By JoAnne Powers, July 6, 2016
The organized labor movement has been fighting for the rights of working people for well over a century, and Local 8 of the International Association of Ironworkers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin has just celebrated its own 115th Anniversary. Tony Mayrhofer, Business Manager of Local 8 wants the American people to know that decades of labor advocacy has helped all workers:
[Tony Mayrhofer]: “There’s a lot that’s gone on in the past 115 years. Workers at the beginning of the century were exploited by their employers to extreme levels, where unions needed to be formed to protect workers’ rights. As time has gone on, workers’ rights have been protected by the union whether you’re a union member or not a union member. Goes back to the old saying ‘a rising tide lifts all boats. When you have represented workers in the workforce, everybody benefits from it. It holds true today just as much as it did back at the turn of the century.
With ongoing attacks on labor rights in the 21st century, including the introduction of anti-union so-called Right-to-Work legislation and attacks on prevailing wage laws in the state of Wisconsin, Mayrhofer says that even today there’s much that the contemporary labor movement can learn from the history of Local 8 and the entire movement:
[Tony Mayrhofer]: “During Labor’s earlier struggles, we were very persistent, and we kept a very watchful eye on everything that was going on. I think that moving into the future, labor organizations need to continue to do that to prevent workers from being exploited. Over the past 115 years, safety has been improved dramatically. I feel that the unions have had a direct impact on OSHA safety standards. We wouldn’t have some of the things that we have today, such as a 5 day work week or an 8 hour workday. Our outstanding apprenticeship program provides free tuition to all the apprentices, where we’re able to get a highly skilled workforce into the work environment. We have an outstanding health care plan, an outstanding pension plan, and all of that was only possible because of the fight that labor has had to make things better for the workplace. And moving forward, I think the only way that we’re going to be able to keep that is if everybody remembers where our start came from. And that we need to make sure that we support the people who have supported us and continue to pledge to support us.”
200 of Local 8’s members and 300 guests and family members recently celebrated the anniversary with a family-oriented party and pig roast. Mayrhofer says the event saw the workers of Local 8 in high spirits and looking to the future:
[Tony Mayrhofer]: “Everybody had a great time, and I’m looking forward to another 115 years.”