St. Louis Port Council honors Labor leaders, attorney

Managing Editor

THE ST. LOUIS PORT COUNCIL honored Labor and business leaders at its sixth annual golf tournament and awards dinner at the Courses at Forest Park clubhouse Sept. 29. Celebrating their recognition were (from left) Dan Duncan, Maritime Trades Department executive secretary-treasurer, who received the Jack Martorelli Leadership Award; Ed Finkelstein, publisher emeritus of the Labor Tribune, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award; Jerry FitzGerald, managing partner of the O’Brien Law Firm, which specializes in asbestos related injuries, who received the Able Helmsman Award; and John Stiffler, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building Trades Council and president of the Port Council, who received the Dick Mantia Leadership Award. – Labor Tribune photo

St. Louis – The St. Louis Port Council honored three Labor leaders and a respected Labor attorney at its Sixth Annual Golf Outing on Sept. 29 at the Courses at Forest Park.

For those unfamiliar with the Port Council, President John Stiffler offered a brief overview.

“We are affiliated with the AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department, which consists of 21 port and maritime councils, along with 21 international unions representing almost five million workers in the United States and Canada,” Stiffler said.

“We promote and protect workers’ rights. We work to ensure that a rising tide lifts all boats. And we all hold together to keep the American Dream alive, so that working families have an opportunity for a better life,” Stiffler concluded before presenting the first award of the evening, the Able Helmsman Award.

“As always, we’re recognizing individuals who share the same high standards and compassionate ideals of our Port Council,” Stiffler said. “They understand that we’re all in this together, rank and file workers, management and government. We may have our own interests, but in many ways, we’re also partners, and certainly we’re all part of the same community. Our first award this evening is the 2022 Able Helmsmen Award to Jerry Fitzgerald Jr.”

ABLE HELMSMAN AWARD: Jerry FitzGerald, Jr.,
Jerry FitzGerald, managing partner of the O’Brien Law Firm, which specializes in asbestos-related injuries, received the Able Helmsman Award. His father was a member of Insulators Local 1.

“Since joining the O’Brien Law Firm in 2005, Jerry has dedicated his entire legal career to helping men and women and families affected by asbestos exposure,” Stiffler said. “He works closely with local unions and Labor organizations throughout the Midwest, supporting, educating and representing their families, and he takes pride in the relationships he has established in the Labor Movement and has recovered millions of dollars in compensation for his clients,” Stiffler said.

“It’s really on behalf of my law firm O’Brien Law that I accept this,” Fitzgerald said.

“I like to say Labor and lawyers go together, and I think we’ve seen some success from that attitude,” he said. “We unite to confront some of the issues that are in front of us, especially in a very difficult climate. We’ve been there to support Labor issues, and Labor has been there to support our issues. I hope we can continue that tradition, that relationship and continue to build upon that.”

Fitzgerald also thanked his parents.

“My dad, straight out of high school, started working his ass off to make a living for his family and support his family. And he gave me and my siblings an opportunity to succeed ,to get a good education and set us up for success.”

Dan Duncan, Maritime Trades Department executive secretary-treasurer, received the Jack Martorelli Leadership Award.

Brian Powell, secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Port Council presented the award, named after the late Jack Martorelli, former president of the St. Louis Port Council.

“Dan Duncan’s sure, steady handling, coupled with reliable, consistent leadership during his long career in the Labor Movement certainly embodies the best attributes of a Labor leader, a friend and a mentor,” Powell said.

Duncan was gracious in his acceptance.

“I’m much more used to coming to your events and presenting an award than anything. And when they told me about this, it was quite a shock.”

After some appreciative words for the St. Louis Port Council and the greater St. Louis Labor Movement, Duncan and his wife, Karen, presented a $100 check to the St. Louis Labor Council’s “$5 for the Fight Fund” to help union members in times of need.

John Stiffler, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building Trades Council and president of the Port Council, received the Dick Mantia Leadership Award.

Mantia was the former executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council,and co-chairman of PRIDE St. Louis (Productivity and Responsibility Increase Development and Employment), the construction industry labor-management group committed to making St. Louis the best union construction town in America. It was the first group of its kind and continues today as the Saint Louis Construction Cooperative.

In addition to serving as president of the St. Louis Port Council, Stiffler is a member of the St. Louis County Domain Commission, member of the St. Louis Regional Chamber board, member of St. Louis Construction Cooperative, trustee of the St. Louis Labor Council the executive board Missouri AFL-CIO, among numerous other positions.

Stiffler called the award “the honor of a lifetime.”

“Any time you can stand up here and receive an award with Dick Mantia’s name on it, it is truly the honor of a lifetime. Jack and Dick are like the Mount Rushmore of Labor leaders in our town.

“I’m very honored to receive this award in front of my Insulators Local 1 brothers and sisters, and my mentors that are in this room. I would not and could not be here to accept this award without my strong support system.”

Ed Finkelstein, retiring publisher of the St. Louis/Southern Illinois Labor Tribune, an 86-year-old publication delivered weekly into the homes of 50,000 union members and their families, received the Port Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Ed began his writing career at the paper at the age of 14 during summer breaks as a gopher, as in, ‘Hey kid, go-fer some coffee,’” Stiffler said.

“With the exception of a two-year detour as the PR director and Labor liaison for the Regional Industrial Development Corporation, now the Regional Chamber, Ed’s entire career has been with the Labor Tribune,” Stiffler said. “Following his return from the Air Force in 1966 he began as the assistant to the publisher until 1968. In 1970, he formed UNICOM-ARC, the first union public relations and consulting firm in the United States, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, having won over 80 percent of more than 500 campaigns and returned to the Labor Tribune as its owner/publisher in the early 1970s.

“From his first days as publisher, Ed sought to professionalize and constantly improve the paper,” Stiffler said. “He hired experienced journalists and advertising representatives, increased its circulation, expanded the paper’s coverage, to emphasize local Labor news, and then expanded coverage to regional and national news with an emphasis on how issues, and particularly politics, impact our Labor Movement.

“After some 50 years as publisher of the Labor Tribune, and wanting to ensure the paper’s continuing publication, Ed transferred ownership of the paper to the Greater St. Louis and Southern Illinois Labor Movement under the auspices of a new Labor Tribune Governing Board, ensuring this vital voice of our Movement continues to carry the banner of our unions for years to come. On behalf of the Greater St. Louis Port Council, it is my great honor to present as Ed with our special Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Finkelstein replied, “I’m honored to be here tonight. I’m honored to have spent my entire life working with the Labor Movement, for the Labor Movement. I’m honored tonight to be able to join you and can say this has been a lifetime of work that I love. You’ve given me as much as I think I’ve always given back to you, because you’re really blessed if you can do the work that you love to do. And I’ve loved to do this. I’m honored to have served with the men and women in this Labor Movement and honored to work with the best possible staff in the world, who have really made the Labor Tribune what it is.”

Finkelstein also thanked his family for their years of patience and support, even when he couldn’t be there because of the demands of the paper. “Brothers and sisters, it’s an honor to be here tonight. It’s an honor to accept this award. It’s an honor I’ll cherish the rest of my life.”


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