Let’s Speak Our Truth by Jeff Sullivan

 In Newsletter: Winter '18

As I write this article, we have just seen voters hand control of the U.S. House of Representatives back to the Democratic Party. This session’s class of congressional members will be the most diverse in the history of our nation. Nationally, people seem to be crying out for a new direction from the way our government has been working over the past two years. More fundamentally, people are demanding a change in the way our elected officials treat and communicate with each other. The Golden Rule says that we should treat others the way we wish to be treated. It sounds so simple, but following this rule has proved impossible for some of our “leaders.” Like most great moments in our history, the required change will come from us, the people. In order to bring about the improvements we seek, we must speak our truth. Speak it respectfully, passionately and with everything we’ve got. Speaking truth has been the history of the labor movement. We plant seeds every day. We can’t reap the fruits of these seeds without some hard work, diligence, and patience. The hard work will produce results for our families and our future members. We must stay the course.

2018 has been another strong year for District Council 35. Work hours continue to be strong, we have formed new relationships with contractors, developers and project owners and we are beginning to see the benefits of these strategic partnerships. While we continue to rely upon the tried and true methods of identifying new work opportunities, we must also be nimble and adaptable to the realities of the 21st Century economy. I always study our operations with an eye towards finding new and innovative ways to increase our market share and improve the lives of our member families. I demand that all the staff members think strategically and find new ways to produce our most precious commodity work hours.

I recently attended an IUPAT Leadership Summit, where I had the opportunity to meet with union leaders from across North America. I came away from the meetings knowing that District Council 35 is a respected leader within the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. In many ways, we serve as a model for the rest of the country in how to effectively lead a labor organization. There is no time to rest on our laurels; rather, it is during prosperous times like these when we must push ahead to break into new work areas with a new model for generating opportunity.

The year has seen the addition of further improvements to our excellent health and welfare plan, an increase to the pension accrual rate and additional monies being devoted to our annuity plans. This is a testament to the work of Trustees from the various funds, both labor, and management. Just as importantly, this is a testament to a membership which recognizes the importance of growing the funds that provide health insurance to our member families and serve as the basis for a dignified
retirement. In a time when we read daily about the financial problems being faced by various retirement plans, it is comforting to know that we are strongly positioned for a secure future.

Your union is here to support you in all facets of your professional life. Please take advantage of the services we provide and if you haven’t been actively involved in the life of your union, take this opportunity to re-engage with us. If we’ve learned anything over the recent past, it is that participation and engagement are critical. Divisive rhetoric and name-calling won’t accomplish anything.

We must speak and live our truth with respect and humility. It takes courage to stand up and speak the truth, regardless of the consequences. It also takes courage to sit down and listen when that is most appropriate. I am proud and honored to serve as the leader of this organization of great men and women. I fondly remember my years in the field, and I go to work every day committed to improving the lives of each of my Brother and Sister members. Please accept my heartfelt wishes for a Merry Christmas and a joyous holiday season.