By MARY ANN HOLLEY
When Tyrone Williams started as an apprentice with Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, he said participation in the Rebuilding Together St. Louis annual repair blitz was mandatory, but after he saw the gratitude on the faces of those he helped that day, he was hooked.
Now, 15 years later, Williams, owner of TJ Plumbing, is a regular. He hasn’t missed a Rebuilding Day in all those years and loves the feeling it gives him to go into the community and help people just trying to get by.
300 UNION VOLUNTEERS PROUD TO GIVE BACK
More than 300 union craftsmen poured into the Local 562 hall at 6 a.m. May 6 for the 22nd Rebuilding Day. The annual one-day blitz sends them out to make repairs of all sorts in the homes of low-income elderly and disabled homeowners in the St. Louis metro area. This year, they helped 25 homeowners referred to them by the United Way.
Local 562 partnered with Glaziers Architectural Metal and Glassworkers Local 513 for their day of work replacing water heaters, toilets, plumbing stacks and windows.
“It’s a neat day for us,” Local 562 Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer John O’Mara said. “We’re proud to have the skills and abilities of our members to give back to the community.”
‘THIS IS WHAT COMMUNITY LOOKS LIKE’ – MAYOR KREWSON
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson addressed the volunteers before they set out for the day, cheering them on in their efforts.
“This makes me proud to be mayor,” Krewson said. “This is what community looks like. This is what good neighbors look like. Let’s capture this spirit and apply it to everything we do.”
Krewson said we often take for granted what homes mean for us, but safety, security and celebrations aren’t always available for those whose life circumstances have left them struggling.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger also addressed the volunteers and said he was proud of the work the union members do on Rebuilding Day.
“It’s great to see the looks on the people’s faces when they get the help they need,” Stenger said. “I am proud of your work in making St. Louis County better.”
‘YOU GET IT DONE’
Mark Morgan, a business representative with Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, organizes the event each year, starting at least six months earlier.
“You guys make it look so easy,” Morgan said. “We take it for granted, but you guys get it done. You meet the homeowner and leave the house better than it was.”
Local 513 member Chad Weber, who organized the Glaziers’ effort, said this was Local 513’s third charity event in a month.
“Rebuilding Together used to be Christmas in April, but changed as the volunteers grew,” Weber said. “We have a lot of horse power behind us. Let’s keep up the good work.”
‘KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK’ AND STOP RTW
Missouri Senator Gina Walsh, a retired member of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 1, applauded the benefits of Rebuilding Together, but also took the opportunity to push for hard work needed to make the ongoing Citizens’ Referendum petition drive to stop so-called “right-to-work” in Missouri and take the issue to a public vote a success.
“Please keep up the good work, and please keep fighting against ‘right-to-work’ in Missouri,” Walsh said.
The Missouri Legislature passed the phony “right-to-work” and Governor Eric Greitens signed it earlier this year. The petition drive, if successful, will forestall implementation of the anti-worker law until a public vote can be held on the issue in 2018.
Walsh urged union members to get as many signatures as possible – more than are needed – to place the measure on the ballot and send a message to the Missouri Legislature.
“Let’s tell them what Missourians want,” Walsh said.