By CARL GREEN
Fairview Heights – The good work of union members can sometimes go unrecognized, but labor’s contribution was honored along with three major energy projects at the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois’s annual Salute to Southwestern Illinois Awards Dinner.
A large labor contingent joined business leaders and public officials at the Four Points at Sheraton hotel in Fairview Heights on April 4 for the annual event.
Dale Stewart, executive secretary/treasurer of the Southwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council, accepted the labor award in recognition of labor’s partnership in delivering on three major energy projects in Southwestern Illinois.
In his remarks, Stewart asked union members to stand up for recognition, and more than 50 people did so as the audience applauded. Said Stewart: “These are the guys who did the really hard work. The safety record was just unbelievable. We had no fatalities on any of the projects.”
The three energy companies honored at the event included:
• Prairie State Generating Company, which invested $4 billion in the Prairie State Energy Campus, at Marissa, one of the largest capital projects in Illinois in recent years. Michael Rother, director of industrial relations said the coal-burning plant is 95 percent owned by municipalities and co-ops that use the electricity it generates, and 5 percent by Peabody. More than 4,000 union workers helped build the plant, which has more than 500 full-time employees. He said using union workers helped keep costs down.
“We needed some certainty of the outcome, and that drew us to the union craftsmen,” Rother said. “It has proven to be, without a doubt, a complete success.”
• Phillips 66, which spent $3.8 billion expanding its coker and refiner in Roxana, creating about 75 new permanent jobs.
Refinery manager Jay Churchill said the construction project averaged about 2,500 workers at time over four years, and he lauded their teamwork and spirit. “It was like a small city, with a strong emphasis on safety,” he said. The work will reduce emissions and secure the parent company, ConocoPhillips, as the nation’s largest refiner.
• Dynegy, which invested $1 billion in four Illinois power plants in recent years, including $668 million in southwestern Illinois, including the Baldwin Energy Complex and the plant at Wood River.
Dynegy Vice President Dan Thompson noted that the company has added five more power plants in Illinois, making it the largest coal-powered energy company in the state.
Several individual unions were noted for the members’ work, including Insulators Local 1, Boilermakers Local 363, Bricklayers Local 8, Carpenters Locals 664 and 662, IBEW Locals 702 and 649, Elevator Constructors Local 3, Iron Workers Local 392, Laborers Locals 459 and 338, Operating Engineers Local 520, Cement Masons Locals 90 and 143, Painters District Council 58, Pipefitters Locals 160, 553 and 101; Roofers Local 2, Sheet Metal Workers Local 268, Sprinkler Fitters Local 268, and Teamsters Locals 50 and 525.
Jim Pennekamp, former head of the Leadership Council and now an economic development official for Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, was the evening’s host. He reported that the three projects accounts for a total of 48.5 million man-hours. “All three were completed on time and on budget,” he said.
The speaker was Ronda Sauget, president of the Leadership Council.
Sauget said the council serves as “one voice” for the regional economy.
“The transformation of southwestern Illinois has been remarkable,” she said, noting the energy projects plus development of SIUE, biking-hiking trails, community colleges and America’s Central Port in Granite City. “It’s not over yet. We will rise to the occasion.”
She added: “Manufacturing is coming back to the United States, and we want those jobs to come right here to southwestern Illinois.”