St. Louis – In its first year recognizing individuals, companies and organizations whose efforts make a positive impact in our community’s construction industry, the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council recently honored Missouri House Minority Leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis), Rep. Anne Zerr (R-St. Charles) and Pinnacle Entertainment at its first Leadership Award Banquet Feb. 1 at the Cedars at St. Raymond’s.
For the past 35 years, the St. Louis Building Trades have sponsored Man of the Year Awards focused exclusively on the St. Louis area construction industry, considered to be the model in America for construction partnerships between labor and management.
This year’s Leadership Awards went beyond that, recognizing the importance of labor, business and government leaders working together to create a thriving and prosperous community.
Some examples of that partnership include:
• The recent bipartisan, labor supported effort to woo Boeing to Missouri.
• The current efforts of a community team to build the 187-acre Central Corridor Cortex research district in the Central West End in collaboration with Washington University, Saint Louis University, BJC Healthcare, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the Missouri Botanical Garden.
• The on-going efforts of our union pension funds to invest billions of dollars into St. Louis construction projects, including the recently announced $37.5 million in the Central West End City Apartments in the DeBalivier Place neighborhood.
RTW THREATENS PARTNERSHIP
There are some elements in Missouri who would like to see these partnerships collapse, said Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary-treasurer of the Building Trades.
“The current effort to pass anti-worker legislation in Missouri is not only harmful to workers throughout Missouri, regardless of whether or not they are union members, its impact, if successful, will devastate our middle class and in turn, our state’s entire economy,” Aboussie said.
“It’s time for certain elements in our state to stop demonizing Organized Labor and recognize us as the full partner we have already shown we are, a partner willing to go the extra mile to make Missouri the best place in America to live and work.”
CONSTRUCTION CONSUMER AWARD
As in the past, this year’s awards included recognition of a major buyer of the construction services that ultimately provide the work for St. Louis area’s skilled tradesmen.
This year’s Construction Consumer Award went to Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc.
In building it’s three St. Louis area casinos – Ameristar St. Charles, Lumiere Place downtown (now owned by another company) and River City Casino and Hotel in Lemay – Pinnacle Entertainment has invested more than $1.1 billion in the St. Louis area community, building with 100 percent union labor.
The three casino projects created millions of hours of work for more than 1,500 union members and, once built, have created thousands of other jobs for staffing and supporting the casinos, not to mention all the goods and services they buy locally.
Pinnacle’s Vice President of Operations Neil Walkoff said: “We want to truly become the best entertainment gaming company in the world. And we do that having great leaders, great relationships, great partnerships and a commitment to the communities in which we operate our businesses. Winning this award really shows us that we’re on the right path.”
LEADERSHIP AWARD: JAKE HUMMEL
House Minority Leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis) a 16-year member of IBEW Local 1, was honored with a Leadership Award for understanding and fighting for the issues that impact working families, and leading the defense against the vicious, mean-spirited attacks against those families in the Missouri Legislature, including right-to-work, paycheck deception and efforts to gut or eliminate prevailing wage protections.
Hummel minced no words in accepting the award.
“Labor finds itself not only at a crossroads but in the crosshairs,” Hummel said. “When workers voices are silenced in right-to-work states, it’s not just union members who pay the price but all workers.”
Hummel noted labor’s support for the Boeing project, the expansion of the Ford assembly plant in Kansas City and the Express Scripts expansion in north St. Louis County and called on those business to now back labor in it’s fight to defeat unfair and unjust anti-worker legislation.
“We are under attack like never before,” Hummel said. “We need you now.”
LEADERSHIP AWARD: ANNE ZERR
Rep. Anne Zerr (R-St. Charles), a former member of Utility Workers Local 110, and chair of the House Economic Development Committee, who championed and successfully guided the recent Boeing incentive bill through the legislature in an effort to bring thousands of new, good paying jobs to Missouri, was also honored with a Leadership Award.
Zerr has been an outspoken opponent of current anti-union, anti-worker right-to-work legislation, deceptively misnamed “freedom to work” in this session.
In accepting the award, Zerr noted how she and her husband had raised three children on two laborers’ salaries and spoke directly to the heart of the labor/management relationship and the importance of partnerships, whether working across the aisle in Jefferson City or negotiating a contact.
“On my side of the aisle, it’s automatically assumed that we’re against labor, and that’s not the case,” Zerr said. “The balance between labor and management is very critical.
“Please take heart, there are many Republicans on my side of the aisle that feel the same way I do,” Zerr said. “You guys coming to us and arming us with the facts, help us defend the working people of our state.”