What was and has always made my job great is the guys—the Boilermakers I’ve worked with.
Everyone gets a nickname in the Boilermakers. So, when Bill Garmon joined his father as a union Boilermaker in 1978, it made sense that he took on the nickname “Little Dusty” to complement his father’s “Big Dusty” moniker.
“When my dad retired, I kept on as Dusty,” explains Garmon, who is a member of L-455 (Muscle Shoals, Alabama) and an international rep.
Dusty Garmon’s road to becoming a Boilermaker is a familiar one. He graduated from high school and didn’t know what to do next with his life.
“I still don’t know what I want to do,” he jokes.
He tried a few semesters of college, but it just didn’t interest him. As the son of a Boilermaker who was also the son of a Boilermaker, welding, rigging and the Boilermaker life run through his veins. So, when he abandoned an ill-fitting college track, his father took him to Local 455 to meet the business manager. Pretty soon, “Little Dusty” Garmon was on his way to Gallatin, Tennessee, for a job with 75 other new Boilermaker apprentices.
“That first job was intimidating,” Garmon recalls. “I had never done any rigging work up in the air, and they put me up at the top hanging sheets in the precipitator!”
He spent the next 29 years on the tools, travelling up and down the East Coast as far as Canada and working west all the way to Wheatland, Wyoming.
“There’s a sense of achievement—that you’ve made something or you’ve fixed something, and it’s working now because of you,” he says of the construction and plant outages he worked. “But what was and has always made my job great is the guys—the Boilermakers I’ve worked with. During outage season, you’re with them 10 to 12 hours a day, six to seven days a week. You work together, you eat together, you stay together.”
Now, as an international rep since 2007, his Boilermaker brothers and sisters continue to drive him to do his best work—whether he’s handling grievances, solving problems or working on contracts—like the recently-inked unprecedented 10-year contract with employer Tennessee Valley Authority.
Garmon shuns the spotlight. He will only reluctantly admit he is a good problem solver. It’s a modest admission. He has a reputation for working behind the scenes, listening to different perspectives, recognizing opportunities, almost stealthily building consensus and bringing people together.
“Dusty has the ability to talk to anyone, and he can build bridges with anyone,” confirms Warren Fairley, IVP-Southeast Area. “There’s never been an assignment he was asked to do that he didn’t jump in with both feet. It’s true in his work on the Tennessee Valley Trade and Labor Council and in his ability to work with the representatives of both labor and management to further labor’s goals.”
Fairley credits Garmon for much of the success of the 10-year TVA contract agreement.
“He is able to see that if something isn’t a good deal for both sides, it’s really not a good deal,” Fairley continues. “He’s been able to put that into action by making sure the needs of labor are protected while the TVA has the tools they need to operate and be efficient.”
That has also proved out in Garmon’s efforts to secure Boilermaker training space. Garmon worked with TVA to obtain a 15,000 square-foot building in Hartsville, Tennessee, at an abandoned TVA nuclear power center project. In addition to giving Boilermakers a building, TVA is donating a crane to use for rigging training.
“We’re going to train Boilermakers, National Transient Division Boilermakers, and anyone who wants to be a Boilermaker and learn how to weld,” Garmon says. “TVA told me, ‘If we give you a building, it’s only going to make you better—which will make us better.’”
Asked about his secret for negotiating successful solutions, Garmon shrugs it off, saying “I just keep my mouth shut and smile.”
Whatever his secret really is, it works.
“When Dusty is working on an idea or solving a problem, I know all I need to do is stay out of his way and he’s going to accomplish it,” says Fairley.