By CARL GREEN
Granite City, IL – One of the leading Democrats and worker champions in Washington D.C., U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, attended the United Steelworkers’ rally for Congressional candidate Brendan Kelly on March 3 at the venerable Labor Temple here.
Durbin’s duty was simple – to introduce the main speaker, USW District 7 Director Mike Millsap.
But he used the occasion to give a humorous and sometimes touching reflection on growing up as a Metro-East union guy, saying:
“Let me tell you about this town and this place. This place ought to be a museum, in one respect, because it reflects a history of Organized Labor that goes back for generations.
“Take a look at what’s on the wall around here and you’ll realize that this has been the meeting hall for men and women to come up and gather who have had the good fortune to be part of Organized Labor throughout the history of this area.
“They made this town, they made this county, they made this state and they made this nation. And they were lucky enough to be part of labor unions. I know this because I grew up right next door in East St. Louis, where my mom, my dad, my two brothers and I all were members of unions.”
“I thought everybody was a member of a labor union. It turned out they all weren’t that lucky. Some of them weren’t, and they didn’t have the benefit of collective bargaining and they didn’t have the benefit of somebody fighting for them so they had a safe place to work.
“They didn’t have the benefit of somebody fighting to make sure they had a pension when the time came to retire and health insurance while they were still working. All of these things were guaranteed to people who were in Organized Labor but not so much if you weren’t, and that’s been the difference over the years.
“I used to come here as a kid from East St. Louis to try and get a job at Granite City Steel. I never could get a job here. I tried every summer. It paid so darn good and it was great work once you got on there, but I never had the connections.
“So I ended up working at the slaughterhouse not too far away, called Hunter Packing Company, which wasn’t too bad either. It was a union job that got me through college and law school.”
United Steelworkers District 7 Director Mike Millsap returned some of the good feeling in his speech.
“Senator Durbin’s always been a friend of ours,” he said. “I depend on my legislative guide from Illinois, and he does most of that work. The Senator has supported us every time we’ve asked him to. He’s a stand-up guy, and we’re so proud that he’s here today to help us give our support for Brendan Kelly.”