Robbie Hunter: We Were Lucky to Have Him
The head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, Brother Robbie Hunter, has announced his retirement. Since 2012, Robbie has been our tip of the spear in Sacramento, fighting on behalf of 180 local unions that represent more than 450,000 skilled workers, including 68,000 apprentices.
Prior to his state Building Trades role, he led the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building Trades Council and served as president of Ironworkers Local 433.
Robbie is a native of Belfast, Ireland, and he rarely lets a meeting go by without a reference to history or a reminder of the greater cause of working-class struggle. That might be because his life, worldview, and approach to trade unionism have been defined by struggle.
After all, the man is a descendent of a trade unionist named John Quinn, who was a close confidant to another early 20th century trade unionist — the Irish revolutionary legend James Connolly. So, you might say it’s in Brother Hunter’s blood to fight for workers.
Robbie dedicated much of his professional life to advancing the welfare of apprentices and journeymen alike. He rarely takes a podium without a recent MC3 or registered apprenticeship graduate at his side. Be they foster youth, previously incarcerated, or otherwise cast aside by society, through the Building Trades and because of Robbie’s leadership, they have taken their rightful place among us.
To his fellow trade unionists, he is known as an unapologetic advocate who always has their backs. To allies in labor, he is a strategic and reliable partner. To politicians and pundits, he is often portrayed as defiant and heavy-handed.
Well, in my opinion, the burden he shouldered for 20 years — ensuring the safety and security of hundreds of thousands of skilled and trained workers, apprentices, and their families — is massive. It requires a heavy hand sometimes, and a steady one at all times.
While Robbie’s legacy will no doubt be marked by his negotiating and political savvy, his true power came from being a good organizer. Few leaders could match his ability to corral the many interests of our affiliates and members up and down the state into one powerful voice and make that voice resonate in the halls of the capitol.
We all owe him a debt of gratitude. We also owe she or he who succeeds him our unified backing.
Realizing the struggle to put industrial workers at the table, build housing we can afford to live in, and protect the safety of our crafts on the worksite will mean continuing to organize our collective power and marching in lock-step when facing down employers and detractors. These are difficult times, but so long as we’re standing together, we can continue to organize power for working-class people.
On behalf of the officers, staff, and working members of the SF Building Trades, we wish Brother Robbie Hunter all the best. May the most you wish for be the least you get, Robbie!
The Results Are In...
On July 1, a unified group of officers were nominated unopposed and elected by acclamation.
Please join me in congratulating the following delegates as they prepare to take office and continue the 125-year tradition of promoting high quality, high value, and high standards for our members and their families: President Larry Mazzola Jr.(Plumbers and Pipefitters 38); Basic Crafts Vice President Ramon Hernandez (Laborers 261); Subcrafts Vice President John Doherty (IBEW 6); and Trustees Pat Mulligan (Carpenters 22), Danny Campbell (Sheet Metal 104), Dan Torres (Sprinkler Fitters 483), Charley Lavery (Operating Engineers 3), and Bart Pantoja (Glaziers 718); as well as Sergeant-at-Arms Greg Hardeman (IUEC 8).
A special thanks goes out to Vince Courtney Jr. for his service as vice president of basic crafts and Daniel Fross for his dedication as a trustee over the years.
On a personal note, I wish to express my gratitude to the many delegates, representatives, business managers, and officers who lent their support to me during the recent transition. I am proud to serve the members of our council and fortunate to have such dedicated trade unionists with whom to do the work.
Answer the Call. Involvement Is Power.
Our focus right now must be on capturing work and securing hours. While each project has its own design, build, and politics, each represents the possibility of enhancing the lives of our members and the communities in which we all live.
With our out-of-work list topping 1,500 in San Francisco, we must put our people back to work. To do so will require cooperation, hard work, and diligent leadership.
I am confident we will meet the challenge together. We will secure labor protections with every policy endeavor that lawmakers propose. We will bargain new project labor agreements to help our members get back to work. We will stimulate economic recovery for the city.
When your representative, fellow delegate, local union leader, or council officer comes calling for your assistance, please be ready and willing to answer the call. Our legislative strength will be a key component to winning good projects with commitments to the skilled union hand, and it will also be crucial in stopping any proposal that threatens to extend the downtown by excluding you.
Together we will see this through and emerge stronger.