November 2015

Veterans Deserve Our Thanks and Appreciation

Every November we recognize the service of our U.S. and Canadian veterans on Veterans Day and Remembrance Day. I did not serve in the military, but my father served two different times in the Army. In my office, I have a picture of him in his uniform and his flag to remind me of his service to our country.

When I was initiated in my local union, many of the members had served in the military. I personally worked with and met members who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, as well as many who served in peacetime. Since then, I have also met members who served on peacekeeping missions to Kosovo, Grenada, Iraq and Afghanistan. We owe those who served a great deal of respect and a debt of gratitude.

We found a way to show our appreciation for those who served. The building trades developed the Helmets to Hardhats Program in the U.S. and Canada, which assists honorably discharged veterans with direct entry into any trade by having a specific skill related to the trade or simply giving them extra points in their selection criteria when applying for apprentice programs for having served.

As the military continues its downsizing, I am asking all JATCs, TICs, TIPs, employers and local unions to consider increasing the number of veterans who are selected into our ranks through our apprentice programs and as probationary members. It is a debt we owe them and we will greatly benefit from their skills and abilities. With so many baby boomers retiring and apprenticeship programs competing with universities for high school graduates, why not lean towards men and women who served and are in need of employment. These veterans have already chosen something other than secondary education.

In an effort to meet our workforce demands, I appointed Executive Director of Apprenticeship Lee Worley and General Vice President Kevin Bryenton to co-chair a committee to establish best practices to improve our ability to recruit more veterans, women, inner city residents, minorities, welders, rodmen and open shop ironworkers. The recruitment committee will also look at best practices for graduation rates to increase the return on the investment of our training dollars. The higher the graduation rate, the less money wasted on those who do not attain journeyman status. Our union needs to replace those retiring but also needs to meet the rising demand for workers as the construction economy increases. 

The committee will explore apprentice selection procedures and methods of locals and look at the most effective way to deliver instruction to achieve the best outcome. Our training programs are vital to our future to provide the best workers in the industry. The committee will give its first report at our bi-annual apprentice competition in Houston in September 2016, hosted by Local Union 84 (Houston) and the Texas and Mid-South States District Council.

To our ironworker veterans, who we honor this November and every future November, know your service is appreciated. Those members fortunate enough to enjoy a collectively bargained day off, remember the intention of the day: To honor veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. And if you are privileged to work alongside a veteran, show them your gratitude with a simple yet meaningful thank you. Our debt to them is great.

Eric Dean, 1051885
General President