"Class." "Dignity." "Integrity." "Decency."
Those were among the words used by business associates to describe Cement Masons Local 514 Business Manager Elvin Atkins, Sr. on the occasion of his July 8 retirement banquet. Elvin, 61, retired last month after serving as business agent and business manager for that local for an astounding 30 years.
"Elvin Atkins did his job well for 30 years, but being business manager was only part of the job," said Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Rep. Daniel Rauch. "He was involved in negotiating, bargaining contracts and dealing with trust funds. I tip my hat to him; it's a remarkable achievement."
Atkins became a cement mason on Jan. 1, 1964 and worked with the tools for six years. In 1970, he ran for business agent and won. In 1976, after the retirement of John Messico, Atkins stepped into the position of Financial Secretary-Treasurer/Business Agent of the local union, and his title later became business manager. He was always re-elected.
He expressed a great deal of pride in improving the pay and retirement plan for members, and has joked all along that he fought for the improvements because some day, he too would be enjoying those benefits. For him, that day has arrived.
"Integrity describes everything about Elvin Atkins," said Tom Hayden of trust fund administrator Paine-Webber. "Any of his fellow trustees will tell you that he was quiet at times, but he always let his presence be known, and he worked for the benefit of his membership."
OPCMIA International President John Dougherty lauded Elvin for his service both to the International Union and to Local 514. "He and the local went through some hard times, but the membership always had the foresight to elect a dynamic labor leader."
Added Ann Neydon of the legal firm Sachs Waldman: "Elvin had a deep understanding of what brotherhood and sisterhood are all about."
Atkins didn't forget his family during his tenure. He and wife Connie parented six children, and he always made time for them. "I remember my father coming home from work being bone tired, but never too tired to play with us," Elvin, Jr. told the gathering of well-wishers.
In retirement, Elvin will have plenty of time to do whatever he wants to do, but in the warmer months, he will probably be found out on the links. He has become an avid golfer in recent years. The only jurisdictional disputes he can expect to be involved in will be where to drop his penalty shots.
"The reason Elvin has endured for 30 years is that he always placed the needs of the membership above his own," said Greater Detroit Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Devlin. "Elvin, we wish you a healthy and enjoyable retirement."