Steamfitters Local 439 celebrates 100 years of serving members, community

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[frame src="https://labortribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Photo02.jpeg" width="250" height="200" align="left" style="2" linkstyle="none" title="INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION of Steamfitters 439’s 100th Anniversary by the United Association of Plumbers & Pipefitters came in a congratulatory letter from General President William Hite and a commemorative plaque presented by UA International Representative Curt Cade (right) to Local 439 Business Manager Totsie Bailey. – Labor Tribune photo"]Fairview Heights – With a look back to the members who 100 years ago fought deprivation, low wages and anti-union employers, and to the future with a group of young apprentices learning new high-tech skills, Steamfitters Local 439 Business Manager Totsie Bailey asked the more than 500 guests to raise their glasses in a toast to the local’s 100th anniversary. The local was chartered August 12, 1911.

In a gala celebration Nov. 26 in the union-built Sheraton Four Seasons here attended by union leadership from throughout Southern Illinois and St. Louis, Bailey recalled that the union’s founders and all those coming before tonight were men who were “proud of their Union, proud of their country, proud of their family, men who took great pride in their work and their union. And our responsibility is to now teach that to the young men and women coming into our union of the future.”

12th District retiring Congressman Jerry Costello complimented the union and the leadership of Bailey for not only providing quality workmanship on many of the major projects built in the area, but also for their thousands of hours of volunteer work for charitable causes, citing as only one example the union’s efforts at raising more than $250,000 for the State Firefighters Burn Camp.

Proudly stating that his father, a member of Local 439, “is looking down on this celebration,” Costello said that a person could count his true friends on one hand. “I, and others, count Totsie Bailey as one of those true friends; he’s a man of his word and delivers when asked to help.” He announced that the union’s landmark was recorded in the U.S. Congressional Record.

Costello introduced, and urged everyone to support, former St. Clair County Regional Superintendent of Schools Brad Harriman who is seeking Costello’s office and has Costello’s support. Costello told the crowd he was not retiring, “I’m just not running for re-election!”

 NATIONAL RECOGNITION

United Association of Journeymen Plumbers and Pipefitters General President William Hite picked up on the local’s community commitment in a special letter to the union’s leaders and members, read at the dinner by International Representative Curt Cade: “Your longevity is not only being celebrated by your fellow brothers and sisters in the UA, but also by your community who has greatly benefited from all that you do. Whether it is on the job or volunteering for a worthy cause, you have served as highly-respected Ambassadors for the UA, and indeed, the entire labor movement.”

Hite added: “You have set an example for others to follow and secured your place in the history of the United Association.”

‘ALWAYS THERE’

St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic complimented Local 439 “for always being there when called on. Labor turns out for important community issues, and no union does it better than Local 439. Totsie, you and your members are always there for the community when there is a need. We are all glad that you are an important part of our community. Thanks to all your members and officers for all they have done for so many.”

Making the point of Local 439’s support, and positive treatment, of its members and travellers from other locals, retired Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 551 Business Manager Tom Caliper noted that when work was slow in his jurisdiction and he was looking to place members elsewhere, “The first thing the guys ask me is ‘Doesn’t 439 need any help?’”

LOOKING BACK, FORWARD

In reminiscing about the local’s 100 years, Bailey noted, “Our members from the beginning cared about people. They had hard times, they saw bad times, but they kept going. That’s something we are working hard to instill in our young members and apprentices.”

Responding to the personal praise he was receiving, Bailey said quietly, “This honor tonight is not for me, it’s for our guys, those who came before us and made our local what it is today, for the guys here now who keep up the tradition, for our apprentices of whom we are really proud who will keep up that tradition in the future.”

As a mark of the quality instilled in Local 439’s apprentices, Bailey said proudly that of only 20 aluminum welders in the 340,000 member international union, five of them were in Local 439.

“We as individuals and as a local have a lot to be proud of,” Bailey added.

MARK OF HONOR

As strong testimony to the respect felt in the bi-state area for Local 439’s officers and members, among the many guests besides Congressman Costello attending were 29 business managers (active and retired) from other UA locals in the bi-state area, three representatives from the international union, 15 elected county officials including Fairview Heights Mayor Gail Mitchell, seven judges including two chief judges, State Senator Bill Haine, former State Representative Jay Hoffman, St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly and Democratic candidate for Appellate Judge, Judy Cates.

Also attending were a large contingent from the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council, among them Executive Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Aboussie, President Mike Mahler (Sprinklers Fitters 268 business manager), former council executive officers Dick Mantia and Jerry Feldhaus, and a host of staff from Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 lead by Business Manager Pat Kellett and Assistant Business Manager John O’Mara and representatives of the Laborers, Teamsters, Insulators International Representative Mark Selby and St. Louis County Councilmen Pat Dolan (Sprinkler Fitters 268 president) and Mike O’Mara (Plumbers & Pipefitters 562 and UA International Rep.)

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