The Legacy of a Leader
By Tom Lemmon Business Manager of the San Diego
County Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO
Tomorrow the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council will host a tribute luncheon to Jerry Butkiewicz at the San Diego Convention Center. There are guaranteed to be tonsof great stories about how Jerry rose in the union ranks from a postal clerk to the president of the Labor Council and all the struggles in between, so we hope you can make it.
Frankly, it’s almost impossible to believe how much Jerry has accomplished since he took over the Labor Council in 1996. Not only has the Council’s annual budget grown more that 1,200 percent(!) and the staff from four full-time employees to 34, but Jerry earned labor a seat at the table for all major regional projects. Considering the strong anti-union sentiment among San Diego’s prominent Republican politicians and developers and in the media, this was no easy accomplishment. Before Jerry, San Diego business had its way without question; the working people were a secondary consideration for politicians.
It takes a tenacious pit bull like Jerry to fight for every union job and ounce of respect that labor deserves. Jerry knows how to take his message to the street and make people understand why they need to fight, and he’s never been afraid to work a week of 18-hour days, if that’s what’s needed.
But Jerry isn’t just a firebrand: When he needs to be articulate, Jerry can put down the bull horn and step right up to the bargaining table without missing a beat. It was totally unprecedented when Jerry got a seat at the Chamber of Commerce, and there was definitely some grumbling about that from both sides, but it really gave labor a broadened perspective on the business community’s thinking and motivation.
On a personal note, Jerry reached out to me when I took this position, and he made me recognize how important it is for everyone in labor to feel like part of a big team. That’s why the Labor Council is so crucial: It gives the individual unions power in the same way that fingers come together to form a fist.
Some people have asked me if I’m worried about Jerry’s departure. Obviously, there’s never a good time to lose someone like Jerry, but he’s leaving his position in a spot where labor is a serious force. … And labor’s power is much bigger than one person. Jerry has been a coalition-builder, not a “one man show,” so I’m optimistic about upcoming struggles, including the current campaign to make sure that the bayfront development is an environmentally-friendly project built by local workers.
More than anything else, I think Jerry will be remembered for his commitment to the workers. He has never stopped thinking about the folks he was fighting for, and that’s a legacy that I look forward to keeping alive with my brothers and sisters at the Labor Council.[Link]
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tribute to Jerry Butkiewicz
Via Local Jobs First: Below is tribute to Jerry Butkiewicz written by Tom Lemmon, Business Manager of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO.