March 2015

New Officer Seminar

Thirty-six newly elected and appointed business managers, business agents, presidents, financial secretary-treasurers and organizers from local unions in the United States and Canada recently attended the Annual New Officer Seminar. General Secretary Eric Dean, General Treasurer Ron Piksa and Executive Assistant to the General Secretary Kevin Byrnes welcomed the group to their weeklong training.

The goal of this annual seminar is to prepare local officers to effectively lead and manage their local unions. Sunday through Friday, each day begins at 7:30 a.m. and goes to 8 p.m. for most of the week. Sunday morning starts off with a daylong COMET (Construction Organizing Membership Education Training) course. Bernie Evers, executive director of organizing, and Dave Gornewicz, assistant director of organizing, conduct this important course. The course emphasizes that each local needs to develop an effective construction organizing campaign tailored to their needs in order to grow their contractor base and increase membership numbers.

Monday through Friday the following topics were discussed:
• Roles and responsibilities of local union officers
• Ironworker Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) 
• Managing finances – local union and international perspectives
• Collective bargaining – negotiation exercise
• IMPACT – programs and services
• Managing pension funds – trustee responsibilities
• Local union/district council (LUDC) pension plan reciprocity
• Managing pension funds – local and international
• Legal responsibilities of local unions, job actions, labor law, EEOC complaints
• Political action activities and getting your membership politically active
• Demonstration from political representatives from the AFL-CIO on accessing the Labor Action Network site
• Effective organizing exercise and overviews of the Shop Department
• Reinforcing Department overview
• Operating successful apprenticeship programs, competitions, training and journeyman upgrading (ICAP)
• Updates on KPI changes and responsibilities
• Welding program updates in the United States and Canada
• Safety and health overview in the United States and Canada
• Architectural and Ornamental Department report
• Davis-Bacon overview
• Presentation on IWITS and QR Code
• Update on AFL-CIO special agreements
• Maintenance and jurisdictional grievance procedures
• Marketing the ironworker and the Gulf Coast Initiative program
• IMPACT – Job tracking information – CMD and Industrial Resources
• General Secretary’s Office – update on all GSO policies and procedures, nominations and elections, bylaws, CBAs, charges and trials
• Effective communication skills – crisis management
• Leadership principles for officers
• General President Wise’s report on growing our membership and apprentice numbers

One of the highlights of the seminar is a negotiating exercise the class experiences. Participants are given packets with background information on a hypothetical company. Some are assigned to represent labor while others represent management. For several hours the teams negotiate until a three-year contract is agreed upon.

Another highlight deals with a shop organizing campaign exercise. Again, some played the role of the organizer while others were the open shop fabricator. Feedback was excellent on both exercises with many commenting on how uncomfortable situations really opened their eyes on the difficulty of organizing.

The key to success of the seminar is interaction between the presenters and participants. Sessions allowed time for activities, case studies, role playing, questions and discussions. Participants are able to have open dialogue with General President Walter Wise, General Secretary Eric Dean and General Treasurer Ron Piksa, better preparing them to fulfill their broad range of responsibilities as local union leaders.

The success of the Iron Workers International is paramount on our current and future leaders. Good leaders understand their roles, take their jobs seriously and realize the huge responsibilities they have accepted for the betterment of the Iron Workers and the members they serve!

Kevin Byrnes, executive assistant to the general secretary, assisted on presentations, fired up the projectors, loaded power points, took notes on flip charts and kept the flow of our presenters running smoothly all week. Kevin remarked, “I realized what an outstanding format Dr. Rick Sullivan, who originally set up the agenda and curriculum for our New Officer Seminar, left us with as we train our future leaders. I would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Iron Workers International, every local union officer who has been through this training and the entire membership who benefits, to say thank you.”