Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Third District International Representative Michael D. Welsh has been appointed the district's international vice president, effective June 1.
He fills the unexpired term of Third District International Vice President Donald C. Siegel, who retired. International President Lonnie R. Stephenson's selection of Welsh was unanimously approved by the International Executive Council.
At 18 Welsh was initiated into Johnstown, Pa., Local 459 in 1976 while working as a temporary employee at Conemaugh Generating Station, about an hour east of Pittsburgh. After a brief layoff, he resumed permanent work in 1977 as a conveyor operator in the plant's coal handling division.
Welsh credits his involvement with union leadership to a particularly terrible boss he had in that first job, whose mistreatment of employees prompted him to accept the role of steward in 1979. "Looking back, I guess I should send that guy a thank-you note," he said.
The next year, following a lengthy strike, Welsh ran for Local 459's executive board and won the first of two terms. He also decided to go back to school. In 1984, he graduated from the Western Pennsylvania Union Leadership Academy, and in 1989, he graduated with honors from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Arts in economics. During that span, he also served as his local's vice president from 1986 to 1989.
Welsh was elected president of the local and appointed assistant business manager in 1995. Then-business manager Joe Sanna, Welsh said, was a great mentor to him - "a strong union guy who always stood up for his principles."
It was seven years later, in 2002, that another mentor emerged to recommend Welsh for the international staff. Siegel had just settled into the job when he asked then-International President Edwin D. Hill to appoint Welsh to his staff. The two had worked together on the Pennsylvania State Electrical Workers Association, where Welsh served as president and still serves as secretary/treasurer.
"I owe a lot to Don," Welsh said. "He's been a great example for me and given me a lot of opportunities in this Brotherhood. This job is an awesome responsibility, and I hope I can do it justice."
Welsh served as the political coordinator for the Third District and for the state of Pennsylvania, fighting right-to-work and prevailing wage attacks. He also spent time servicing local unions and helping international representatives in the field by providing information for negotiations and bylaw changes.
"It's been a rewarding job for the last 15 years," he said, "and I'm looking forward to learning more and working for an even larger group of members in this new position."
Like Siegel before him, Welsh plans to keep laser-focused on growing the Brotherhood, putting organizing among his top priorities. He also plans to continue pushing the Code of Excellence in all branches and to regularly remind members of the importance of politics and elected officials to their day-to-day lives.
"These people have enormous sway over our ability to organize, the amount of work we have, and our ability to put food on the table for our families," he said. "We need to pay attention and hold elected leaders accountable, and I plan to make sure we're doing that across the district."
The Third District includes the states of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.