Chicago – Laborers International Union of North American (LIUNA) Vice President John Penn has been inducted into the Illinois Labor History Society’s Union Hall of Honor. Penn, of Bloomington, Ill., also serves as LIUNA’s Midwest regional manager.
Penn joined Bloomington Laborer’s Local 362 in 1965. He served in the U.S. Air Force and was elected the local union’s secretary-treasurer. He became the Local’s business manager in 1976. In 1994, he was elected Great Plains Laborers District Council business manager and assumed his national position in 2008. He was re-elected to that position in 2011, 2016 and 2021.
Penn has also served on several community boards, including United Way of McLean County, Children’s Christmas Party for Unemployed Families, Illinois Special Olympics state board, McLean County Promise Council, Bloomington-Normal Advancement, Economic Development Council, Labor Day Parade co-chair, and he was the local Democratic chair for 38 years.
This year’s theme for the Union Hall of Honor is Labor Education. Penn currently serves on LIUNA’s National Education and Training Fund, the Laborers Health and Safety Fund, the Illinois Laborers and Contractors Joint Apprenticeship and Training Program, the Midwest Region LIUNA Health and Safety Fund and the Railroad Training and Education Fund.
Others being inducted include retired University of Illinois Labor Education Program director Ronald Peters, the late Dr. William Pelz, who taught history at Elgin Community College and served on the ILHS board, and the late Karen Lewis, former Chicago Teachers’ Union president.
The Illinois Labor History Society is the nation’s oldest popular labor history organization that was founded in 1970, and is the organization’s premier annual event. The organization sponsors publications, workshops, tours and labor history special events. There are currently 109 honorees in the Union Hall of Honor, which started in 1981.