Southwestern Illinois CLC honors Labor leaders at 54th annual Labor Awards dinner


Illinois Correspondent

Several leaders in the Labor movement were honored at the 54th annual Labor Awards dinner Sept. 1, hosted by the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council.

This year’s honorees were:

  • Labor Man of the Year – Terry Knoth, Machinists Lodge 313.
  • Labor Woman of the Year – Candace Stadelman, Service Employees Local 116.
  • Distinguished Service Award – Leo Welsh (deceased), Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 4183.
  • American Income Life Volunteer Award – Richard Orchard, Fire Fighters Local 53.

Orchard reached the rank of Eagle Scout at the age of 13, and has put in thousands of hours volunteering with Boy Scouts of America as Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, the Order of the Arrow and many other activities. In 2019, when the Boy Scouts began offering Scouting to girls, Orchard launched one of the first Scout troops for girls in the region.

“I believe in the program and what we have to offer,” he said. “Teaching these things are starting to become lost… A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. These are the core of what we try to teach youth and we need as much of that as we can today.”

Coworker Amy Plexico accepted Welch’s award on behalf of his family. Welch taught biology at Southwestern Illinois College for at least 50 years and was a long-time union member and president as well as part of the O’Fallon Democrats Club.

Stadelman has been a trustee, recording secretary and volunteer, and has negotiated at least 10 contracts on behalf of her union.

Knoth is currently president of his Lodge and delegate to every convention since 1992.

Knoth said his award was really for “everyone in this room,” because when he needed volunteers or help, he can pick up the phone and get the help he needs.

“This is for you guys and gals, I’m just part of the puzzle that puts it all together,” he said.

Melissa Fanning, director of the Illinois Division of the United Way of Greater St. Louis, accepted the award honoring the United Way as they celebrate their 100th anniversary and the 80th anniversary of their partnership with the AFL-CIO.

In addition to the award honorees, several public officials spoke to the group gathered in Belleville on Sept. 1. Speakers included Appellate Court Judge Judy Cates and Congressional candidate Chip Markel, both of whom are in tight races with Republican opponents.

“It’s Labor that makes all boats rise,” Cates said. “When you ask for fair wages, that impacts everyone around even if they’re not a union member. They don’t realize how hard you work to improve everyone’s lives… I believe very strongly what you already know, that it’s the unions that built America and that’s why we are so great today.”

Scot Luchtefeld, president of the Labor Council, reminded the attendees that Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed more than 800 Project Labor Agreements since taking office – more than any governor in the U.S. “We need to help our friends (in public office), not the people who are against us,” he said.

Tim Drea, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, said that all the races matter this year, as the state’s judges who decided whether state workers would be paid when the previous governor’s stalemate with the legislature shut down all but essential services for two years.

“In 2022, this is not the most important election, this is THE election,” he said. “It’s our time to stand up and say we aren’t going to take it anymore. This election, we are mobilizing working families to vote for themselves.”

Several speakers reminded the attendees of the importance of the Workers’ Rights Amendment, which would make the right for collective bargaining part of the Illinois state constitution. It requires a 60 percent majority to pass.

“This is what we’re fighting for,” Drea said. “They’re going to keep trying to take away our rights.” It’s only the state constitution that protected state workers’ pensions, he said.

“We paid for those rights,” he said. “We paid with our lives, our limbs and our very being. Those rights cannot be diminished.”



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here