAM.
“Continue to raise your hand and volunteer,” said Valliere. “If you’re not successful in your run for a position, don’t give up, keep getting involved. Continue to participate, and let people know you want to be involved.”
“Women are a large percentage of our membership,” continued Valliere. “As we encourage more women to become involved, we have to be considerate and identify the systemic barriers or challenges that make it difficult for some of our sisters to participate and remain involved. As mentors we must encourage others as we ourselves were encouraged, lets help grow this great union.”
Valliere’s hope is that more and more women will become involved, aspire to be leaders and make it into leadership positions
“Hopefully one day the question will be ‘What is your hope for all workers,’” said Valliere. We’re not there yet. There is still a lot of work to be done. We will only get there together.“