Solidarity was very evident April 27 when the Greater St. Louis Area and Vicinity Port Council honored at its 33rd annual dinner a labor representative, a business representative and an elected official – and all of them carry union cards!
State Senator Gina M. Walsh received the Able Helmsmen Award for her work in the Missouri state capitol. As MTD President Michael Sacco pointed out in introducing her, “She is so passionate. She is not just friendly to the Labor Movement, she is part of it.”
Sister Walsh was the first woman to graduate from the Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 1 apprenticeship program. She still holds her card after more than 30 years in the trade. She was originally elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2002 and was reelected every two years until she made the leap to the State Senate last year. As if that wasn’t enough, she was then elected president of the Missouri Building and Construction Trades Council.
“I merely represent those who fight the fight for working families,” Walsh told the nearly 400 attending. She has led the battles in the state capitol against legislation aimed at cutting prevailing wage, creating right-to-work (for less), and instituting paycheck deception.
“We have to show courage and common sense while steering Missouri forward,” she added.
Recognized as the Labor Man of the Year was Iron Workers Local 396 Business Manager Tom McNeil, Jr., who started with the local in 1973.
Brother McNeil told the gathering he didn’t have to look far to find his role model. “My hero is my dad. He was a 40-year Iron Worker, and served nine years as Business Manager. He died two years ago of Alzheimer’s.”
McNeil noted the last five years have been tough on all working people, especially those in the Building Trades. He stated everyone in the room knows members who have held several part-time jobs to hold their families together. “We are on our way out.”
Another member of Iron Workers Local 396 received the Management Man of the Year award.
Clayton Bragg is a third generation Iron Worker who saluted his family ties from West Virginia to California to the union. He was accepted into Local 396’s apprenticeship program in 1982. Seventeen years later, he started Fastrack Erectors, which has been recognized by the St. Louis Business Journal as one the area’s Fastest Growing Private Companies. He also is president of Mid America Crane Rental.
Brother Bragg acknowledged his Labor roots and his union-contracted employees by saying, “It takes strong people to keep a business strong and prosperous.”