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April 2013

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Rick Tira

Fifth District International Representative Rick Tira retired March 1 after more than three decades of service to the IBEW.

A California native, Brother Tira moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1970. Looking for work after being discharged from the U.S. Navy, where he was trained as a nuclear power electrician, his stepfather suggested he check out the IBEW union hall at the Pascagoula Shipyards. "He was a union tradesman at the shipyard and told me the IBEW was the way to go," he says.

Tira was initiated into Pascagoula Local 733 in 1974. An outspoken activist at work, he was asked by the chief steward to serve as one of his assistants. "I got a badge and a 'How to be a Steward' pamphlet and got to work," he says.

Politically active, he served as chairman of his local's COPE committee. In 1987, he was elected business manager.

"Pascagoula is a busy place, and there was always something going on," he says. As business manager, Tira was responsible for jointly bargaining with the 13 other shipyard unions that made up the Metal Trades Council, AFL-CIO.

In 1997 he was appointed International Representative by then International President J.J. Barry. His primary task was organizing — internal and external. "We're in the middle of the right-to-work Deep South, so we always have to keep an eye on making sure we organize members at places with contracts," Tira says.

His main focus was on professional and industrial organizing, helping to win representation for more than 300 workers at Howard Industries, a lighting plant in Laurel, Miss.

"Being a labor activist in the South, you are faced by political opponents every direction you turn," Tira said. "But it's worth it for the good things unions bring workers."

Tira says he looks forward to getting back into some of his hobbies, which include amateur astronomy. A life-long science buff, he says he is considering returning to school for a degree in physics or astrophysics.

He and his wife, Wanda, have one daughter, Michelle Tira, who is also a Local 733 member, and four grandchildren.

On behalf of the union membership, the officers and staff wish Brother Tira a happy, healthy and enjoyable retirement.


Rick Tira