By CARL GREEN
East Alton, IL – One of the region’s most active veteran trade unionists — Totsie Bailey — has been honored by the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor as its “Labor Leader of the Year.”
Bailey, currently the secretary-treasurer of the Southwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council and longtime business manager (now retired) of Steamfitters Local 439, was presented the coveted award at the Federation’s annual awards dinner March 28 by Federation President B. Dean Webb.
Webb noted that Bailey, a third-generation steamfitter, a 41-year member of Steamfitters Local 439, served as the Local’s business manager from 1994 until this year, and is executive secretary-treasurer of the Building & Construction Trades Council, having previously served as vice president and president.
That’s in addition to Bailey’s longstanding support for the Illinois Fire Safety Association’s burn camp for kids and his extensive political activity on behalf of Labor’s friends in government.
“This guy is something else,” Webb said. “You know it when you have candidates for governor, U.S. Senator or congressmen wanting to have a rally in this area. Who do they call? They call this guy with the Steamfitters.
And he puts on some great rallies and fundraisers. “I’m still trying to pick his brain a little on this.”
‘YOU ALL DESERVE THIS AWARD’
Bailey was humble in accepting the award.
“I’m truly honored to get this award, but I don’t feel like I deserve it,” he said. “I don’t do any more than anybody else in this room does. Everybody in this room has worked just as hard, and you all deserve this award.
“I’ve just been lucky. I grew up in a union family. My son is a fourth-generation steamfitter. My uncle was an ironworker in East St. Louis.
“My cousin worked in the steam mill. My wife’s grandfather was an electrician. Her uncle was a Teamster.”
Bailey’s message was that Labor must take charge of its own future in the next round of elections.
“We need to get out and we need to work for 2020,” he said. “We need to get all of our Democratic candidates elected and re-elected. You hear people say there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans. Well, I’m not going to cuss, but there is – there’s a big difference.”
FRIEND OF LABOR: MADISON COUNTY AUDITOR RICK FACCIN
Madison County Auditor Rick Faccin received the Federation’s Friend of Labor Award.
An Alton native, Faccin has been county auditor since 2002. He served on the County Board from 1994 to 2000, has also served as president of the Illinois Association of County Auditors.
In presenting the award, Webb credited Faccin with fighting back against the anti-worker Republican push in county government and noted Faccin’s previous work as director of Catholic Charities.
“His entire professional career has been dedicated to public service,” Webb said.
A familiar face at Federation events and parades, Faccin said Labor’s support has always been vital for him.
“I’m honored and humbled to accept this award – I go back a long way with the people in this room,” he said. “I learned a long time ago that with the private sector and the government sector, you’re only as good as the people around you. Organized Labor has always been with me, and I’m deeply appreciative.”
HEART OF COMMUNITY: PAINTERS LOCAL 471’S KIRK KRABBE
The Karen Brown Heart of the Community Award community service award was presented by United Way Labor Liaison Terry Biggs, who told how Kirk Krabbe, of Alton Painters Local 471, stepped up in a big way to help union steelworkers during the long lay-off at U.S. Steel in Granite City.
“Back in 2017, a lot of my brothers and sisters from USW Local 1899 had been laid off for a year, and there was no end in sight,” Biggs said. “Kirk asked what he could do to help. His idea was a union hockey fund-raiser, and all the proceeds would go to the food pantry we had set up for the laid-off Steelworkers.”
The event turned out to be a huge success, so big in fact that the event has been held two more times, raising a total of $1,350 for various causes. “The shelves of the food pantry were stocked full,” Biggs said.
Krabbe credited the good work of Biggs and fellow Labor Liaison, Nick Dodson for helping to make the annual game a success.
“This is a great honor and I sincerely appreciate it,” he said. “Nick and Terry have been great. Each year we earmark it for something different. This year was the National Alliance for Mental Illness and next year it will be something different.”
The Heart of the Community Award is named for Karen Brown, a longtime United Way representative who died in 2004. “She really made a difference in the community,” Webb said. “She was an outstanding leader. She had strong communications skills and a commitment to help and serve the community and those in need.”
ODELL FOX COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
In a surprise twist, the Madison County Federation itself received the Odell Fox Award for community service, which, like the Karen Brown Award is presented by United Way Labor liaisons.
Dodson and Biggs presented the award to Webb, noting how the Federation and the United Way have a real partnership, working together for community betterment.
“Since I came on board with United Way, every time I have approached this organization for assistance, they have always stepped forward with enthusiasm,” Dodson said. “They have always stepped forward to volunteer.”
Webb said it’s been a two-way relationship.
“As long as I’ve been involved with the Madison County Federation, we’ve always had two Labor liaisons who have been great,” Webb said.
“Our liaisons take care of our Defense Fund (which helps union members in times of need), and the United Way helps our members.
“Thank you so much,” he said. “We’ll hang this up in the hall.”