January 2016

Here’s looking to 2016!

I hope last year was as positive for you as it was for me. Becoming general president is an honor you can’t imagine, and the pride I have is tremendous, not only in becoming president, but also in the work our members do on a daily basis. As general president, I welcome the opportunity to visit the projects and fabricating shops where our members demonstrate their skills. I am in awe of the skill and expertise our members possess and honored by the legacy we leave as we build across the United States and Canada.

In 2016, as the construction economy continues to improve, our membership ranks will rise, and our union and market share will continue to grow and prosper.

Last year, ALL areas of our union’s membership improved — shop members, outside members, apprentices and probationary members.

As work opportunities increase so do the challenges we face continually from those who oppose our union and our mission to gain fair compensation and safe working conditions for our membership.

Our biggest challenge remains to resupply the workforce with the most skilled ironworkers in the industry. In my role as co-chair of the National Fund, we constantly strive to develop curriculum and deliver it in a state-of-the-art manner. Training today is in-depth and ongoing, from industry certifications to standard ironworking trade specific courses. We offer a wide range of journeyman upgrading courses and standard apprenticeship curriculum.

I am proud to have served an apprenticeship in our union. It gave me a chance to learn the trade in a gradual progression, and advanced my pay proportionally while learning at school and on the job. Today, in conjunction and coinciding with our traditional apprentice selection and apprentice training, we continue to organize open shop members who need to increase their skill set and certify their already acquired skills. The burden of this relies heavily on each local union. In 2016, just as in the past 31 years, the annual ironworker instructor training program will train each local’s instructors on new technology, course content and delivery instruction to meet the learning needs of apprentices, organized members and journeymen.

Our union has 154 training facilities in the United States and Canada, which since 2011 have seen a 72 percent increase of apprenticeship, probationary and trainees. That means there is a lot of ground to cover at all levels of our union and a need for you to avail yourself to the many opportunities within your local in the training arena, in addition to your responsibility to instruct, mentor and supervise at the job.

Thankfully, I have worked with and for some impressive people since becoming an ironworker in 1980. Ironworkers on the job have been the most valuable and important learning resource from day one. Just like each one of you in the Iron Workers Union, someone has always been there for guidance every step of my career.

As the successor of General President Walter Wise, I would be remiss if I did not thank him for all he has done for me and for our union. He helped prepare me for the greatest opportunity of all — to lead the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers. His daily mission to improve our members’ standard of living and ensure their safe return home each and every day exemplified his tremendous work ethic, honesty and integrity. Instead of the celebration he had earned upon his retirement, General President Wise insisted no such event take place, and instead lent his name to a much needed fundraising effort for the John H. Lyons Sr. Scholarship Foundation, raising over $159,000 for the sons and daughters of Iron Worker members who wish to pursue higher education. In classic Walter Wise style, he was honored at a small informal dinner, with no fuss and no fanfare. Just a nod to the great man who gave back to the union he loves so much and served so well. To all those who donated, thank you.