A FOND FAREWELL BY TONY HERNANDEZ
Thank you, DC 35 members. It was an honor and a privilege to work and represent you for the past 21 years.
My career as a Bridge/Industrial Painter began on June 4, 1979, with George Campbell painting at the Tobin Bridge in Charlestown. Business Rep. John Hogan signed me to Local 623 out of Chelsea, MA. The initiation fee was $1,573, and I was initiated on October 22, 1979. On April 10 1980, Local 623 merged with Local 1280.
I’m able to retire with dignity thanks to my union and our signatory contractors that keep us working. In 1979, the bridge rate was $13.43 an hour. Union dues were $9.25, and a mandatory day’s picket line duty, with no pay, no exception for not showing up. We needed 10 pension credits to be vested, I believe our pension was $33, but I could be wrong considering it was so long ago! We didn’t have any OSHA safety training. I remember many days waiting under the bridge for up to three hours for the steel to dry so we could start working.
My mentor and friend Joe DeLory taught me how to do rigging, blast, and paint. We didn’t have the Safespan system or Quick-Deck. All the work was done on cables and picks, no safety harness, just a safety belt. Joe DeLory was one of the most unselfish people I’ve ever met, always willing to teach the next generation of bridge and tank painters. Throughout my whole career, I have been trying to live up to his legacy (may he Rest In Peace). And this is something we must continue to work on, not being afraid to teach because you may lose our job – that is a bogus idea. When you share your knowledge, it makes the work easier and more productive. We are construction workers. We go from job to job, and if the contractor makes money, we make money. It is labor and management working together. Yes, we may have disagreements, but we sit at the table and we work it out.
In 2001, when I was brought in, we had 9%to 11% of the bridge work in Massachusetts. On January 8, 2004, with the help of Business Representative Duke Carter, the Department of Labor issued a notice that told all awarding authorities and contractors that the painters (Bridge/Tank) occupational classification shall be used for the following task on public work construction projects, covered by the prevailing wages law: 1-erection and dismantling of scaffolding, rigging, and containment for bridge and tank painting operation, 2-surface preparation including the removal of all type of paint on bridges and tanks 3-the application of paint on bridge and tanks 4-the cleaning up of all debris resulting from painting removal operations in bridges and tanks is painter work. It was the Wild West, and it had taken a long time. But in 2022, 100% of bridge work in Massachusetts is done by union contractors. At the beginning of this year, I told Jeff that I was going to retire in October of this year. He asked me if I had somebody in mind to replace me, and I told him that I would love to see Marty Rivera replacing me, and Jeff approved. Marty has been working with me for the past eight months. I have given him all the knowledge that I learned over the past 21 years, including the mistakes I made.
I have all the trust in the world in Marty. He is better prepared than when I started. He got eight months of training. He knows that this is not a 9-to-5-job, this is 24/7. We work for our members, and he knows that.
I have served in two administrations – Ralph Harriman and the Jeff Sullivan administrations. I believe he changed the face of this union for generations to come. Jeff and I came into the union one year apart. I came in 1979 and Jeff in 1980, and now we are going out together in 2022. Jeff, it has been an honor to work with you and call you my brother. I wish you a long and healthy and happy retirement with your wife and family. To the newly elected Business Manager Chris Brennan, congratulations. You have the task of keeping this union moving forward. To Chuck Fogell, Joe Guarino, Michael Lafferty, Joe Itri, Bill Legrand, Ray Pickup, Martin Castillo, Phil Leary, Justin Desmond, Jorge Rivera, Joe Nardelli, Rich Cabral, Roger Brunelle, Marty Rivera, Rodrigo Badaro, Jay Kinslow, Tony Jimenez, Billy Lang, Eric Redding, James Sullivan, Mark Moreschi, and Sean Love. Together we are strong, love you guys.