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M7 members keep Attwood No. 1 in marine parts

IR Dan Luhmann, left, tours the Attwood facility with Human Resources Manager Jamie Orr and L-M7 President Mark Babcock.

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From navigation lights to seat pedestals to trolling motors, Boilermakers keep boaters’ needs afloat

IF YOU’VE EVER bought a boat accessory for a recreational watercraft, chances are Boilermakers of Local M7 (Lowell, Michigan) had a hand in getting it to you. Members of the lodge work for Attwood Marine Products, the world’s largest supplier of boating accessories and parts.

Workers at the sprawling 450,000-square-foot warehouse and plant in Lowell (near Grand Rapids) assemble navigation lights, seat pedestals, MotorGuide trolling motors and myriad other products and accessories. They also stock, customize and distribute thousands of parts to outdoor retailers across North America, from brick and mortar stores like Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops to online shopping sites. Some products are also used in automotive and RV markets.

M7 President Mark Babcock, a 35-year employee, calls Attwood “the Amazon of boating accessories and parts.” Indeed, if it supports a fishing seat, makes it easier to lift a deck hatch or heats the water on a yacht, you’ll likely find it on the floor-to-ceiling shelves at Attwood. Babcock runs the Spring Department, where gas-assisted rods or “springs” used in boat and RV hatches are calibrated for various manufacturers. Throughout the vast plant, Boilermakers assemble, modify, inventory and distribute tens of thousands of parts every day.

International Rep Dan Luhmann says part of the company’s success is its positive relationship with the union (Boilermakers are the only union on site). “I think we have mutual respect, which is important in solving issues before they become a larger problem. They’ve been a good employer, and we look forward to continued growth and prosperity and the opportunity to bring in new union Boilermakers to Local M7.”

Babcock, now in his fourth term as lodge president, agrees. “It’s nice to work with a company that, unlike the big corporations, is family oriented — not only coworkers but the management team up front.”

Babcock stresses to coworkers, especially newer employees, the importance of being in the union. (In 2012, Michigan passed a law that allows workers to opt out of paying dues even though unions are legally required to provide representation services to every worker in a unit.)

“The main thing our union does is give you a voice,” Babcock says. “If you don’t have a union, you don’t have a voice or any power to bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions. The union also brings structure and stability to our worksite.”

Local M7 received its Boilermakers union charter in 1996.