IT’S A NEW DAY BY JEFF SULLIVAN
It has been a tough year for all of us. We have just hit the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic which has ravaged through our cities, towns, and communities. It has touched each of us in very real and impactful ways. It’s claimed too many lives, and many have endured the loss of loved ones. We remember them all. The financial downturn brought on by the pandemic has also hit us hard. All sectors of our economy continue to feel the effects; it has not been limited to the construction industry. When confronted with these life-threatening circumstances, the District Council planned and executed a series of programs to protect our members. The decision to suspend work for a period of time last Spring was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make as your Business Manager/Secretary-Treasurer. The decision boiled down to one concern: the health and safety of our membership. That will always be the top priority of your leadership. We quickly established a protocol to ensure that our sister and brother members were safe on the job. Our program was well-received by our members as well as our partner signatory contractors.
Your Business Representatives visited jobsites, day and night, including weekends, to ensure that you would be safe on the job. Staff members required contractors to submit job specific COVID protocols and we reviewed each of them to ensure that they were fully compliant with the best medical information available. Only after we were satisfied that member safety was the main concern did we allow jobs to re-open across our crafts. It was a massive undertaking, but we knew it was the right thing to do. The results have shown that we did the right thing. The right thing is not always the easy thing, but we do not shy away from tough decisions here at District Council 35. I am so proud of the staff and each of our members who understood the importance of staying safe.
Despite the necessary changes to our daily operations here at the office, we have continued to provide the excellent services you all deserve. This is the Union difference. There is always someone here to help with an issue, whether it be assistance in navigating the ridiculously complex unemployment system, or keeping your training certifications current, the entire staff is here to help you.
While we must continue to remain vigilant at home and on the job, brighter days are soon arriving. We have seen a significant increase in work opportunities and are quickly returning to pre-pandemic working conditions. Hours and work opportunities are increasing, and this trend should continue through the end of the year. We have hopefully come through the worst of things and we are prepared to seize each opportunity to improve the lives of our member families.
Our job actions have continued as we shine a spotlight on developers, project owners and contractors who choose to mistreat the workers who pad their bottom lines. We are not an entry on a financial spreadsheet, and you will read in this Newsletter about the various job actions ongoing by our Business Reps and Organizers. We rely on each of you to make these job actions successful. Thanks for your willingness to participate and, to those who have not taken the time to get involved, NOW is the time.
Despite the economic uncertainty of the past year, each of our Benefit Funds have seen steady, progressive growth. This is a testament to the combined work of our various plan professionals and the fine stewardship by the Plans’ Trustees. I am sure you have learned of the recent accrual rate increase we were able to secure for our Pension Plan. The additional ten-dollar increase will reap benefits for our membership for years to come and I am proud to say that the benefits package we are able to offer our families is the best in the industry. It takes a lot of hard work to establish and maintain top notch medical insurance, as well as provide the resources needed to live a dignified retirement and District Council 35 is “best in class” when it comes to be benefits packages within the construction industry in New England.
With all of the changes brought by the international health crisis, there is a light on the horizon with regards to organized labor in the world of politics and public policy. You will learn more about the various initiatives our Government Affairs and Political Departments are engaged in, but the recent election of Joe Biden as our President has resulted in many immediate, positive changes for working men and women. The recent U.S. Senate elections in Georgia resulted in the Democrats gaining control of the U.S. Senate and there is hope once again that the voices of the middle class will be loudly heard. President Biden is not afraid of the word “union”, in fact he embraces it. His first days in office saw changes at the National Labor Relations Board that will bring positive change to the federal agency whose mandate is to protect workers.
Marty Walsh is a longtime friend of D.C. 35 and his appointment as Secretary of Labor has sent a clear message across our nation: unions will have a seat at the table in the Biden administration. The incoming Chief of Staff for the Department of Labor is also an ally of ours, and there is no doubt that organized labor will have an opportunity to advance its agenda for the first time in quite a while. We must seize on this opportunity and improve the lives of all workers.
There have also been some comings and goings with your District Council 35 staff. Please join me in welcoming Joe Nardelli to our Organizing Department. Joe has been an active voice in his local union for some time and has hit the ground running in supporting our various organizing campaigns. Outgoing District Council President Bryan O’Sullivan has retired, and I want to thank him for his years of dedicated service to the men and women of our union. Bryan was a “boots on the ground” organizing force and always had the best interests of our members at heart. All the best to Bryan.
I want to congratulate Roger Brunelle on his recent election as our new District Council President. We are in good hands. Congratulations must also be extended to all the recently elected Delegates. I thank you for your commitment to our mission and each of you is the heart and soul of this union of ours.
Paul Canning has been selected by our International and will be soon assuming the role of Eastern Region Vice President. The International seems to be making a habit of finding District Council 35 staff members and bringing them to Maryland. Paul’s new role will enable him to extend his good work across the eastern region and I wish him nothing but the best. Paul has been an integral part of all we have accomplished during my time as Business Manager and this new appointment is a testament to his great work and also is a recognition that this District Council is one of the finest in the country. All the best Paul; though this is not a goodbye, as we will continue to work together in the future.
Your Union is here for YOU- we work every day, across every department, to make sure that our sacred mission stays on track. Through thick and thin, whatever the circumstances, we will do our best to make you proud.