‘The biggest challenge facing our members and workers… politics.’
Dave Beard, general organizer and president of the Ironworkers District Council of St Louis and Vicinity has been named international vice president of the Ironworkers Union.
Beard, of Waterloo, started his career as an iron worker in 1979, working on a permit out of Local 392 in East St. Louis.
“I applied for the apprenticeship every year. There were 400 applying every year and they only took 10 or 12, but they kept working me and in 1982 I got in the apprenticeship. It’s worked out.“
PATH TO LEADERSHIP
Some are born leaders, the saying goes, others have it thrust upon them.
Beard would place himself in the latter category, despite his ascension through the ranks of the Ironworkers local and international.
“I’ve never pursued office as far as a full-time staff officer,” he said. “I loved working in the field. It was just a passion of mine. I never really worked for money, I worked for passion. I loved it. The rest just kind of happened. It’s worked out well for me.”
Beard served as a trustee on Local 392’s executive board, then recording secretary and vice president before becoming business manager.
“We had a guy retire and he appointed me, and I took it,” Beard said.
That happened in 2003, and Beard held the position until 2013, when he was named president of the Ironworkers District Council of St Louis and Vicinity, which includes eight outside locals and three shop locals representing ironworkers from Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa, Arkansas and Kansas.
As an international vice president, his territory covers all of Colorado Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, part of Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee.
“It’s a big district,” Beard said. “I cover a lot of ground.”
WORK AND POLITICS
With construction on the uptick, it’s a good time to be a union iron worker.
“It’s as good as it’s been since the recession, but it’s still nowhere near where it was in 2008 and 2009,” Beard said. “We’ve got some political headwinds here that just won’t stop.
“I don’t think that our members understand how important politics are. Right now, there’s a lot of members that are all behind Trump, but they have no idea how the federal government is trying to put the squash on us. It’s not so much that they hate the unions it’s just they don’t want anybody having any political power. We’re the only ones that speak for the workers, and they just don’t want anyone to have a voice.
“What’s the biggest challenge facing our members and workers? I’d say it’s politics,” Beard said. “They’re trying to put an end to unions so the workers don’t have a voice.”
President Donald Trump has been at war with Organized Labor since he took office in 2017. Yet even after all of his attacks on Labor, union members still support him.
In addition to Beard’s comments, here are some key issues that should be of real concern for workers:
- Trump appointed union-busting attorney Eugene Scalia as Labor Secretary. In 2017, working people won a rule that ensured retirement investment advice that served their best interest. Scalia, who blocked the rule as a union-busting lawyer, is overseeing its replacement.
- Trump has turned the NLRB into his personal anti-union attack dogs, nominating employer-side lawyers, including a PATCO strikebreaker, to rule on workers’ issue. Some of their decisions have included deciding that McDonald’s is not a joint employer, repealing Obama era union election rules, attempting to make Scabby the Rat illegal and consistently siding with management over the workers.
- Trump has gotten rid of several OSHA safety standards and reduced the number of investigations that OSHA is taking part in. The result has been an increase in workplace deaths.
- Trump’s Twitter tirades with Labor leaders have included attacking a local UAW leader and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka when GM announced closures, and blaming union dues for the closures.
- Trump’s 2017 tax cuts encouraged outsourcing by incentivizing companies to send jobs overseas.
- Trump has announced he will sign a National “Right-to-Work” bill if it reaches his desk.
In Trump’s 2019 budget:
- Trump has proposed massive cuts to federal workers including ending their defined benefits pension plan and freezing wages.
- Trump has used his agencies to attempt to break federal unions, and signed three executive orders that restrict federal unions’ ability to represent their members. Some of the provisions in the orders include reducing union release time and kicking unions out of their offices in government buildings.
- Trump’s two Supreme Court selections, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were the deciding votes in the Janus v AFSCME case that brought “right-to-work” to public employees nationwide, and they will serve as the deciding votes for years to come.