Stating that if it’s “old-fashioned” to support working families, then he’ll “stay old-fashioned,” Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster sent a charge through those attending the 34th anniversary dinner-dance of the Greater St. Louis Area and Vicinity Port Council on April 26.
Koster was one of three honorees at the event. He received the Able Helmsman Award. Joining him on the dais were Jeffrey P. Aboussie, Labor Man of the Year, and Col. Ronald A. Battelle, Management Man of the Year.
MTD President Michael Sacco pumped the crowd up prior to Koster’s address. He noted that the St. Louis native had a section of his professional website devoted workers’ rights, declaring Koster “is our type of guy.” Sacco added that the attorney general consistently has fought for prevailing wage and against worker misclassification. “He is dedicated to the same principles that are the very foundation of the labor movement.”
Koster told the hundreds of local union leaders and rank-and-filers with their families, as well as the political, business and civic representatives in the room that right-to-work laws and paycheck protection are designed to “chip away at collective bargaining.” He added he relies on the men and women within the room who have learned a trade, who receive a pension and who fight for better health care for all.
Before Koster accepted his award, he drew praise from Brother Aboussie: “A public figure you can trust and believe in, Chris is that guy. He is a friend of working men and women in Missouri.”
Aboussie, who is the executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades, said he received the Labor Man of the Year Award “for all the men and women who provide leadership of our affiliate unions.”
A 32-year trade unionist, he took over the reins of the building trades in 2010. “This is not your father’s building trades. I say this with pride. We believe less in confrontation and more in collaboration. I am a vendor/supplier and I have a product to sell: a skilled workforce that will beat anybody and make you a profit.”
PMC Vice President Jack Martorelli introduced his fellow Operating Engineer Local 513 member, pointing out the honoree grew up in a construction family with a full understanding of both the business and union sides.
Presenting Col. Battelle to the body was PMC Secretary-Treasurer Becky Sleeper. She praised his 40-year career as a law enforcement officer, noting he was the first to climb through the ranks of the St. Louis County Police Department to become chief.
Battelle thanked the numerous locals who have donated and helped his cause since retirement — The Backstoppers Inc., which raises funds to take care of police, fire fighters and EMS personnel injured or lost in the line of duty. As executive director, Battelle oversees an organization that started in 1959 serving parts of Missouri and Illinois.
He said he was “feeling honored, appreciated and humbled” that he and Backstoppers were being recognized.