By CARL GREEN
East Alton – Storytelling and the importance of unions were the themes last week when the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor held its annual awards banquet March 26 at Julia’s Banquet Center.
Dean Webb, the Federation’s president since 2012, was named Labor of the Leader of the Year for his long service to the Federation and to Machinists Lodge 660.
Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn received the Friend of Labor award.
Another Lodge 660 member, Cliff Ohlson, received the United Way’s Odell Fox Jr. community service award.
The United Way’s Karen Brown Heart of the Community Award was presented to Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR).
OF THE YEAR
Webb was honored by his longtime friend and predecessor as Federation president, Marty St. Peters, who is now Grand Lodge Representative for the Machinists’ Midwest Territory.
“I don’t get home that often anymore,” he said. “My boss tells me my home is in Chicago, but I tell him no, I live in Chicago but my home is in Madison County.”
St. Peters said he and Webb first met when they were five years old and attending the same church. They became close friends years later as members of Lodge 660.
St. Peters said Webb came to define the qualities of leadership, character and ethics.
“Leadership is a gift,” St. Peters said. “It is given by those who follow, and you have to be worthy of it.
“Dean’s sense of personal touch has become a rarity in today’s world. He’s a multi-tasker who takes issues head-on and finds the ability to accomplish the goal that is set.
“His actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more,” St. Peters said. “He leads by example.”
Webb went to work in the Owens-Illinois machine shop in Godfrey and 1981 and joined the union. He later served on the Lodge 660 executive board and in 2003 became the full-time secretary-treasurer. He became a delegate to the Federation and served as its treasurer until March, 2012, when he was elected its president. He is also active with United Way, Madison County Democrats and the Alton VFW. He and his wife, Susan, have two children, Rachel and Brock.
“I am truly blessed to do a job that I truly, truly love, and also blessed to be surrounded by a group of people who are great supporters,” Webb said.
A FATHER’S LESSONS
Webb said his parents were his greatest influences. His father was a longtime Teamsters member.
“Driving a truck as my dad did all those years, he was gone a lot. I can remember when I was in 5th, 6th or 7th grade, and Dad would come home on Friday night after being gone all week. He’d say, ‘Don’t plan nothing this weekend – we’re working on the truck.’
“Now I was just getting introduced to girls, and gee, I wanted to go to the roller rink. But we went out there, and I handed him wrenches, and we aired tires, and we worked on the truck – changed oil, greased it up and worked on the engine, with myself and my brother.
“Those times, I wouldn’t trade for the world. That taught me how to work and how to take care of your family. Thanks, Dad.”
FRIEND OF LABOR
Nonn, the Friend of Labor award recipient, was raised in a working family. His father was a steelworker and his mother a union worker at a school cafeteria.
Over the years, Nonn has been a member of Musicians Local 717 and Operating Engineers Local 520. He worked security at Lambert Airport, served for 26 years as a deputy in the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and has been the Coroner for 15 years. He also has worked with the St. Louis Major Case Squad.
And he has been a stalwart to the Federation, pitching in for whatever is needed and regularly volunteering to go door-to-door at election time to support worker-friendly candidates.
Nonn said the award was the most important one he has ever received.
“This means so much to me,” Nonn said. “I was raised in a union family, and I learned early on about the respect we should show to unions.”
HEART OF THE COMMUNITY
Roz Sherman-Voellinger, United Way’s vice president of Labor Participation, presented the Karen Brown Heart of the Community Award to members of SOAR for their many contributions to the community and unstinting support of unions.
“The local SOAR members are all over; they are seen near and far,” she said. “They traveled to Teutopolis, IL, to take food and donations to the union members who were locked out at Honeywell and walked the picket line for them so the members could attend their Christmas party. They traveled to New Mexico to stand with union brothers and sisters in a memorial service for striking union members who had been killed defending their rights.”
Sherman-Voellinger noted that the group also performs community and charitable work, including providing scholarships and Christmas packages to service members overseas.
“Wherever there is a cause or a union rally, you will find SOAR members up front and leading the charge,” she said.
Dana Stock of United Way presented the Odell Fox Jr. Award for community service to Machinists Lodge 660 and Olin retiree Cliff Ohlson, the United Way Community Service award honoree, is a retired member of Machinists Lodge 660 and has been a United Way volunteer for 40 years, including serving as campaign coordinator at Olin before his 2006 retirement. He was on the United Way Auxiliary Board from 2005 to 2010 and served on other committees as well.
Ohlson thanked the Labor community for its strong support for United Way and said helping people through United Way was the one thing that could bring the company and union together for a common cause.