Historic first Black construction trades business manager in St. Louis area
By SHERI GASSAWAY
In 1978, Ronny Griffin was offered a summer job in construction at Fred Weber as a union laborer with Laborers Local 110. Little did he know then that he would be leading the 3,000-member union 43 years later.
Griffin, who currently serves as president of the union, will take over as business manager on June 30 when Don Willey retires from the position. Griffin has been a business agent for 10 years – a position he turned down three times before agreeing to serve on the business side.
“I enjoyed doing the field work, and at the time, I didn’t realize the upward mobility in the organization that was available to me,” Griffin said. “But it’s not just a job, it’s a career and you can go all the way to business manager, which never in my wildest dreams I thought I’d achieve.”
Willey has been planning to retire the last year and a half. He recommended Griffin take over as his replacement, and the executive board unanimously approved. The promotion makes Griffin the first Black construction trades business manager in the St. Louis area.
“I’m honored to have this position bestowed upon me by the executive board, and I’m sure that my ancestors would be proud as well,” Griffin said. “It will be a lot of pressure, but I have the full support of the executive board, staff and past business managers who are all available to me.”
AN EASY DECISION
Willey, a 38-year member of Local 110, said he is proud of everything the union has accomplished in recent years, including efforts to become a more diverse and inclusive organization. He said retiring and having Griffin take over was an easy decision.
“A union is a living organization, and it’s always changing,” Willey said. “I have all the confidence in the world in the staff I’m leaving behind because they all care about our membership and the union, and I think Ronny will do a great job.”
Griffin, whose father and uncles were all at some point union laborers, thanked Willey for his leadership over the years. Willey said he plans to remain an active member in the union.
“We’ve always been a team, and there’s no one guy that runs everything,” Willey said.
“It’s the teamwork that makes the union successful. I’ve always looked at it as we have 3,000 bosses.”
Griffin said his goal is to maintain what the organization has left him with and improve upon it by working with members, contractors and staff.
“I look forward to serving the membership, and continuing our efforts to be more inclusive of minorities, women and the underserved,” he said.