St. Louis – “Our #1 goal in the building trades is jobs, jobs, jobs.”
With that clear-cut statement of purpose and a nod to the leadership of the 20 locals affiliated with the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council for their willingness to look to the future, Executive Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Aboussie summarized the program the council has undertaken to ensure a successful partnership with local business and political communities.
Opening the council’s 35th Annual Man of the Year Awards program Feb. 2, Aboussie minced no words in saying:
• To the business community: “Our new thinking is simple: we try to put ourselves in the boardrooms of our business partners and ask, ‘What makes sense for everyone?’”
• To the political community: “We’ve moved away from the old political adage that Labor only supports Democrats.”
Noting that Labor supported some Republicans in the November elections, Aboussie added: “We will continue to support men and women who are willing to stand for what’s right, not just following a political (party). To those who want to cut out the hearts of labor unions: unions are not the enemy! We are partners in growth.”
Pointing out that organized labor represents only eight percent of the state’s workforce, he stressed: “We are a critical economic engine that’s helping drive our state’s economy…because our members have good wages and 100 percent of our paychecks go back into the economy.
“When construction workers have full employment, the entire community is working” as their spent dollars roll over and over in the community creating other jobs.
The council honored:
• Greg Booth Labor Man of the Year: retiring Missouri Senator Tim Green, a 30-year veteran of IBEW Local 1 (See separate story at bottom of this post).
• Management Man of the Year: Mike Fogarty, Sr., chairman, Briner Electric Co.
• Construction Consumer Award: General Motors accepted by Wentzville Assembly Plant Manager Nancy Laubenthal.
VALUE EVERY DAY
Pointing out the new direction for the St. Louis trades, Aboussie noted that the national building trades slogan, “Value on display every day” directly relates to what the trades in this region provide every day:
• “Value in terms of our investment of our pension funds back into the community to stimulate growth.
• “Value in terms of a skilled workforce. Our unions put $40 million a year of their own money into training… for apprentices … and journeymen so they are able to work efficiently with new technologies, products and processes.
• “Value in terms of putting a highly trained workforce into the field that is drug free and ready to give a full day’s work for a reasonable day’s pay – and do it safely.
• “Value in terms of bringing jobs in on time and within, or under, budget. The most recent example: the $524 million rebuilding of Highway 40, a complex, two-year project that was finished a month early and $11 million under budget.”
Aboussie complimented the leadership of the council’s affiliated locals who work to “ensure that we do indeed put our value on display every day. Each and everyone of them are to be congratulated for their foresight, for their willingness to work as partners within our ‘new’ building trades vision in St. Louis.”
Wentzville Plant Manager Nancy Laubenthal praised the labor community: “Yours is a longstanding tradition of dedication to positive labor-management relations… the working men and women in this community have a lot to be proud of.”
She accepted the award “On behalf of our partners at United Auto Workers Local 2250 and the staff at the GM-Wentzville Assembly and Stamping Center.
“We share that commitment to positive labor partnerships at our GM Wentzville operations, as well at our other 167 manufacturing plants in the U.S. and around the world.
“It’s because of those strong relationships that we are looking forward to a continued strong future as a member of the St. Louis area business community.”
GM, celebrating its 30th year in Wentzville, currently builds the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full size vans and after completing the current $380 million expansion, will build an all-new Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickup, “creating or retaining about 1,260 jobs hourly and salaried jobs.
“We are building a strong future for the Wentzville operations and the region as a whole.”
BRINER LOOKING TO FUTURE
In accepting the Management Man of the Year Award, Briner Electric’s Mike Fogarty took a wistful look at the past with a strong focus on the future.
“…turning back the clock to yesteryear…is not going to happen. We all need to work together, change and meet the challenge in front of us for the benefit of ALL of us,” Fogarty stressed.
Noting that globalization and de-regulating industries, the electrical industry included, Briner said that while many of the Fortune 500 companies have “faired extremely well” because of the opportunity to open new markets and cut costs (with overseas operations), I suspect some of them will eventually fall to foreign competition they helped to create.”
This trend, he warned, effects local construction because “our clients have become extremely cost conscious and have started finding alternatives to union construction.”
Looking back, Briner thanked his family and especially his Briner family, the men and women who have made the company successful. He gave special praise to the Electrical Workers Union, IBEW Local 1, their talented members and leaders, past and present.
To a round of applause and laughter, Briner said that former Local 1 business managers Don Gralike and Don Bresnan taught him an important lesson about negotiations, “none of this was personal.”
“I know Local 1 is in good hands with Frank Jacobs…he is a man of principle and fairness.”
TRIBUTE TO GREEN
Briner paid special tribute to fellow honoree, Senator Tim Green. “He has done so much for the industry without ever asking for anything in return.”
Noting that Green’s legislative efforts helped save contractors money which in turn “helped even up the costs with the non-union segment of the industry.
“There is no better example of someone who has worked tirelessly for the benefit of the industry – both labor and management,” Briner stressed.
Special guests included St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and County Executive Charlie Dooley who presented proclamations to all honorees and both thanked the building trades for their concern for, and helping their respective communities.
The invocation was provided by Msgr. Sal Polizzi, St. Roch’s Catholic Church; the Benediction by the Rev. Vincent Bommarito, St. Ambrose Catholic Church.
Tim Green: Greatest reward. . . . . “Giving a voice to those who can’t speak for themselves.”
St. Louis—Former State Sen. Tim Green, who was awarded the Greg Booth Labor Man of the Year Award by the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council, used the occasion to recount some of the highlights of his 22-year career in the Missouri House of Representatives and State Senate and to share his appreciation for his life as a union electrician.
He was introduced by Mike Mahler, president of the trades council, as a legislative leader “who could explain labor issues to Democrats and Republicans in a way that they could understand their importance to working families.”
Green was instrumental in stopping phony “right-to-work” (for less) laws, and non-union contractors from repealing the state’s prevailing wage law and the state law authorizing project labor agreements, the labor-management contracts in the construction field that promote stability and union work by forbidding strikes and requiring that jurisdictional and other disputes be resolved without work stoppages .
Green, a 24-year member of IBEW Local 1, said the award had a special meeting for him this year because it was given in the name of the late Greg Booth, a former Business Manager of Local 1 and President of the Tri-County Labor Club.
“Greg was a man with a strong belief in his local union and the labor movement,” he said.
In his brief remarks, Green expressed appreciation to his father, a retired union electrician for insisting that Green pursue a college education, and to his late mother who inspired him to enter politics at the tender age of 23 by running for state representative and managing a successful campaign.
He praised his employer, Briner Electric Company, and its Chairman, Mike Fogarty, who was this year’s recipient of the council’s Management of the Year Award.
Fogarty insisted that employees were treated fairly and knew that they were important to Briner’s success, he said.
“The Fogarty’s were at my wedding, my mother’s funeral, always sent gifts when a child was born, always gave their employees retirement dinners and continued to include retirees in company functions.”
Green said his greatest reward during his years of public service was, “to help the mentally retarded and developmentally disabled; to help those who can’t help themselves, to give a voice to those who can’t speak for themselves.”
Images of the awards dinner