Pressley recalls challenges rewards

What higher calling can there be than to serve your fellow man? This is an honorable profession.

IVP Jim Pressley

IVP Jim Pressley

SOMETIMES UNION LEADERSHIP is a trial-by-fire experience. That was the case for Jim Pressley in 1987, when he filled the unexpected vacancy of president of Local 900 just two weeks before contract negotiations were set to start. “We worked without a contract for 16 months,” he recalled. “We implemented an in-plant strategy [staying on the job while conducting solidarity measures] and ultimately prevailed.”

That experience would become important when Pressley faced other challenges after joining the International staff as an International Rep and Assistant Director, and later Director, of Collective Bargaining Services.

Between 2002 and 2006, Pressley worked with local lodge leaders and the Brotherhood leadership to fend off union-busting efforts by Joy Mining Manufacturing, Celanese Corporation, and Wabash Alloys.

Local 483 (Alton, Ill.) recovered more than $1 million in back wages after Joy Mining Manufacturing prevented members at the firm’s Mount Vernon, Ill., plant from returning to work following a legal strike. The strike had been triggered by the company’s failure to bargain in good faith. Unfair labor charges filed by the union were upheld.

Local 454 (Meredosia, Ill.) and Local 1284 (Wabash, Ind.) faced their own crises with Celanese Corporation and Wabash Alloys, respectively. Both employers locked out their union employees. They also engaged in such tactics as hiring replacement workers and union-busting security firms, and videotaping union members and their families. The resolve of the lodge members, International leadership, legal and financial support, and political and public pressure enabled both local lodges to maintain union representation at the plants.

International President Newton B. Jones wrote at the time, “Much of the credit for [these settlements] has to go to Jim Pressley. He spearheaded the union’s effort; he was the one on the ground, day after day, leading the charge and dealing with the pressures. He did a remarkable job.”

Pressley said he is proud of the way the union pulled together during all three of those crises.

He added that one of the biggest highlights of his career was his involvement with Industrial Sector Operations. “President Jones allowed me to play a role in the fostering and operation of the ISO. We’ve had three very successful conferences now. I think the payoff will be that Industrial Sector members will have a more prominent voice in the Brotherhood.”

Pressley said that his long involvement in organized labor has taught him that “without a union, life as we know it would be much different. There’s got to be someone standing between the workers and management, especially organized management that collaborates against workers.”

He added, “What higher calling can there be than to serve your fellow man? That’s a tremendous responsibility. This is an honorable profession.”