|Building Trades President Mark Ayers Dies
We are saddened to report that Building and Construction Trades, AFL-CIO, President Mark Ayers died April 8 at the age of 63, a sudden blow to the labor community, where he was highly respected for his innovation, generosity and dedication to working families.
"I can't think of anyone who worked harder to build our common movement," says International President Edwin D. Hill. "His steady hand and activist spirit steered the IBEW and the building trades through some of the toughest times we've ever faced. He has left us much too soon, but his legacy will continue to be felt by future generations of working families. But more than that: Mark was my friend, whose kindness was felt by all. I will always be thankful for having the opportunity to work with a brother like that."
A 38-year member of the IBEW, Brother Ayers previously served as director of the IBEW Construction and Maintenance Department, a position he held for nine years.
An Illinois native, he joined Peoria Local 34 in 1973. He worked his way up the ranks, serving as treasurer and business representative before being elected business manager. A veteran, Ayers served as a U.S. Navy aviator for more than four years, including a tour of duty in the Vietnam War.
As business manager, Ayers co-founded the Central Illinois chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association — Local 34 Quality Connections, and served as trustee and chairman of the NECA-IBEW Welfare and Pension Trust Funds.
"Mark was a leader in labor/management relations and earned great respect from electrical contractors and labor leaders alike," says Local 34 Business Manager Mike Everett, who served as assistant business manager under Ayers for 10 years. "He also wanted labor to be recognized as a positive force in the community, helping to get our union involved in charity work, including Habitat for Humanity and other community activities."
Appointed Construction and Maintenance Department Director in 1998, Ayers brought many of President Hill's policies to fruition, including the Code of Excellence, a renewed commitment to high quality work that has been adopted by nearly all of the other building trades unions.
"He pushed the value of the IBEW Code of Excellence, always encouraging members to be up on the latest technology and recognizing the value of professionalism," says Construction and Maintenance Director Jerry Westerholm, who worked closely with Ayers for seven years.
Retired Special Assistant to the International President for Membership Development Buddy Satterfield says he remembers not only Ayers' intense dedication to the labor movement, but his friendship, grace and warm personality.
"He was probably the hardest working person I've ever met," he says. "At the same time he was always a lot of fun to be around. I know a lot of people said 'I've just lost my best friend,' when they heard the news of his passing."
Elected building trades president in 2007, Ayers' commitment to excellence went to making sure the 2 million-member organization remained the No. 1 choice for quality, skilled labor in the construction industry.
As president, he pioneered new labor/management models in the energy industry, including nuclear, oil and natural gas, while serving as the voice for construction workers and their families on Capitol Hill.
Brother Ayers was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future. He also served as the labor co-chair for the Helmets to Hardhats Program, on the Board of Trustees for the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, Chairman of the National Coordinating Committee for Multi-Union Plans, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union Labor Life Insurance Company and the Chairman of the Center for Construction Education.
Deeply disturbed by the decline of the middle class and growing power of greedy special interests, Ayers became a passionate voice for restoring the American dream for working families. In rousing remarks to the 38th International Convention last September, he said to great applause:
"I didn't spend nearly six years of my life during the Vietnam era protecting a country that I loved, to hand it over to a bunch of greedy right-wing bastards. And I know many of you in this room didn't either. I never imagined that my last battle could possibly be fought right here in my homeland, to protect the very values I fought for in faraway lands. But if it has to be that way, then I say let's get it on."
The officers and staff send our deep condolences to his wife Deborah, children, grandchildren and many friends.