November 2012

Answering the Call--Now We Must Too

It is fitting we recognize our nation's veterans in November, the same month in which we utilize our most precious freedom in the ballot box. Without our soldiers' valiant actions and sacrifice, our democracy could not survive, our rights would be in jeopardy, and the freedom we all enjoy would be threatened.

Throughout the history of the United States and Canada, we have asked our sons and daughters to answer the call to defend our liberties and keep the flame of freedom as a beacon of hope to the world. Our brave service men and women, their families and our veterans, with their commitment and bravery, continue to put meaning to the words of our forefathers and the Constitution.

Especially during elections, candidates pay homage to their deeds and salute the patriotism and sacrifice of our soldiers, but have elected leaders delivered substance to their words? Unfortunately, the government paralysis of the past four years has left our returning troops with a bleak economy and poor homecoming. While the U.S. Congress has failed to step up; organized labor, the building trades, and the Iron Workers have not forgotten our veterans.

We opened our hearts and arms to those returning from Vietnam, saying, "Welcome home, Brother" and have reaped the untold benefits from their service as union ironworkers during the past forty years. To offer the same opportunities to those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Iron WorkersÑtogether with the other 14 building tradesÑsecured federal funding for Helmets to Hardhats to facilitate the transition from military duty to career opportunities with fair wages and benefits. After "no earmarks" erased funding and the U.S. Department of Defense would not sacrifice one cruise missile to fund the program, it was the building trades, our contractors, and clients who stepped forward to fund Helmets to Hardhats. Our thanks to the District Council of Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley Authority for negotiating a $0.02 per hour contribution to Helmets to Hardhats. Contributions from the National Maintenance Agreements Policy Committee, the General President Agreements, and other contract negotiations have insured that Helmets to Hardhats is now a building trades program, and will continue to provide opportunities for our returning troops. I urge you to keep our deserving warriors in your thoughts during negotiations.

Veteran issues are our issues and we will actively continue our efforts, such as H.R. 3352, on their behalf. Please read Executive Director Kolbe's article and contact your representatives in support of our veterans.

Our veterans did not serve just one day a year, they laid their lives on the line, and we should never miss an opportunity to thank them for their service and our freedom. The Iron Workers will never shirk from our support of our men and women in uniform and from our commitment to provide opportunities within our union. The Iron Workers will say thank you with jobs and the opportunity to build our great nations.

Thank you for helping to build our great union.