The Labor-Management Council of Greater Kansas City honored the Greater Kansas City United Way, attorney Mike Fitzgerald and discussed politics with Dave Helling at its 35th Anniversary Celebration and 15th annual Awards Dinner last night at Argosy Casino. More than 200 leaders from business, labor and government attended.
Photos from the event are available at left under 2014 Anniversary Celebration.
The Greater Kansas City United Way was honored with the Leadership in Labor-Management Cooperation Award. Presenter Sam Alpert, the 2013 recipient, noted that United Way has involved both labor and management in cooperative efforts for fund raising, fund allocation and community priorities. The organization’s board has long included key leaders from both management and labor, as has its key committees and the leadership of its annual fundraising campaign. “This honor really reflects what you do” United Way Senior Vice President Sean Wheeler told the audience.
Mike Fitzgerald, Michael D. Fitzgerald, P.C., has served as the LMC’s attorney since its early days, earning him the Service to the Labor-Management Council award. Fitzgerald has also provided, often pro bono, advice and assistance on a range of issues from governance to issues involvement. A surprised Fitzgerald expressed support for the LMC’s mission and urged attendees to read an article in the celebration’s program about the Rev. Frank Murphy, S.J., and the group’s founding (see below). Award presenter Terry Akins, LMC co-chair and IBEW Local 124 business manager, noted the importance of his counsel on both legal and other matters.
Helling, Kansas City Star multimedia reporter, compared the state of politics and the state of labor management relations. He noted that a century ago, enormous struggle ensued as labor and management clashed. Over time, for the most part, the two sides have evolved so that common ground can be found to avoid strikes and mass firings, he pointed out. Women received the vote, child labor was banned and democracy was expanded through cooperation and conciliation. “Our country could learn a great deal from where labor and management were 100 years ago and where they are today.”
Today’s politics seems unable to find a basis for compromise on almost any issue, Helling lamented. For example, in Missouri the desire for Medicaid expansion and a tax cut could form the basis of a deal. A decade or two ago, that would have happened, he said, but now neither looks like it can be accomplished. As labor and management have moved to better understanding over the past century, our politics has gone in the opposite direction.
Audience members asked Helling how the political atmosphere could be changed. He noted that the shift from mass media, where Walter Cronkite and newspapers framed the debates, to social media and cable have fractured the debate. “There is no Cronkite today” and newspapers, while they will survive for awhile, are no longer read by young people.
Helling is well known for his “truth watch” television news segment where he dissected the accuracy of television political ads. But such an approach no longer works because highly-paid consultants used micro targeting and direct mail to send individually-tailored, cleverly distorted messages media often never sees. The key is for voters to work harder to learn the facts about issues and candidates. Politics “doesn’t have to be hard homework, but it can’t be playtime either” he said.
The former television and now newspaper reporter noted his own past union memberships: Mason and Plaster Tenders Local 555 during a summer and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists during part of his television career. Helling said he hoped that “the people on this room tonight can serve as a model for political culture. If labor and management can do it, surely politicians can too.”
Bob Jacobi, LMC executive director, noted that the event drew both Democratic and Republican elected officials. Among the officials attending were Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander; Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders; Kansas House member Tom Burroughs; Missouri representatives Jeff Grisamore, Kevin McManus, Bonnaye Mims and Sheila Solon; Kansas City Council members Jim Glover, Melba Curls and John Sharp; Jackson County legislators Theresa Garza Ruiz and Dan Tarwater; Unified Government Commissioner Mike Kane; Kansas City Board of Public Utility member Jeff Bryant; Smithville School Board member Greg Chastain and Jason Hodges, representing Kansas City Mayor Sly James.
The gathering re-elected Scott Hoisington, Turner Construction Co., as Co-Chair and elected Sam Alpert, Construction Users Council, as Vice Co-Chair. Alise Martiny, Greater Kansas City Building and Construction Trades Council, was re-elected Secretary and Don Greenwell, Builders’ Association, as Treasurer. Tim Bell, Western Missouri and Kansas Laborers District Council; Rosana Privitera-Biondo, Mark One Electric Co., Inc.; KC Borden, National Electrical Contractors Association; Brian Deitz, JE Dunn Construction Co.; Allen Dillingham, Builders’ Association; Ron Johnson, Teamsters Local 541, and Lindsay Walker, Service Employees International Union Local 1, were elected to the Board of Directors.
Recent graduates of the LMC’s Mid-Level Leadership Program were also recognized: Kelly Bradley, Kansas City Power & Light Co.; Matt Johnson, Bank of Labor; Amanda Stinger; and Aisha Woods, city of Kansas City, Mo.
The LMC’s annual Craig Whitaker Memorial Golf Tournament was announced for July 21 at Oakwood Country Club.
Event sponsors included, Anniversary Level, Builders’ Association and Power Partners, and Awards Level, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, Cigna and JE Dunn Construction Co.
The celebration remembered the Rev. Frank Murphy, S.J., an LMC co-founder and retired Rockhurst University professor of industrial relations who died recently. A memorial mass for Fr. Murphy will be held May 7, noon, at Rockhurst University’s Mabee Chapel, Massman Hall. The following article about Fr. Murphy and the LMC’s founding appeared in the event program:
Fr. Murphy, LMC Founders Succeeded
A few weeks ago we mourned the death of comic film maker Harold Ramis. One of his best known films was Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, in which the main character repeats the same day over and over again.
Some of us older Missourians are experiencing our own version of Groundhog Day as the“right-to-work” debate has been revived here, last played out in 1978.
We are more acutely mourning the recent death of The Rev. Frank Murphy, S.J., and his connection to 1978 and the “right-to-work” looms large.
Fr. Murphy, Rockhurst University professor industrial relations, was asked in the mid-1970s to help a group of labor and management leaders, particularly Bill Dunn, Sr., to greatly improve their relationships. The early 1970s marked great progress for Kansas City--construction of the Truman Sports Complex, KCI, Kemper Arena, the GOP national convention (more deja vu) among other successes. But those projects were created among much strife between labor and management, mirrored by similar disputes in manufacturing and service industries. So Fr. Murphy utilized his leadership skills and relationships to bring together labor, management and Rockhurst to formalize their efforts.
Unfortunately, their efforts collapsed when a “right-to-work” initiative petition made the Missouri ballot and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, a partner in the budding labor-management group, voted to support the issue. That angered their labor partners and the fledgling effort stopped. Missouri voters subsequently defeated the initiative by a nearly 2-1 margin.
But Bill Dunn, Fr. Murphy, Rockhurst President the Maurice Van Ackeren, S.J., and LMC founders Bob Reeds, Meyer Goldman and Jim Monroe did not give up. Fortunately, not long after the “right-to-work” debacle, a fresh opportunity for cooperation arose. The Missouri legislature had ignored a requirement to pass a bill to comply with federal environmental laws, jeopardizing hundreds of Missouri construction and industrial projects. Quickly the core group of labor and management leaders got together again and visited Jefferson City. Shocked legislators, seeing such cooperation so soon after the bitter ballot issue, moved with lightening speed to pass the needed bill. That momentum led to the LMC’s formalization and to it being housed at Rockhurst.
Fr. Murphy played a critical role in LMC’s revival, and shepherded its growth to hiring staff, starting a leadership education program and building an infrastructure for success. His leadership and foresight, along with that of the LMC’s other founders and their successors, made possible the LMC’s now 35 years of fulfilling its mission of enhancing collaboration and trust between labor and management while making a community impact.
The organization they founded and built has not only survived recessions, shifting political winds, significant economic changes and changing leaders, but has thrived. These leaders did their jobs so well that when the “right-to-work” debate resurfaced, the organization didn’t fall apart. In fact the Board of Directors unanimously voted to oppose “right-to-work” and both management and labor have worked to preserve the balance of their relationships.
We will greatly miss Fr. Murphy, a true gentleman, an outstanding scholar, teacher and leader. His legacy, though, and the power of labor-management collaboration, has survived not only him but the misguided efforts to interfere with labor-management relationships in Missouri.
Fr. Murphy can rest in peace, as the principles he advocated and implemented will live on.
The Labor-Management Council of Greater Kansas City is a nonprofit association based at Rockhurst University with more than 80 company, union, government and nonprofit member organizations. Its mission is to enhance collaboration and trust between labor and management and the community. For more information contact [email protected] or (816) 501-4565.