President's Message

TO:        All Local Unions, District Councils and International Staff  

FROM:  General President Eric Dean

As we head into the weekend, many will celebrate Easter this Sunday.  Regardless of your faith or other religious beliefs, please take time to hold your family close and stay safe during this time of social distancing.  Family gatherings are being redefined similar to our daily lives.  The disruption to routine things we are accustomed to doing has been eye opening and life altering for many of us but necessary for our long-term health.

For those who pray, I ask you to take extra time to include our members who are still on the job, the members who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the members who are unable to go to work, their families, the employers who are affected by work stoppages, and the rest of society who are frontline workers helping our two countries care for and tend to our health and daily needs.

We are in a place many of us never imagined we would be.  I ask you all to stay strong for our members and your families and stay safe. Please do not hesitate to call with any questions or concerns on any matter which we may be able to be of assistance.

Happy Easter!

Eric Dean
General President

2017 End of Year Thoughts to the Membership

An invitation to attend the 2018 North American Iron Workers/IMPACT Labor Management conference.

Prepared to Lead

As your next general president, I think a fair question to ask is what makes me qualified or deserving to serve as the thirteenth general president of our union.

A little of my background and beliefs will probably help you understand how I reached this point in my ironworking career. I am a fourth generation ironworker and some might think that my Iron Worker roots alone make me qualified to serve and lead our union. While I am proud of my family’s heritage, it is not the definitive answer to the question of my qualifications. I believe our union’s strength comes from each and every member in the United States and Canada engaged in the fabrication, installation and erection of iron. Whether you are a first generation ironworker or have a family history, you are equally important to our organization.

Serving in various roles of leadership in my home Local 63 in Chicago helped prepare me for this opportunity to lead. However, serving Chicago alone is not enough to answer the question either. While it helps to be from an area that has maintained and developed strength as a union, my travels as a general organizer to almost every area of our International in both countries has allowed me to see areas of great strength and operational efficiency, as well as learn from areas that have lost market share and the ability to secure adequate wages and conditions for our members.

During my time in the field, I worked my way up from an apprentice to running work, and am proud of the training I received in the apprenticeship program. I pride myself on being a union man — honest, fair, loyal, with a good work ethic who lives up to the collective bargaining agreement. Our training programs provide some of the best skilled members our union has to offer, though it is not, and should not, be the sole method of entry into our union. Just because some are fortunate enough to pass a test and get accepted into an apprenticeship program, it cannot be the only way our union gets its members. Unorganized workers engaged in the ironworking industry must be welcomed into our union, and if necessary be given the opportunity to bring their skills up to our standards. I have heard it all about such workers, from “not paying your dues” to “buying a book” to “I am more qualified because I served an apprenticeship.” I agree receiving apprenticeship training gives a person a distinct advantage, but keeping out those who engage in the ironworking industry only serves to weaken our goal. It is this simple: If we have the workforce, we then are able to demand better wages and working conditions. Period. We must strive for more workers and work opportunities for our union.

I will encourage our members to be politically engaged. We cannot pin all our hopes on one political party. I served as the district council president in Chicago and spent time in our state’s capital and I could talk to democrats from the Chicago area and make great progress, but soon realized that to represent all ironworkers in our district council it was necessary to seek out and identify members of both parties to advocate for policies and jobs that benefit working people. Many of our members have beliefs opposed to various core principles of one party or another. Our union’s main concern in supporting political candidates should be, “Do you stand with working families and do you support policies promoting good paying jobs?” Let’s leave the wedge issues that divide us out of our conversations. We will continue to encourage voter registration as a core principle of our International constitution. Regardless of party, it is essential our members vote in all elections, from the union level to the highest office in the land. Think of the influence we have by engaging in electing those who spend our tax dollars.

I expect a few things of our members. You will need to hold people accountable. This includes other members, leaders of local unions and district councils, as well as the International officers and staff. Make sure the safety of our members is the first and last thing on your mind; it is in the best interests for both our union and our signatory employers. Make sure our contractors are profitable so we can share in the profits through wages and benefits. Be proud of your skills and your union and recognize our differences of ethnicity, gender and ironworker trade are a part of our success, and that each and every member is equally important to our union.

Now that I have explained my beliefs, let me tell where I have gained much of my experience up until now. I worked three summers in several Chicago area fab shops before I started my apprenticeship in Local 63 in 1980. I graduated to journeyman in 1984, and not long after became an instructor and a certified welding inspector for the apprenticeship school, and later worked training in the National Ironworkers Training Program for American Indians. I have served in various offices in my local union up to business agent and was elected as a delegate to represent my local union at four International Iron Workers Conventions. I went to work for the International in 1999, hired as a general organizer by General President Jake West serving the National Training Fund and the Ornamental Department. I then became the Chicago District Council president and a general vice president on General President Joseph Hunt’s executive council. In 2011, General President Walter Wise appointed me to the office of general secretary and later that year; I was elected at the International Iron Workers Convention. For four and a half years, I have worked with all local unions on behalf of our members. I have sat on state boards back home dealing with elected officials, labor leaders and business leaders, presented jurisdictional arbitration, both locally and nationally, served as a trustee on health and welfare, pension, IMPACT and the National Training Fund (NTF), and worked under and learned from three general presidents. All of this has led me to be at this place here and now.

As we go forward, I will lead and I will listen. I will be guided by the constitution, executive council and our membership. Ultimately, decisions will be made I know will not be agreed on by everyone. I will not be afraid to make the decisions needed to help our union grow and prosper on behalf of all our members.

If you know me personally, you know how proud I am of my family — my deceased father Ray, my mom Patricia, my brother Ray (wife Maria), my kids Lisa (husband Matt), Traci and Eric, my granddaughter Stella, and wife of 32 years, Judy.

I would like to thank my family for all their love and support over the years and for their understanding when work takes me away from home.

I will stand shoulder to shoulder with each member to make 
our union a leader in the construction industry.

Eric Dean, 1051885
General President

Action Alerts