Joe Lanasa has been president of IAM Local 1731 since 2020, just seven years after a friend who was a committee member urged him to get more involved in the union.
141 Report: Joe Lanasa President of IAM Air Transport Local 1731
In recent years, and especially since the mega-merger of United and Continental Airlines in 2011, few stations have seen the turmoil Cleveland has.
Joe Lanasa has been president of IAM Local 1731 since 2020, just seven years after a friend who was a committee member urged him to get more involved in the union. United Airlines workers founded the local in 1946, and while small today, under Joe’s leadership, it remains a strong and active group in the IAM.
Air Transport Local 1731 currently represents 272 members working at United Customer Service, Ramp, and Stores in CLE, and Customer Service workers at Southwest Airlines in Columbus, Ohio (CMH). Just five months ago, the local had close to 400 members, but the COVID pandemic caused many members to take options for retirement and extended leaves of absence. This last wave of retirements comes after the local lost close to 300 members after United decided to downgrade CLE’s status as a hub airport for the airline.
Throughout it all, Joe Lanasa remains optimistic. “CLE would have been outsourced if we didn’t have contract protections. The company wanted to downgrade every worker to part-time status,” he says, stressing how a legally binding union contract can make all the difference in workers’ lives and livelihoods.
Joe is relentless in his mission to educate members on how union solidarity strengthens workers so they can navigate the fluctuations in the airline industry and control their future. “You wouldn’t be talking to me right now if we didn’t have a union,” says Joe, who began his airline career 33 years ago.
Joe speaks about the City of Cleveland and his own family’s history in organized labor. What started as curiosity developed into a calling to address needs that he discovered as he became more involved in the union. He jokes how he was told when he ran for vice president that his primary responsibility was to order the pizza for the local’s meeting. He ended up leading his first meeting as vice president when the president could not attend.
“I never thought I would be this involved with the union. But it escalated quickly.”
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