Union and family go hand-in-hand as Iron Workers Local 392 celebrates 100th Anniversary

Illinois Correspondent

“IT TAKES A SPECIAL KIND OF PERSON TO DO THIS WORK,” said Deb Tracy, celebrating with multiple generations of her family who have worked as members of Ironworkers Local 392. Attending Local 392’s 100th Anniversary Gala were (from left) Travis Tracy, Lindsay Tracy, Misty Cumberland, William “Ox” Cumberland III, William Cumberland Jr., Barry Tracy and Deb Tracy. – Labor Tribune photo

O’Fallon, IL – For the Cumberland-Tracy family, ironworking is a family affair – and so is their union.

Three generations of Cumberlands joined to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Ironworkers Local 392 April 6 at the Regency O’Fallon. William Cumberland Sr. was an ironworker since 1946, and his son and grandson became ironworkers, as well as son-in-laws and others.

“It takes a special kind of person to do this work,” said Deb Tracy as the family gathered in a ballroom surrounded by their union family. “You can earn a decent wage, you get health benefits, you get a pension, you can actually send your kids to college. They’re tough people, they really are. (But) it’s difficult physical labor.”

IRONWORKERS LOCAL 392 President John Herrington speaks at the 100th anniversary celebration. – Labor Tribune photo

Ironworkers Local 392 is part of the family, taking care of their own. And the union celebrated a century dedicated to advocacy and support that night, with a party with all the trimmings – from ice sculptures to free cigars, the party reflected the achievement of staying on all these years.

President John Herrington said the oldest member they could find on the books transferred in when another local’s charter was revoked as book No. 491 for a total of $25 dues. The newest member joined a few weeks ago, and was book No. 1,666,375.

“In honor of the past, we will meet our challenges of the day, as we look back and look forward, to continue our apprenticeship and journeyman programs,” he said.

STATE REP. JAY HOFFMAN (D-Ill.), speaking at the 100th anniversary celebration, sponsored a congratulatory resolution honoring the local on its anniversary. – Labor Tribune photo

Among the attendees was state Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Ill.), who said he is an honorary member of the Ironworkers. “Please keep getting me elected because you don’t want me out working next to you,” he said.

Hoffman sponsored a congratulatory resolution that honors the local for its anniversary. “What the members of this local have done is help build the Midwest, and not only the Midwest, but America,” he said.

Other congratulations printed in the history book passed out at the event came from Herrington, Business Manager John Schmitt, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.

The history of Local 392 began with a report filed in 1924 from General President Patrick J. Morrin, referring to the new Ironworkers Local 392 formed by consolidating an older local from St. Louis into East St. Louis. The international Ironworkers Union had been formed in 1896 as the use of steel in erecting buildings and other structures became more prevalent, but it was only a few decades old when Local 392 was formed. Twelve men formed the local, all from the dissolved Local 18 and earning $1.50 an hour and paid $3 a month in dues after the $25 initiation fee.

VETERAN MEMBERS of Ironworkers 392 hold the colors at the beginning of the 100th anniversary gala. – Labor Tribune photo

Some members worked at the U.S. Steel Granite City Works, Cahokia power plant, and built the St. Louis Municipal Bridge which would be renamed the MacArthur Bridge in 1942. Other major projects would involve local members in the following decades, including New Deal-Civilian Conservation Corps projects, the Monsanto chemical plant in Sauget, the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company and Union Electric power plant, Chain of Rocks and Melvin Price Lock and Dam, St. Clair County Jail, Belleville Memorial Hospital, Jefferson Barracks Memorial Arch Bridge, Clark Bridge, and more schools than could possibly be listed. In more recent years, its members built the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge and currently are reconstructing the Merchants Bridge and expansions at Scott Air Force Base. Long-time partnerships include Belleville Fence, Federal Steel and Erection Co., Independence Steel, PJR & Associates and others.

Training has been part of the local’s history and mission since the beginning, meeting everywhere from a closed tavern next to the union hall to a former oil refinery donated in 1968. By 1965 the wage scale was $4.95 an hour, and three decades later rose to $19.80.

Today journeyman wage scale begins at $40.40 per hour, with additional payments into the pension and welfare funds bringing their total earnings package to $70.58 an hour.

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