Several hundred union members and their families received an old-fashioned dose of solidarity during the Greater St. Louis Area and Vicinity Port Council’s Annual Dinner-Dance on April 25.
The port council also took time to pay its respect to Richard Mantia, the longtime PMC president who passed away June 4, 2014, by renaming its Labor Man of the Year Award in his memory.
All three of the council’s honorees called for all union members and supporters to stand together to repel right-to-work (for less) legislation that is being debated in the Missouri state house.
The first Dick Mantia Labor Man of the Year awardee, UFCW Local 655 President David Cook, called on the collective body “to pound their fists against non-union employers. The enemy is exploiting workers and Wal-Mart is the enemy!”
Cook stated the workforce needs to be educated: “We have to change and do things differently.”
He thanked the port council for the honor, “but I don’t know if I am deserving. Dick Mantia was a true legend. He saw the future before the future was ahead of him.” He thanked the Mantia family for allowing Dick to devote so much time to help workers.
Introducing Cook was the 2014 Labor Award winner, Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council. He cited the strong bond between UFCW Local 655 and the Building Trades, declaring, “We are joined at the hip.” He saluted Cook’s efforts to turn young union members into “de facto organizers” and his leadership in the fight against right-to-work (for less) measures.
Receiving the Management Man of the Year Award was the chairman and CEO of Schnuck Markets – the largest employer of UFCW 655 members – Todd Schnuck.
“I am honored and somewhat embarrassed for doing the right thing,” Schnuck told the crowd upon receiving his ship’s wheel.
“Why isn’t there a bigger effort to support union operators? Union members need to support St. Louis union retail employers. We need to support those who pay higher wages and benefits.” He noted that if union density doesn’t increase in the St. Louis region, all workers will suffer.
Schnuck announced the company was preparing for a major construction project and that the union bid was $900,000 higher, but he would accept that bid “because it is the right thing to do.”
PMC Vice President John Stiffler presented Schnuck, noting that every store the company operates across five states is unionized.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger accepted the Able Helmsman Award by thanking labor for its efforts in getting him elected last fall.
“Because of the support of organized labor, I am standing here as county executive. I will always be grateful.”
Showing his opposition to right-to-work (for less) legislation, he stated, “We must work together. I will stand with you to fight right-to-work. I have a voice and will make sure it is heard.”
MTD President Michael Sacco introduced Stenger as friend of working families who grew up in a union household. “He is a leader who brings people together.”
Before the start of the award presentations, PMC President Jack Martorelli spoke about the leadership that had been provided over the years by Mantia to the port council in particular and to the whole St. Louis area labor body. He presented a bouquet of roses to Mantia’s widow, Toni, as a small token of the council’s appreciation.