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450 S Michigan Ave, AUD 1851
Chicago IL 60605
United States


Illinois Labor History Society

Past Events

ILHS Union Hall of Honor 2006

Webtrax Admin

The gracious ballroom of the 19th Century Club of Oak Park was the scene as ILHS celebrated the 110th Anniversary of the Iron Workers' International Association.

As the diners assembled, they were treated to a running show of Iron Workers in the process of building Chicago's famous skyline and its newest playground Millennium Park. The festive dinner was chaired by ILHS President Larry Spivack. He introduced Vice President Bill Adelman who presented a fascinating and authoritative slide show about the history of the Union.

Alma Washington followed with a reading from Carl Sandburg's poem "Skyscrapers." Fellow AFTRA-SAG actors, Gary Brichetto and David Nisbet read "Something to Point To" from the musical Working, drawn from the book of the same name by Studs Terkel. Joe Bella of AFSCME presented some historic labor songs.

After dinner, Dennis Gannon, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, introduced the guest speaker Joseph J. Hunt, General President of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers. Hunt delivered a spirited address, concluding with a declaration that he was committed to a policy of labor unity and would work ceaselessly to maximize cooperation despite structural differences.

Eric Dean, president of the District Council covering locals in Northern Illinois and Indiana said a few words.

President Emeritus Leslie Orear presided over the Union Hall of Honor Induction Ceremony. He presented the handsome plaques citing two Chicago Iron Workers, one historical and one contemporary. The first was George W. Geary, leader of Chicago's Bridge Builders Mutual Association (now Local 1) organized in the 1880s. Robert Boskovich, president of Local 1, received the handsome plaque for display in the union's offices.

In 1896, through Geary's inspiration, the International Association was formed. Geary was appointed the first International Organizer. A plaque citing him as "Founding Father" of the International was accepted by General President Joseph J. Hunt for a place of honor at national headquarters in Washington, DC.

The second inductee was Richard Rowe, a Business Agent/Organizer of Architectural Iron Workers Local 63 and the historian of the Iron Workers' Union. Rowe teaches Labor History to union apprentices in the Chicago area. He also leads labor history classes at the month-long gathering of Ironworker Apprentice Trainers held each year on the campus of the University of California at San Diego. Rowe has recently updated the historical book on the Iron Workers published on the Centennial of the Union in 1996.

The evening closed with an enthusiastic rendition of Solidarity Forever. The entire event was taped for later telecast on CAN TV, Chicago's public access cable network.