By CARL GREEN
Sauget, IL – It’s been a tough and unusual year for area Labor and building trades councils, with social distancing requirements prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic forcing meetings to be canceled or moved online.
The Southwestern Illinois Building Trades Council found another alternative on July 9, when about 30 business managers from member unions met in person – not in the usual smaller confines of IBEW Local 309’s union hall, but under the spacious picnic pavilion at Gateway Grizzlies Stadium.
The meeting was originally scheduled to be held in an indoor meeting room at the stadium, but Executive Secretary-Treasurer Totsie Bailey asked the stadium staff to shift it outdoors after determining the indoor room might be too close for comfort. Delegates were able to spread out under the pavilion, keeping a safe distance from each other while conducting the Council’s business.
WORK CONTINUING, BUT…
Building trades work has been continuing at decent levels during the pandemic, Bailey said, but jobsite health restrictions are making it difficult to keep up with members.
“Work’s been decent for us, which is surprising to me. I thought it would really shut us down,” Bailey said. “But we can’t go out on job sites and see anybody. You can’t go to the trailers. Hopefully, our guys are all safe.
“It’s not going to end soon,” he added. “They say this could go on until next year.”
A POSITIVE NOTE
On a positive note, Bailey lauded St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern for taking the lead on the long-sought Metro East extension of MetroLink light rail service to the area of Scott Air Force Base and Mid-America Airport.
“Kern is going out of his way,” Bailey said. “Kern is taking the financial responsibility of maintaining the job throughout the county. That takes Bi-State Development (MetroLink’s parent agency) out of it. If Bi-State was involved in it, there’s a 50-50 chance – or 60-40 – that we would not get a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on it.”
With Missouri Governor Mike Parson, a “right-to-work” Republican, choosing the Missouri representatives on the project’s board, it would be hard to muster a majority favoring a PLA which encourages Labor participation and a skilled union workforce.
“If you see Kern, tell him ‘Thank you,’” Bailey said. “He’s going to bring it to the board, get a resolution and get a PLA for us.”
With the November general election fast approaching, Bailey injected a level of urgency into Labor’s efforts to elect worker-friendly candidates and turn out Republican politicians who remain beholden to President Trump, even in the midst of the administration’s botched pandemic response.
“Whatever Trump says, they go along with. He’s killing Americans every day and still won’t admit there is a pandemic going on in our country,” Bailey said.
Under Trump’s lax leadership, the death total in the United States has already exceeded 135,000, Bailey said, adding that Trump’s disastrous response is causing some fractures in the GOP.
“You’re seeing Republicans who have some kind of common sense and know this guy is a despicable human being turning on him now,” Bailey said. “There are some Republicans standing up and saying ‘This stuff’s got to stop, this guy’s killing us.’”
Bailey was clear, however, on where Illinois Labor stands on otherwise anti-worker Republicans.
“We’ve got to make sure our people vote,” he said. “None of the Republicans are good for Organized Labor – none of them.”
Helping worker-friendly candidates during the pandemic is proving difficult. Not least of which due to cancelation of the Trades’ traditional PAC golf tournament.
“We’re going to do our best to help, but without having our PAC tournament, it puts a stranglehold on our finances,” Bailey said.
Tim Evans, business manager of IBEW Local 309, said his union’s Sept. 18 golf tournament remains on schedule, but added he’s still trying to figure out how to do it safely.