By: Lynda Hinkle
A week before the November 2016 election, the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19’s President and Business Manager Gary Masino was in the unusual position of being briefed on how to handle a matter of national security; specifically a visit by Vice President Joe Biden to Local 19’s Union Hall overlooking the Delaware River in Philadelphia.
The Union leader had come out strong for Hillary Clinton and, just five years into being President of the Local, he’d made enough of a national name for himself to draw the Vice President.
But in January of 2017, the new President Donald Trump – though he was not initially supported by the union – also recognized Masino’s influence by including him in an exclusive, hour-long meeting with union leaders. It was one of his first official meetings as president.
Masino recounted the president’s ambitious vision for job creation. Citing his background as a developer, Trump expressed his desire for a robust infrastructure improvement plan and to bring auto, industrial, and steel manufacturing back to the United States. He told the labor leaders that he felt that labor has long been excluded from the White House, and that he intends to change that.
“He told us, ‘you don’t think I’m a labor guy, but in 4 years you’ll see I’m a labor guy,’ ” Masino recalled and also noted that President Trump asked the labor leaders to submit ideas for potential infrastructure projects.
Terry O’Sullivan, general president of LiUNA , who also endorsed Hilary Clinton, said their union “felt great” about the White House meeting. “We’re looking forward, not backwards,” he said.
Masino cautiously agrees, noting the President’s assurance that he has no intention to harm labor.
Along the campaign trail, Trump endorsed right-to-work legislation saying, “I like it better because it… is better for the people. You are not paying the big fees to the unions. The unions get big fees. A lot of people don’t realize they have to pay a lot of fees. I am talking about the workers. They have to pay big fees to the union. I like it because it gives great flexibility to the people. It gives great flexibility to the companies.”
However, in this meeting, Masino said the President reassured the labor leaders that right to work legislation is not on his agenda. Despite those reassurances, Masino urges rank and file members to get active to protect labor under the new administration.
“They need to get involved at all levels and trust in their leadership, and if their leaders aren’t inspiring them they need to take a hard look at that,” Masino said.
He is emphatic that the true source of labor’s strength is its membership, but recognized that it is the labor organization’s responsibility to encourage its members to stay engaged with politics and policy discussions.
Masino puts his time where his mouth is when it comes to community service. He was honored to be appointed to the Delaware River Port Authority [DRPA] Board in 2016 by Governor Wolf, after having previously served on Philadelphia’s License & Inspection Review Board and zoning board.
He says he wants to “make sure we are spending the money responsibly” and return the DRPA’s focus to “infrastructure projects that would be great assets to Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” like expanding the PATCO speed line in both states.
Other than the DRPA, Gary serves as a General Vice President of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers. He is the current President of the Pennsylvania State Council of Sheet Metal Workers; President of the Mechanical Trades District Council of the Delaware Valley; and Vice President of the New Jersey State Council of Sheet Metal Workers.
He is also serves as an Executive Board Member of the Pennsylvania State Building Trades and the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO; as a member of the Metropolitan Association of Presidents and Business Representatives; and Co-Chairman of the Health and Welfare Funds, Joint Apprenticeship and Training Council, Scholarship Fund, and Sheet Metal Industry Advancement Committee of Local 19. Somehow, he also manages to be a husband and father of five.
Asked what his goals are for Local 19 for 2017, Masino continues to echo his message of community participation: “With the help of my Business Agents and Organizers, who I feel are the best team of officials on the street these days. I intend to grow my union and its membership and to get more involved with local and statewide politics.”
He has already taken concrete steps toward that goal. After he was elected just over 5 years ago, Masino began growing the union’s political action fund and placing greater emphasis on political involvement. He notes that apprentices are required to devote twelve days each year to political activism and community service, and that “election day is a paid holiday for us, so I can put 500 to 1000 people anywhere.”
Masino is proud of the progress Local 19 has made, saying “our goal is to grow and get better, and we’ve moved the needle a lot in a short time. Politics is a very dangerous game. We intend to excel by working hard and staying loyal.”