President's Corner

 

January 2021 Light at the End of the Tunnel

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President’s Corner

Brothers and Sisters, 

On April 26th, we were excited to reopen the District Halls to members and visitors. For more than a year, our halls had only been open to certain staff members, and I had been eagerly awaiting the day that we would be able to welcome you all back into our halls. 

We were able to do this in large part because of the recent increase in availability of the COVID-19 vaccines throughout our jurisdiction. As our staff became vaccinated over the past couple of months, we were able to ensure that they would remain healthy at work and that members coming to the halls could do so safely as well. 

This is only the first stage of returning to the way we operated before the pandemic began. As soon as the announcement came out about the reopening of the halls, I began to field questions about the scheduling of union meetings. 

Believe me, this is a topic that nobody has spent more time thinking about than I have. Union meetings are a central part of our strength as a union, both as a means to share news and information and also for members to see each other and catch up and stay close as Brothers and Sisters. I have discussed this regularly with the Officers, Executive Board and members for the past year. 

What I can say is that we will schedule meetings as soon as every member who wants to attend can do so safely. The current limitations on capacity for meetings in Illinois are challenging, but we have been watching closely as all the states in our jurisdiction have reached various milestones to progress through reopening phases. In Illinois, the progress has slowed recently as more and more people have hesitated or simply refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and cases continued to fluctuate. 

It is my sincere hope that our membership recognizes the important role vaccinations play not only in returning to normal life, but being able to work safely. 

Throughout the month of April, we offered members the opportunity to get their choice of the three main vaccinations at the District 7 Hall in Indiana and throughout Chicagoland through a partnership with the Chicago Federation of Labor. What we found was surprising, though it was the same result as every other organization that opened up vaccinations for its members—filling seats was much more difficult than we expected, and our limited capacity was not met, even at the start. I can only hope that it is because members and dependents are taking advantage of the increased availability of vaccines in other locations, because as long as this damned virus continues to spread, our return to normal life will be slowed. 

There have been a few issues that I have been eager to get back together to talk with members about, and which have made my phone ring quite often over the past few months. 

First is the outcome of the Pension Fund’s Fiscal Year. As you know, we end our Fiscal Year on March 31st every year, and after that, we analyze what our financial returns, work hours, and retirement numbers for the year were to determine our funding percentage is. That work is currently underway, and I am looking forward to sharing the results with you once our Fund’s consultants and actuaries are finished. I know the membership is eagerly awaiting this information, and I hope that we will be able to hold a meeting shortly to go through these numbers in detail and what they mean for the Pension Fund and for each member who participates in it. 

Secondly, I have been asked about the status of negotiations of the District 1-2-3 master agreements with the Mid-America Regional Bargaining Association (MARBA). These agreements expire on May 31, and we have been meeting with MARBA and other associations to discuss modifications to our agreements. 

I can tell you that some commitments made by employers in past agreements – both written and verbal agreements – have not been honored. For example, the union and its employers share a need for safety on the job when it comes to crane safety. When crane capacity is manipulated to impact manning requirements or, worse yet, to allow other trades or non-union workers to perform hoisting operations, we have an obligation to enforce the agreement to prohibit this. The employers in many cases have not lived up to their end of the bargain on this and other issues. 

Issues like this are critically important to the safety of our members and the protection of our market share, so they cannot and will not be overlooked. We will continue to negotiate with our signatory employers to correct these issues as we approach the expiration of the contracts. 

I am confident that we can resolve our issues and bring back a contract that protects all of our members’ interests – safety, economics, benefits, and market share. As you know from previous contracts, we don’t stop fighting for what is important to our members, and our employers know that as well. They also know that we live up to our word, and we expect the same in return. 

The weeks and months to come will hopefully bring about positive results across the board for our members and bring us closer to returning to normal life on and off the job. Remain vigilant in protecting your health and safety as well as that of your families and coworkers. We are getting closer to the end of this pandemic, so don’t let up now! 

I look forward to seeing you around the District Halls, and even more to seeing you at a meeting very soon. 

United We Stand, Divided We Fall.