St. Louis - The need for America to provide training to unemployed, under employed and young people coming up for the jobs of tomorrow, coupled with a first-hand look at how unions are able to train the highest quality workers in America, was the focus of a visit last week by U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.
The Labor Secretary was in St. Louis to announce a $15 million training grant from the Obama Administration to the St. Louis Community College. As part of her focus on quality training, Congressman Lacy Clay invited her to tour the new Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 training center and meet with Local 36 retirees.
Local 36 President David Zimmermann proudly toured the Labor Secretary Solis and Congressman Clay through the training facilities where third-year apprentices were hard at work.
“We’re proud to be able to train the most productive, best qualified sheet metal workers in America,” Zimmermann told Sec. Solis.
Prior to the hour-long tour, Solis and Congressman Clay spoke to some 100 Local 36 retirees at the hall for their regular retirees meeting along with the leaders of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council and several other building trades unions, notably Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, Painters District Council 2 and representatives of the Plumbers and Pipefitters International Union.
‘AMERICA’S RESOURCE…ITS PEOPLE’
America’s great resource is its people, the Labor Secretary said to retirees, “ and you showed us that hard work is about dignity and respect.
“This president (Obama) cares deeply about what’s happening in the U.S. to America’s workers” and that’s why the Administration has placed so much emphasis on training so that “everyone has a fighting chance” at a bright future, she said.
She praised the labor movement for creating a middle class that has been the driving force behind the nation’s prosperity. “Today, however, the middle class is being attacked, especially union families.”
And this marvelous facility, the training you provide to our future generations is proof positive that organized labor must be a key player in that future, she said complimenting Local 36 on what they have created here.
WORKING HARD FOR WORKERS
“The Labor Department has put tools in the field so that people don’t get ripped off,” she said with passion. “We’ve implemented rules to protect Davis-Bacon (prevailing wage laws on federal construction), pensions, safety, health care, apprenticeship training and more by putting over 700 new inspectors into the field to protect workers.”
The Obama Administration has done more in the past four years “than I’ve seen done for American workers in the past two decades,” adding that “we need to put ‘Made in America’ on more products and we need to close the tax loopholes that let American companies ship our jobs overseas.”
“We can do it, but we need your help,” she pleaded.
‘DAUGHTER OF THE LABOR MOVEMENT’
In welcoming the Secretary to St. Louis, Congressman Clay pointed out that her father was a Teamster shop steward and her mother a Steelworker, Clay said with pride that “she’s a proud daughter of the labor movement.”
“This is a remarkable place, a remarkable union,” Clay added, complementing Local 36 and its president, David Zimmermann, as “great champions for working people.” Turning to the retirees, he said, “You have helped build St. Louis for over a century and we are proud of you.”
After the tour was complete, as the Labor Secretary was leaving, Zimmermann presented her with one of the all-metal toolboxes crafted by the union retirees for distribution at the annual Labor Day parade.
“A souvenir of the skills of St. Louis workers,” he said with pride. The Labor Secretary was extremely pleased. “My husband will put this to good use.”