New York, NY – Iron Workers Local 197, Stone Derrickmen and Riggers, will celebrate their 150th anniversary this Saturday, September 16th, at Leonard’s Palazzo in Great Neck, Long Island. The union, which is the oldest in the country, has a proud history beginning in the Knights of Labor, which pre-dates the AFL-CIO, before unions existed. The union began “seven months after Lincoln was shot,” says William Hayes, who is Financial Secretary/Treasurer/Business Manager at the Local, and a former President of the union.
Hayes’ own history with the union bears out his words that the union is a “father-son union,” with the craft handed down through generations. “My whole family was in the Iron Workers,” he says. “My father, several uncles, and my brother.” Some families have five generations in the Iron Workers, he says. He himself began the trade working in the summers in 1989 while he was still in school, then became an Apprentice, then a Journeyman, a Foreman, Superintendent, followed by the Presidency for six years, and his current positions.
The Stone Derrickman and Riggers local, just one of five Iron Workers unions in New York City, practices a specific trade within the Iron Workers. The workers work on walkways, granite pavements, and buildings, and concrete wall panels, among other tasks. “No one really does what we do. We’re very skilled and very well trained,” says Hayes. Their members’ craftsmanship is evident in the city, as they have worked on iconic structures. “We built the Brooklyn Bridge in 1869,” says Hayes. “Other big landmarks include the Empire State Building, the WTC Memorial, and Lincoln Center.”
While the total number of Iron Workers in all the unions number about 10,000 in New York City, Local 197 has about 500 total members – 350 active and 150 retired. “We’re a small specialized craft union,” says Hayes. It is affiliated with the New York City Building and Construction Trades Council, as well as with the Westchester and Long Island Building and Construction Trades Councils.
“On this 150th anniversary,” says Hayes, “we will be celebrating not just our union but all the unions in New York.”