Ollie B. was the president of our Steelworker local from the time I was hired in 1973 until Trinity Industries bought Brighton in 1987. The local was established in 1970, so there could have been a union president before him. But I don’t think so. I believe he was the only president we had during those first 17 years. But people were upset over having to take the dollar an hour cut in wages, and Ollie was the easy target. He was accused of all kinds of fraud in his dealings with Trinity. I sincerely doubt any of the charges, simply because Trinity was so big they didn’t need to resort to such things. So he retired right after we signed a new contract with Trinity in April.
This led to a string of different presidents. Ollie’s vice-president, Tom B., took over. Tom was Ira B.’s younger brother. He was a welder. He had been involved with the union for years as a committeeman. But he was a part of the old regime, and nobody seemed to like him as president any better than they did Ollie. Which was too bad, because Tom B. was as honest a person as you’ll ever meet. He retired around 2010. But he only lasted a year as president. Tom resigned.
The man he had appointed as his vice-president, Richard D., became president. Richard worked in shipping. He was a smart-aleck, and had a reputation for being a backstabber and a closed door wheeler-dealer. In fact his nickname was Monty Hall – as in Let’s Make A Deal. So he only lasted a year, also. Richard was later promoted to foreman. But he didn’t last very long. He was fired during one of our slowdowns. I don’t know what happened to him since.
By then it was time for elections. Harry S. was elected president. He had begun working in shipping, then had transferred to inspection. He served as a committeeman during Ira B.’s and Richard D.’s brief terms. Harry had a sterling reputation for honesty. Everybody trusted him. But he only served one term. I think he was too nervous for such a stressful position. Once he was no longer a union officer he, like Richard, was promoted to foreman. Although he lasted longer, also like Richard he was fired when our work load slacked. The last I heard Harry was working at Home Depot.
Brent C. was our next president. He started out at Brighton as a spinning lathe operator. When the company got rid of that outdated piece of equipment, he transferred to the flanging department. From there he went to inspection. Brent had replaced Harry S. as committeeman, once Harry became president. He was much more confrontational than Harry. He loved a good fight. After his term ended he was promoted to foreman. This was the third time for this to happen, so it became a running joke. Being union president was a stepping stone into the office. But like the two before him, Brent was a foremen for only several years before being fired. Foremen drop like flies at our plant. He went to work at a small machine shop somewhere around Cincinnati.
Joe D. was our next president. He hired in as a flanger operator, and that was all he ever did. He had taken over as committeeman when Brent became president. Like Brent, Joe was confrontational and loved to argue. That is a prerequisite for being a committeeman. After his term was up he remained on a flanging machine, no foreman position for him. So he broke the mold. He quit not long after. He went to work as a prison guard. He claimed that was a lot less stressful than operating a flanging machine. Around 2010 he died of a heart attack while playing a round of golf.
Our last union president was Dave C. He was machinist in our fabrication shop. He was the longest-serving officer in our local since Ollie B., serving as both committeeman and treasurer before becoming president. I worked closely with him when I was financial secretary of our local. More about that in another post. But Dave was easy-going and highly-skilled as a machinist. He was president when Enerfab bought us in December of 2002. They had their own union, Boilermakers. So our Steelworkers local was shut down and we all became Boilermakers. Dave transferred to Enerfab’s plant in Cincinnati. He likes it there, and is still working.