Remembering IAMAW 837’s Claude Barnes


Friends say if there was a Mount Rushmore for unionists, Claude Barnes’ likeness would be carved into that stone — that a better unionist will never be found.

Long-time Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union member Claude Barnes, Jr. of Saint Charles, died Wednesday, Sept. 19 at the age of 91.

A former union representative with the International Union of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Lodge 837-C, Barnes was proud of his work ethic, loved his job as union representative and vice president of the union and, after retirement, loved serving as president of the IAM Lodge 837 Retirees Club. He was a member of the union for 52 years.

An employee of McDonnell Douglas, where he constructed high-tech planes and jets, Barnes formally retired in 1989, but never let retirement slow him down. He dedicated his retirement years to serving the interests of Lodge 837 Retirees and its active members.


Lodge 837 Directing Business Representative Steve McDerman said Barnes served the union in many capacities and was an inspiration to trade unionists everywhere. Under his guidance, the Retirees Club became recognized as one of the most active.

“He’s been a pillar in our union for many, many years,” McDerman said. “He was here when I started 40 years ago, and he was active in our union until the day he died.”

McDerman said Barnes would attend day-long lodge meetings, prepare lunch for the stewards during seminars, and helped raise money for Guide Dogs of America, the Machinists’ charity organization that trains and places service dogs for those who need them. He was also head of the Retirees Political Action Committee.

“Basically, he’d do anything you asked him to do,” McDerman said. “He was an amazing, dedicated man who will be greatly missed by our active union members and those in the retirement club.”


“My dad didn’t know a stranger,” his daughter, Claudia Cates, said. “He loved his time being in charge. He enjoyed planning the meetings, cooking the meals, planning the picnics and the golf tournaments. He had a fulfilling life, and he loved his union. He barbecued the best pork steaks you have ever eaten. He loved to dance, and could even sing a little.”

Barnes was among the founding members of Lodge 837. His first 10 years with the IAMAW pre-dated the founding of District 837-C, formed in 1967.

Barnes is survived by his wife, Mary M. Barnes; children Rick Barnes, Claudia (Rich) Cates, Tina (Late John) Miazza, Jeff (Denise) Barnes and stepdaughter Martha (Mike) Sanders. He was also a loving grandfather of nine, treasured great-grandfather of 13, adored uncle of numerous nieces and nephews, and a precious friend to many.

Memorials may be made in Claude’s name to Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, 371 East Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown, NY 11787.


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