Saturday was Workers Memorial Day. Earlier last week, I had the honor of attending the memorial service for New York’s fallen construction workers. Sitting there with my labor family, I couldn’t help but remember another brother we lost this year…My dear friend and former president of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, Mark Ayers.
Mark was the quintessential “builder.” He built coalitions, consensus and a great movement for workplace fairness. Mark was also a uniter who believed in the power and richness of diversity.
Mark stood proudly on the side of working people. He believed that dignity and respect belonged to everyone— no matter where you came from or what job you worked. His vision for the trades was one where any person, from any community and any background, could participate and benefit from the good jobs the construction industry can provide.
“Values on Display—Every Day.” That was Mark’s vision for the Building Trades. But that was also Mark, and how he lived.
Mark also understood that unions are the way to a better life—the way to restore the middle class, and to resurrect the American dream. He imagined a revitalized labor movement—built on the idea that we are stronger when we all work together. That in solidarity, there is strength.
Mark changed the minds and touched the hearts of so many people in and outside of the labor movement. He never lost sight of our cause. And he never lost faith in the American worker.
So today, I was honored to pay a very special tribute to one of our own by inducting Mark Ayers into the Labor Hall of Honor.
Indeed, it is one of the highest honors we can bestow on heroic leaders in the labor movement. The Hall serves as a reminder not just of our labor history, but also of our continuing responsibility to the American worker. It is a place where we can learn from our past and draw strength for a better future—even in the hardest times.
Mark joins a group of trailblazers that include heroes like Cesar Chavez . . . Frances Perkins . . . Mother Jones . . . Samuel Gompers . . . George Meany and John Lewis. And I’m so proud that the next time visitors enter the Labor Department, they’ll see Mark Ayers in the Hall of Honor where he so clearly belongs.
Mark used to say: “This is our chance. We’re getting our country back.” He was right. It is in Mark’s spirit—and in his memory—that we press forward and continue re-building this great nation.