New officers are sworn in; Oller to lead Council
By CARL GREEN
Collinsville, IL – Totsie Bailey, the legendary Southwestern Illinois Labor leader, ended his four-year run of leading the Metro-East building trades council last week with an admiring send-off full of laughter, plaudits and a few stern messages.
Eric Oller, the newly elected executive secretary-treasurer of the Southwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council, and state Rep. Jay Hoffman led the plaudits as Bailey conducted his final meeting and looked forward to retirement.
Hoffman recalled his first run for the legislature, a losing effort in 1988 against an entrenched incumbent. Hoffman was 26 at the time, and Bailey was there to help every day. Three years later, Hoffman was finally elected and began his long career of service and leadership.
“I can’t believe, Totsie, that you’re retiring,” he said. “It’s time, I guess, but I can’t believe you’re doing it, because you’re the best Labor leader that I’ve ever worked with.
“No one has cared with his heart and soul about working men and women more than Totsie Bailey. I love you, man. You’re a great friend, you’re a great Labor leader, and no one is ever going to replace you.”
Oller, the man who is replacing Bailey, offered a nice send-off as well.
“This is Totsie’s official last meeting here, and we do want to recognize the accomplishments he’s made in this office throughout the term he had, and as the Labor leader that he is and always will be, as far as being a guy for advice and a friend for everyone in this room,” he said.
THE NEW SLATE
Oller and the two other officers were elected last month in a rare contested election for the Council. They are Chad Goldschmidt as president, the number two position that Oller has held for the past four years, and Charlie Bailey, Totsie’s son, as vice president. Goldschmidt has been serving as vice president.
Totsie Bailey was the longtime business manager of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 439 in Caseyville and had served four years as president of the Trades Council while its longtime leader, Dale Stewart, was executive secretary-treasurer.
Oller is business manager of Laborers Local 459 in Belleville. Goldschmidt is president and a business rep for Operating Engineers Local 520 in Caseyville. Charlie Bailey is a business representative for Steamfitters Local 439.
TOTSIE’S PARTING WORDS OF WISDOM
Totsie Bailey’s final advice to the council members was to keep the council’s traditional political support among legislators and local officials strong, and that means getting local members to support Labor-backed, Democratic candidates.
“That’s so important – that’s how we’ve stayed strong in this area,” he said. “It’s been the biggest tool in our tool bucket over the years, and we need to get our members to either vote the right way or don’t vote at all. If they vote wrong, that’s two votes against us. It’s destroying us, and I don’t know how we got that way.
“The Republicans are totally against Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) and if it weren’t for the Democratic Party, we wouldn’t have a PLA in the state of Illinois,” he added.
Bailey had another important point to make, outside of the political realm.
“Don’t bring up jurisdictional disputes in front of our contractors, and especially in front of owners,” he said. “It’s your job in this room to decide on jurisdiction, not leaving it to the contractor and not the owner. We don’t want them to start doing that, and I’ve seen that happening a little bit, you know, with a big argument right in front of the contractor. If they can divide us, they’ll do it.”
Hoffman read a proclamation signed by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker lauding Bailey for his support of working people and his “unbounded integrity and dedication to the state of Illinois.”
Bailey congratulated Oller and said the new officers would do a fine job. They will be working to attract construction projects to the region and see that they are staffed with trained union members.
Oller replied, “I appreciate all the support, obviously. The term that has been handed to us was exceptional. We just hope we can fulfill what we’ve got going on here, and make you guys as proud as we were of the past administration.”