A legendary labor figure whose union members built many of New York's modern landmarks has been named as the 2018 Irish Labor Leader of the Year.

Thomas A. Callahan, President and Business Manager, of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 15 says building New York "is what we do".

"Whether it above the ground or below it, on a tower crane or in the tunnels, the members of Local 15 work side by side with the other building tradesmen to build soundly, to build safely and to build Union," he says. "Local 15 builds the highways, the bridges, the tunnels, the skyscrapers, housing, schools, airports and subways."

Sponsored by the 'Build America' union LIUNA — whose General President Terry O'Sullivan is famed for his tireless support for a United Ireland — the Irish Labor Awards are scheduled for the Big Apple on Friday, September 14.  

LIUNA leader Terry O'Sullivan.

LIUNA leader Terry O'Sullivan.

"These labor leaders share not only Irish blood but a strong belief in the labor movement as the pathway for better lives for all working men and women. They know that we can never back down, never back up, never retreat, and never surrender in the ongoing struggle for workers' rights, civil rights and human rights," Terry O'Sullivan told last year's awards event in New York.

Guest of honor at the annual gathering will be Sinn Féin veteran Gerry Adams, a long-time advocate of closer links between the labor movements in Ireland and the US, who stepped down from the presidency of Sinn Féin in February of this year.

"Attending the Irish Echo Labor Awards in New York is an annual highlight for me," Gerry Adams told the Irish Echo.

"It gives me great heart to meet and pay tribute to those who are defending the interests and rights of working people at a time when too many on both sides of the Atlantic are faced with increasing threats from zero-hour contracts, low-wage economics and attacks on healthcare and housing provision."

Ten heroes of the labor movement will be honored at the gala alongside Thomas Callahan. Among them will be James F. Coyne of Chicago who leads the 6,100-member Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union Local 130 UA. A celebrated figure in the Irish American community in the Windy City, Jim Coyne has served as General Chairman of the city's famed St Patrick's Day Parade and served as Vice-President of the Irish Fellowship Club of Chicago — the city's largest Irish American organization.

Current Fellowship Club Chair Chris Kozicki says Jim is the perfect choice for the coveted Irish Labor Leader accolade.

"Jim has been a tremendous champion of labor in Chicago and a peerless ambassador for all things which celebrate the continuing contribution of the Irish to this city," he said.

"It's fitting that he should be named alongside these giants of the Irish American labor movement."

Jim Coyne

Jim Coyne

Meanwhile, the capital of Irish America will also be recognized by the inclusion of Boston's Kevin Monahan among the honorees. A treasurer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Boston, Kevin Monahan has been to the fore as Business Agent and Organizer of IBEW Local 103 in the city's transformation over recent years.

A limited number of tickets are still available for the Irish Labor Awards in the Edison Ballroom, New York, NY, from 6pm on Friday 14 September by contacting Tracey Quilligan at the Irish Echo, 1-212-482-4818, email tquilligan@irishecho.com

This article was submitted to the IrishCentral contributors network by a member of the global Irish community. To become an IrishCentral contributor click here.

Thomas A. Callahan, Presdent and Business Manager, of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 15.