The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 03, 2012

Building trades’ Gleason, Retaskie vie for state rep seats

By The Building Tradesman

Building trades union members and their families who live in the 48th District (Genesee County) and 109th District (central Upper Peninsula) are asked to take the time and vote for two fellow union members in the statewide primary on Tuesday, Aug. 7. Both are on the Democratic ticket.

Patrick “Shorty” Gleason in the 48th District (portions of Genesee County) and Tony Retaskie in the 109th District (Alger, Luce, Marquette and Schoolcraft counties) have held leadership roles in the building trades and are now looking to serve the greater population.

Tony Retaskie, 53, is an electrician out of IBEW Local 1070 in Marquette, where he served as business manager from 1998 to 2002. That year, he left that position for his current position, executive director of the Upper Peninsula Construction Council, representing and promoting the interests of union trades and their contractors.

“On the campaign trail,” Retaski said, “the priorities I talk about are making education an investment, bringing in jobs, especially for young people, and making sure that people in rural, small towns feel that they’re being represented, that they’re being heard and not excluded.”

Retaskie has served as a trustee on the Marquette Area Public School Board, from 2002-2006 and then from 2008-2011. He is also a member of the Michigan Apprenticeship Steering Committee Inc.

“One of the things I tell people on the campaign trail is that I have experience working, not working, and as business manager, helping people to find a job,” Retaskie said. “So I have a lot to offer in terms of real-world workplace experience.”

Campaigning door to door, Retaskie said, “has been more than I expected. You meet people and talk to them, and a lot of times they just appreciate that you’re there to listen to what they’re saying. And every opportunity I have I tell them that I support jobs and the middle class.”

Having two labor leaders (he and 48th District candidate Shorty Gleason) from the building trades running at the same time for state House positions “is an historic event,” Retaskie said. “It’s so important for people in the building trades to vote in the primary. We’re looking out for their interests. People in the building trades can be assured that a vote for us is a vote for them.”

Patrick “Shorty” Gleason is a 40-year-member and past president of Iron Workers Local 25, Shorty retired in 2010 as president of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council. He has also served on the Mackinac Bridge Authority and on the Executive Board of the Michigan State AFL-CIO.

Gleason, 57, was elected in 2008 to the Genesee County Board of Commissioners, where he currently serves as chairman of the finance committee. He has also served several terms as Richfield Twp. Trustee.

“I don’t think you’re going to find any candidate in the state who has my experience in public office, and my ties to politics, labor and business,” Gleason said. “I have a proven relationship working with employers, utilities, contractors and contractor associations and the chamber.”

Gleason said on the campaign trail, “everywhere I go, I tell people that my top priority is jobs, and how do we get more of them.” He pointed to two stalled infrastructure projects, the Detroit River International Crossing and the Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline (which would bring water to Genesee County from Lake Huron) as major job creators that he would fight to get moving. “Let me get this straight,” he said. “Building that bridge over the Detroit River would create 10,000 jobs, and we can’t even get that done?”

“What goes hand in hand with the job creation is stopping the decline in wages,” Gleason said. “Everybody else is doing everything to keep the economy going, but big business keeps wanting more. When they keep driving down wages, it means less money for local businesses. Businesses close and people move. And when there’s less money for police and fire and all the public services, ultimately those services are going to be lessened or gone.”