Worked Up by Jeff Sullivan

 In News, Newsletter: Fall '19

The end of a calendar year is always a good time to assess accomplishments, set new short and long-term goals and determine the path forward. Our work hours for the past twelve months have been among the highest in the history of the District Council and the quality of life for many of our sister and brother members has been greatly improved. We’ve made improvements to our various funds, significantly improving the health plan that covers our families and increasing the long-term strength of both our pension and annuity plans.

All these achievements are a credit to our entire membership who understands the critical importance of taking care of business today, while also thoughtfully planning for the future. Our successes are not by accident; rather they are the result of strategic planning put into effect by a staff that understands that it goes to work every day for YOU, the member.

From Servicing and Organizing to Government Affairs and Training, your staff at District Council 35 has one singular goal- increase work opportunities for our member families. This is done by constant vigilance and preparation. We must police and protect our work, develop and foster new relationships across our industry and find new areas for future work. Of course, we also need to produce the most highly skilled craftsman who will provide value to our signatory contractors and the projects they take on.

The theme of this past Summer’s 32nd General Convention was “We Are Union.” Proud and unabashed, we take to the streets and boardrooms across New England every day, telling our story and making sure that all who are within earshot know we are here to stay. All the while we create a better tomorrow for the women and men who go to work every day building our region. Union is what we are and it’s what we will always be.

It is also an appropriate time to reflect on the greater movement that we are all a part of. We exist in a time of soaring corporate profits, nearly non-existent wage gains and devastated working-class communities. Against this backdrop, we have a current political climate that seems to encourage and promote the mistreatment of workers. But, if you’ve been paying attention, 2019 was also the Year of the Rise of Labor.

Unions are starting to win again, across the country, by employing creative and new-age tactics, creating new partnerships and telling our story. Most importantly, a new generation of workers is recognizing that alone they are without power but once they join together, they can form a mighty force. Nationally we saw the largest number of striking workers since the 1980’s. The GM strike in September, the company’s longest labor dispute in its history, has sent a call across all industries of the power of collective action. Closer to home, the Stop & Shop strike and the recent strike by the Dedham Public School Teacher’s Union, have both served as reminders of our considerable power.

Here at District Council 35, we can, and must, take the lessons learned from these examples and utilize them to increase our power. This starts, of course, with doing our jobs every day. Each and every one of us, from the journeyperson in the field to the DC 35 staff, has an important job to do. Collectively, this will increase our strength and position us to make further inroads in work opportunities. Organizing is a sometimes-over-used word, but it truly is at the heart of everything we do. It spreads across each of our departments and is the most critical component of all that we hope to accomplish.

I was so proud of a campaign we recently implemented in Lowell. We devoted much time and many resources to increase work opportunities in the Merrimack Valley. This once-proud region of the state has turned away from its working-class values, led by some local politicians who cared more about sound bites and big business than its working-class residents. Almost single-handedly we brought about some positive change on the Lowell City Council that will hopefully reap benefits to our membership. You can’t win if you stand on the sidelines; you’ve got to get into the game.

I’m proud to be the leader of this organization that NEVER stands on the sidelines. We get into the fight every day, wherever it may be, to ensure that our voice is heard, and our members are provided with every opportunity to make a better life. This passion for the membership, from the first-year apprentice to the retiree, absolutely gets me worked up. It is my privilege to get up each day with this passion at the forefront of all that we do here at District Council 35. Please join in the fight with us; go to a local union meeting, get involved in your union and help us by being a dedicated set of eyes and ears on the street. We Are Union and we will all be better off as a result of your active engagement.

Please accept my warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas and a peaceful holiday season spent with friends and loved ones. As Coach Belichik says, “We’re on to 2020.” 

All classes at the FTI of New England have been postponed until further notice.