March 2015

The Meaning of Brotherhood

At various contractor and owner meetings, much is being made of the “change” being seen in the approach ironworkers, their leaders and the International are taking to improve safety, quality and professionalism in the workplace. Change takes place when you have dissatisfaction with what is taking place and have a vision for the future. Certainly no one is satisfied with our drop from 85 percent market share in the 1980s to our current 15 percent market share and believing that it will self-correct itself and return on its own is not a vision. We must make it happen by having the strength of character to lead the industry by taking those first steps. If any part of that formula fails, then we fail. But the “change” being sought and being witnessed is not new. It is a return to values of our proud past; values that enabled our union to grow; to reach 85 percent market share. However, it is new to the next generation of skilled ironworkers that we must attract, train and deliver to the industry. We must make sure that we impart to them not only the skills, but the heritage and pride of our core values. And we do it through leading by example; today and every day.

I have the great opportunity to be involved in and to gain knowledge from the numerous, tremendous projects ironworkers work on and complete every day. Some are big projects in the billions, many are smaller but they are all important projects. The vision of owners, engineers and architects, coupled with shop manufactured components, comes to rest in the hands of the contractor who must manage delivery, site conditions, scheduling, labor and the catch-all of “other” to do one thing – put the material into the hands of the skilled craftsperson to build and erect these important structures; from bridges to buildings to factories with safety, quality and productivity. As ironworkers, we are among the first on site, and the work we do from foundation to structure can set the tone and schedule for the whole project.

That responsibility is the source of our pride, the swagger in our step; knowing that we will get the job done. No matter how complicated or how difficult, we have always gotten the job done because of our skills and determination. It permeates the core value of our members and their union. It is why young men and women are attracted, not recruited, to be a union ironworker. We have the best training in the world to develop the needed skills, but it is our core values we must ingrain and cultivate within our union. Our professionalism will open the door to our future.

Key is our personal responsibility to each other, on and off the job. It is to get everyone home safely, to ensure justice in the workplace and to be there during the worst of times for each other. What does it mean to be a union ironworker? After reading Brother Deakins’ letter on page 11, I and every union ironworker will know how to answer that question. It is not just the economic benefits improving lives; it is the building of hope and pride in knowing you are part of something bigger. That sense of belonging, knowing others can count on you and you on them. Add the confidence of knowing your contribution is making a significant difference and you have a union ironworker. 

Thank you for helping to build our great union.