UFCW 655’s David Cook named Dick Mantia Labor Man of the Year
By TIM ROWDEN
This year’s St. Louis Port Council 35th Anniversary Awards Dinner was dedicated to the memory of the late Dick Mantia, former Port Council president and veteran executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council.
“Dick was one of the great leaders of our labor movement, and one of the strongest members of the Port Council” Port Council President Jack Martorelli said. “His memory serves as a reminder to us that one man can make a difference. It’s an honor to name our Labor Leader of the Year Award the Dick Mantia Labor Man of the Year Award.”
Mantia died last year at the age of 82. His wife, Toni, was a guest of honor at the April 25 awards dinner, and was presented with a bouquet of roses following the announcement of the labor award in his name.
DICK MANTIA LABOR
MAN OF THE YEAR
This year’s labor honoree, the first to receive the Dick Mantia Labor Award, is David Cook, president, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 655, who has instilled union pride in UFCW’s membership and forged the way toward a new cooperative relationship with the region’s union grocery chains – Schnucks, Dierberg’s and Shop ’n Save – in their effort to preserve and grow market share against an increasing number of non-union competitors.
“We’ve come to realize that it’s a partnership,” Cook said. “The enemy is out there – it’s not Schuncks; it’s not the UFCW; it’s the non-union employers.”
Cook pulled no punches in pointing out the enemies of working families.
“We would all be better off if there was no need for labor unions anywhere, because that would mean there was nothing but good employers everywhere,” Cook said. “We all know who the real enemy is, it’s Walmart. They’re the bastards of the world.”
Facing non-union competition and an ongoing effort in the Missouri Legislature to pass right-to-work in Missouri, Cook warned against complacency.
“We have the ultimate fight in front of us,” he said. “If you lay down for one day, you never get that day back.”
MAN OF THE YEAR
Todd Schnuck, chairman and CEO of Schnuck Markets, was recognized as the Management Man of the Year.
Schnucks included in its latest contract a program that allows union volunteers to time on Friday’s and weekends to organize at non-union competitors.
“I’m honored and somewhat embarrassed to receive this award that recognizes you for doing the right thing,” Schnuck said.
“If you want something to work, you have to work at it,” Schnuck said. “We don’t just sit down every three years when our contract comes up.”
Schnucks also recently embarked on a building project in which the company went with the bid of the qualified union contractor, despite that bid being $900,000 more than the nearest non-union competitor, in order to support union wages and benefits and ensure that the job was done right.
Schnuck encouraged union leaders in attendance to urge their members to do the same thing when shopping for groceries.
“We can grow together or we can wither away together,” Schnuck said. “We have the ability to make it happen.”
ABLE HELMSMAN AWARD
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger was this year’s recipient of the Able Helmsman Award. Stenger was elected in November on a strong platform of support for union workers and working families, and with the volunteer support of union members.
“I wouldn’t be standing where I am today with the support of Organized Labor,” said Stenger, the son of a union lineman.
“My support for Organized Labor is and always will be unwavering,” Stenger said. “Organized Labor is under attack on many fronts. We must stand together to make sure our rights to organize and bargain collectively do not fade into history.”