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Looking for community projects that are new, fun, and that will set your local lodge apart? Are food and toy drives not something that your community needs right this second? Are you trying to find an intersection between your community activism and the aerospace and airline industries?

Great! Here’s ten Project Ideas that will help you form partnerships with other unions and activist organizations, show some union hometown pride, and save the world all at the same time. 

CHARITY FOD WALKS

FOD Walks can be more than a routine part of airline work. They can also be great ways to educate and partner with the public.

Foreign Object Debris (aka FOD) is the arch-nemesis of all airline workers. Airline crews know that any small strip of plastic tie-downs, broken bag zipper tabs, or an errant piece of trash could suddenly find itself sucked into an engine or ripping unseen holes in an unsuspecting aircraft tire. No matter how polite and unobtrusive the FOD is, all ramp workers, pilots, and mechanics will quickly snatch it up.

The constant ground grooming that airline workers do creates the perfect segway into community service, in the form of anti-litter campaigns. If your Local Lodge is looking for a way to build stronger alliances with teacher, firefighter and police unions, this could be a great way to break the ice and get something started. All of these professions share the airline workers’ disgust of litter, and they could use the help since it’s not always easy to find volunteers that are willing to pitch in. Additionally, small-town and neighborhood newspapers are usually happy to help publicize your efforts. (Remember to catch some pics!)

Charity FOD walks, park and roadside cleanups, and FOD’ing for school events can bring some great publicity to your Local Lodge, and help form stronger partnerships with other unions. They are also fun and easy to organize, inexpensive, and something that entire families can participate in.

What You’ll Need:

People: The more, the merrier, but just a few friends and coworkers can get the job done in no time.

Money: This is one of the less expensive projects out there. You’ll need bags, gloves, and some kind of signage to tell people about your union. Other than that, someone should have high-visibility clothes, rakes and anything else you need.

Time: Once everything is set up, the cleanup itself can last as long as everyone is having a good time. 

 

ADOPT A STREET, BLOCK OR YOUTH SPORTS TEAM

Sponsorships are perfect for creating long-lasting and positive relationships with your community.

Most cities large enough to sport an airport full of unionized Machinists and Aerospace Workers also have Adopt-a-Highway or Adopt-a-Block programs that trade a little roadside clean up for a bit of publicity for your Local Lodge. Although the exact programs vary, the deal usually works out like this: Once a quarter, if your organization will promise to get together and pick up litter from the sides of the road, block or highway, the city will erect a sign with the name of your Local Lodge and Union on it.

Talk about a win-win. The city gets the work done, your union gets recognition for doing that work, and everyone gets roads and streets that are a little cleaner.

Some cities will need your local to pay for the cost of the signs, which usually aren’t too expensive. They might cost about $150 – $200 each.

If adopting a street or road sounds like too much work, your Local might want to look into sponsoring a youth sports team, like Local 1932 did to great success in 2019. The LAX Local sponsored an All-Girls Basketball team and a Men’s Soccer Team that made it all the way to Barcelona, Spain… all while wearing the IAM Emblem on their jerseys! Most of the time, non-competitive and competitive sports teams will proudly display the names or logos of their sponsors on their jerseys. They will sometimes even sell extras to you – so that they can be placed on exhibit at your local lodge to commemorate your winning season!

What You’ll Need: 

People: 1-2 volunteers are needed, depending on what type of sponsorship your Local is interested in picking up. If you’re doing roadside cleanups or street adoptions, you may need crews to take care of the manual work, but the sponsorships and adoptions themselves only need the Secretary-Treasurer. 

Time: Everything can be done in about an hour, from calling the potential recipients to signing the check. One phone call and you’re almost done!

Money: The only real commitment is financial. Sponsorships are mostly just a higher-end type of donation and do not require much hands-on involvement. A sports team can range between $200-$500. 

 

Public Service Announcements and Awareness Campaigns

World-class RaceCar Driver Andy Pilgrim was a guest speaker at the 2019 IAMAW District 141 Safety Conference. He spoke to attendees about the dangers of distracted driving. Vehicle strikes are one of the leading causes of death and serious injury for airline workers. Photo Credit: AndyPilgrim.com.

When authorities at McCarron Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas decided to step up their anti-human trafficking efforts, they began using an old weapon: Public Service Announcements. In August, these efforts paid off when an FBI sweep rescued 14 minors and arrested 33 human traffickers.

The role that the airport played was shockingly simple. Law enforcement knew that minors could not be transported easily by car, and therefore, most of them would pass through the nation’s airports. To catch them, the airport installed semi-permanent signs on the inside doors of toilet stalls with an easy to remember phone number and a simple bilingual message. gave dozens of kidnapping victims a safe way to contact authorities and get help.

Over the past few years, Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union Members at District 141 have solicited guest speakers at events that have helped airline workers understand the dangers of things like sleep deprivation at airports, distracted driving, and how to survive a terrorist attack. But, PSA’s don’t have to end with event speakers. Passengers can learn how to contact a union member if they see something unsafe on their flight so that the union member can fill out a GSAP/GSIP report for them. Foodservice workers can be organized so that they can collectively push for better wages. Gate agents can be given phone numbers to area lawmakers to lobby for essential rules that protect travelers from violent passengers.

Airports have become critical hubs where millions of people a year intersect. That presents airline workers a unique opportunity to raise awareness for a wide range of important issues.

What You’ll Need:

Public Service Announcements and Awareness Campaigns can require a wide range of investments in time, personnel and money. However, simple campaigns can be planned that require only a few dedicated activists and modest funding. Airport ad rates can get expensive, but pop-up banners, flyers, and other semi-permanent signage can be bought for under $200. Be sure to get permits if you plan on approaching passengers; most airports require a special permit for hand-billing.

 

Veterans Assistance Programs

Airlines employ a large percentage of US Servicemen and Women. Ensuring that this important community is honored and respected as they transition to civilian life is an important form of social activism.

Veterans and active-duty servicemen and women make up one of the largest demographics in the airline industry. Perhaps one of the best ways to give back to the community involves helping to ensure that our national heroes are benefitting from all the assets that the larger union has to offer. Veterans are more at risk than the larger population for serious issues, such as chronic homelessness and health problems. Fortunately, unions like the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have programs that are perfectly suited for veteran assistance.

The IAMAW Employee Assistance Program has hundreds of options for the treatment of a wide range of challenges. The programs aren’t just for veterans. EAP representatives can offer free, confidential and compassionate help for those struggling with PTSD, substance abuse issues, mental health needs, and anything else that might impact the careers or families of union members. But, since veterans often have difficulty asking for help, these programs cannot reach this important community.

This provides an opportunity for community service programs to fill an urgent need; connecting EAP resources to those who need it, including our nations’ veterans. Veteran-themed awareness campaigns can help support the mission of the EAP, and help ensure that valuable union assistance programs are reaching those that need – and deserve the reinforcements.

And, the assistance that Local Lodges can give to veterans and other community groups doesn’t stop with connecting them to EAP Resources. Local 811 in Houstons IAH makes regular donations of water filters to vets at Camp Hope. Camp Hope is one of the largest veterans charities in Texas, providing safe housing for hundreds of servicemen. The water filters could cost Camp Hope around $300 each if the Machinists at Local 811 weren’t donating them.

What You’ll Need:

People: You will need EAP Representatives, and union communications assets, such as webmasters, newsletters and other specialists. EAP Reps can tell you how best to find and respectfully approach at-risk union members, and union communicators can help you develop effective outreach programs.

Time: As with any awareness campaign, it takes time to develop messaging and get the word out. However, once everything is ready, execution can be done in just a few hours.

Money: This project can be nearly “free,” since it makes use of existing assets and programs. Some printing costs may be needed. 

 

Community Outreach

Airlines and unions have an enormous economic impact on area communities. Local media outlets, Student Groups, and neighborhood organizations would love to have you share your first-row view of airport and union events. Media partnerships can help raise awareness for union issues and causes, and help support the important work that local journalists do within the community.

Drawing attention to the priorities of your community is a great act of community service in and of itself. 

The work that your union is doing within the community is something that most smaller newspapers, homeowner association newsletters, and other local media outlets are always interested in covering. Keeping them in the loop about your community work isn’t just great publicity for your Local Lodge, it also might inspire other community groups to become more active in the community themselves.

Things You’ll Need:

People: You will need at least one person willing to serve as a media contact person. Media outlets will want the correct spellings of the names of the organizers and top volunteers, some photos, and a brief description of the event or program. It might be helpful if the media contact kept all that information handy. It is also usually a good idea for at least one person to specifically focus on gathering photos and video if needed. Cellphones pics are perfect!

Time: The more time you spend cultivating positive relationships with reporters and newsrooms, the better. 

Money: This type of program requires almost no money at all.