Brothers and Sisters,
I always say that the most important thing on any jobsite is safety. Above all else, we work hard to ensure that our members are not only trained to do their jobs safely, but also to recognize when conditions at work are potentially unsafe. Our work carries inherent risks, but just like workers in any other industry, we deserve to go home safe to our families at the end of the day. These are more than just words. We have invested in top-notch safety training for decades, and have gone above and beyond what is required to focus on doing the best job possible for our members.
I am therefore extremely proud to share that OSHA recognized our Apprenticeship and Skill Improvement Program (ASIP) as Alliance Ambassadors at a ceremony on March 1st. We are one of only 10 organizations in the nation to receive this status and the only one in our region, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio.
There are a lot of really great apprenticeship programs in the Midwest, so being the only one to have OSHA Alliance Ambassador status is something we can all take pride in, and it is a big deal for a couple of reasons.
First, this status recognizes the strength and credibility of our safety instruction, which should come as no surprise to any member who has ever visited the Training Center. Not only do we provide our members with the best training out there, but are actively engaged with the latest rules and regulations that come from OSHA, and we push this information out and use it to enhance our training as much as possible. As I said before, we don’t look at safety as just a box to check in our training, but as a commitment that we can always find ways to do a better job on.
This status also solidifies a two-way relationship between OSHA and Local 150. We already provide training for OSHA compliance officers, mainly focused on crane and trench safety, and OSHA sends their staff to participate in our OSHA 10, OSHA 30, and other programs. Building upon an already strong relationship will only enhance safety protections for our members, because we have a direct connection to share our experiences and insights on issues that our members are facing in the field. Whether it is an emerging industry, new equipment, abuse of a regulatory loophole, or just a concerning trend, we have a relationship to work directly with OSHA to ensure that they are immediately aware and that they can investigate and take additional steps in they determine it is necessary.
Achieving this status is the culmination of an Alliance relationship that began with OSHA in 2008, shortly after the doors opened on our Training Center. I have to thank our current staff – Coordinator George Antos, Safety Director Glenn Minyard, and the assistant coordinators and instructors – as well as all the past coordinators, safety staff, and instructors who helped develop our safety instruction and administer it to the membership in such an outstanding way.
When we talk to contractors and politicians about why union operating engineers are better than our non-union counterparts, recognitions like this one are extremely important. You and I know from our own experience that we have safety and skill training that is unmatched by anyone who walks into the industry and just learns from their mistakes, but being identified by the federal agency charged with overseeing worker safety is something that can’t be denied by anyone who is opposed to unions.
It can be easy for us to take what we have for granted, but I can tell you from my experience that our training program and facility is unique. It stands above the rest, and I take nothing away from our Brothers and Sisters in the IUOE when I say that. There are so many unions doing amazing work to establish and expand their curriculum to benefit their members, but generations of hard work is what got us where we are today.
When Bill Dugan came to the membership with his vision for training the next generation, there were people who said he was thinking too big, or that the Training Center he proposed was more than we needed. I suspect that many of those people have eaten their words since then.
More than 15 years after opening its doors, the Training Center has proven time and time again to be one of our greatest assets. It has helped members re-tool to survive the Great Recession. It has provided access to new equipment so that Local 150 operating engineers were on the cutting edge of industry advances. It has helped a new generation of operators start their careers with the kind of skill that caught the attention of the entire industry.
Be proud of what we have, and ever more importantly, use it to your advantage. Not only will our training help you do your job better, but as we have seen once again, it will help you do it more safely. This recognition from OSHA is just the latest chapter in an ever-evolving history that we should be so proud of.
On a final note, I want to recognize the Training Center staff on something that touched hearts across the country. Late last year, we heard from the family of a child who is battling pediatric brain cancer. This young man has been through so much, even having to relearn how to walk and talk through the course of his ongoing treatments.
His family reached out to tell us that he loved heavy equipment, and was fascinated by it every time he passed a construction site. They wondered if we could give him a t-shirt or a tour. Well, as you can imagine, we wanted to give the young man an experience he would never forget.
On February 24th, he came to the Training Center and spent the day using simulators and being shown how to operate multiple pieces of equipment in the field and in the dirt arena. He was given gifts by the staff and spent the day getting high-fives from every member and instructor who was out there. We gave him a vest and a hard-hat, and when his day was done, his smile brought happiness to every single person who met him.
We shared some photos and videos of his day on social media, and operators from across the country responded that they were proud to be a part of a local or an International Union that goes out of its way to share our work in such a special way. There are photos of him on page 19 of this issue, and I hope they will give you the same pride that they give me.
What we do is special, and it is bigger than each of us as individuals. When we come together, we can elevate the caliber of our abilities, keep our members safe, and share the joy of our work with people who wish they could do what we do. Never forget how valuable your membership in Local 150 is, and remain committed to one day leaving this union stronger than you found it.
United We Stand, Divided We Fall.