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February 2024

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Gil Bateman

We regret to report that retired Director of the Government Department Gil Bateman died on Nov. 17. He was 84.

"He was polite, you'd say mild-mannered if you didn't know him well, with his Southern accent," said Government Department Director Paul O'Connor. "But when he showed up, you knew the cavalry was here. He was direct, and he knew his business."

Brother Bateman was born in Washington, D.C., in 1939 and moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., as a child. He graduated from Boca Ciego High School in 1957 and then joined the U.S. Navy.

Bateman served as an electronics engineer in the Submarine Service from 1958 until 1962, his daughter Shelly Kehrer said. He served on the USS Clamagore (SS-343) and USS Chivo (SS‑341), according to retired Navy Chaplain Jim Sandman.

Bateman was initiated into Charleston, S.C., Local 916 in 1968 and went to work as an electronics mechanic at the Charleston Naval Shipyard.

Two years later, Bateman became a charter member of Charleston Local 2301, and he was a shipyard steward and elected financial secretary the same year. Bateman was appointed as a delegate to the Charleston Metal Trades Council and served on the local's grievance and organizing committees.

At its peak in World War II, the yard put nearly 26,000 people to work, and together with the naval base, the Charleston facility grew into one of the Navy's largest East Coast facilities. It handled repair work on frigates, destroyers, cruisers, sub tenders and submarines and served as home port for at least 80 ships and submarines.

In 1973, Bateman was appointed to be international representative in the Government Department by International President Charles Pillard to assist local unions in shipyards and Army bases with organizing and grievances.

At about this time, Bateman began his service on the Federal Prevailing Wage Advisory Committee, which advises the Office of Personnel Management on the wages earned by hundreds of thousands of federal employees.

He also served on the Department of Defense Wage Board. Together, the two committees helped determine the wage and benefit rates for millions of contract workers on federally funded projects.

In 1975, Pillard reassigned Bateman to the International Office in Washington, D.C. He took on a vast portfolio representing U.S. and Canadian federal, provincial, county and municipal government workers, as well as metal trades and shipbuilding members in the public and private sectors.

In 1990, International President J.J. Barry appointed Bateman director of the Government Department. In addition to all his other duties representing federal, state and provincial workers in the U.S. and Canada, he acted as liaison for the international president with the AFL-CIO's Metal Trades and Maritime Trades departments.

O'Connor met Bateman when he was director and O'Connor was chief steward at the Metal Trades Council at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the massive facility in Maine.

They were most involved in the years after September 11, O'Connor said, when the Bush administration pushed to curtail federal workers' bargaining rights, but sold the policy as part of the War on Terror. "[The policy] was supposed to make the government more agile to fight terror, but it just stripped away rights. It's what they wanted to do before 9/11, but now they just had this new ax handle they wanted to beat us with," O'Connor said. "He was there to help us develop strategies to oppose those initiatives, and you couldn't pull anything over on him."

In 2005, Bateman retired.

Bateman said he was particularly proud to have fought for and won legislation improving collective bargaining rights at the Interior and Energy departments.

Brother Bateman stayed in the D.C. area after retirement, watching his family grow from three daughters to include five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His wife, Rita, passed in 2000.

He loved music and enjoyed playing his guitars, all 54 of them — two electric, the rest acoustic.

"All the different woods have different sounds, and he just loved that," his daughter Shelly said.

The officers and staff, on behalf of the members of the IBEW, send our sympathies to Brother Bateman's friends and family.


Gil Bateman