Hanover, MD (PAI) – Jimmy Williams Jr., the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades’ (IUPAT) organizing director and general vice president, has succeeded Kenneth Rigmaiden, who retired as general president on Aug. 31.
The son of former President Jimmy Williams Sr., who served from 2003-2013, Williams Jr., began his union career as a glazier with District Council 21 in Philadelphia.
Accepting the new office, Williams Jr. pledged to continue Rigmaiden’s “legacy of ensuring our union is an organizing, fighting union and more recently has been a leading national figure for federal Labor law reform and uniting the Labor Movement with social movements,” the union said.
GREGG SMITH STEPS UP
General Secretary-Treasurer George Galis also retired. Fourth-generation Painter Gregg Smith, a 29-year member and an officer of Local 32 and District Council 58 in southern Illinois, succeeded him. He became a business agent for District Council 58 in 1997 and has helped to direct several trust funds and Labor-management funds, the union said.
“We are building off the lessons our previous generations pioneered and fought for,” the union said. “Our union is excited and ready to usher in an era of aggressive organizing and political activism, spearheaded by a new team of young, energetic leaders.”
As Painters General President, Williams Jr. will be the youngest building trades union president in the U.S. and the youngest member of both the North America’s Building Unions’ board and the AFL-CIO Executive Council.
GROWING UP UNION
Williams Jr. provided an extensive interview with the website inthesetimes.com. Here are some excerpts.
“It was ingrained in my childhood how important the union movement was to our family,” he said. “Pretty much any time we would have dinner together as a family, we would always thank the union for being able to provide a great standard of living growing up.
“But there were also hard times that we fell on. I remember my father having to go on unemployment often and was always so grateful when he did have a job, because the union provided such a good standard of living for him and for us as children.
“I was probably seven or eight years old the first time I was on a picket line. We always viewed the union as our family to an extent, and just being active and around union activity, you got to see the impact a Labor union could have on everyday, average people who just needed an opportunity and a start. I was shaped pretty early on to see what togetherness and collective action can do for people, when it comes to being able to live comfortably, with health insurance, with knowing that you’d have a secure retirement in the form of pensions, with higher pay.
“My belief system at its core is that the Labor Movement is one of the most forgotten movements in this country, and it’s by design. Part of what we have to do within the IUPAT, and we are strongly taking on this challenge, is that we have to organize our members from within first, so that they realize they’re not just joining a union for the benefits and the pay,” Williams said.