IBEW Government Employees Director William ‘Chico’ McGill
Jan. 12, 1951-Sept. 27, 2013
September 30, 2013
The officers of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers sadly report that IBEW Government Employees Director Chico McGill passed away Sept. 27. With a generous spirit and an outsize personality, he was throughout his career an outspoken voice for workers.
“Chico had a deep well of passion for economic and social justice for workers that was recognized by everyone who knew him. He kept his sense of humor, but he never cut any slack to those who disrespected workers,” says International President Edwin D. Hill.
Before being appointed director in 2005, Brother McGill was business manager of Local 733, representing members at the Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. He played a major role in the labor movement of the South, helping to win the eight-year battle to organize Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans in 2000.
Sporting a full beard and pony tail, Chico McGill was widely known in the communities and the media surrounding Ingalls shipyard, which employs 10,000 and remains one of the largest work places in three states.
“We have lost a great leader of our labor movement and an even better union brother today,” says Matt Biggs, executive assistant to the President of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Employees, who worked with McGill for many years as a member of the Metal Trades Department.
McGill served on the executive board of the Mississippi AFL-CIO and as vice president of the Mississippi Electrical Workers Association. He was a board member of the Red Cross, helped coordinate the March of Dimes “Walk America” and joined other unionists building a homeless shelter in Moss Point.
McGill established a reputation as a tireless advocate of workplace safety at Ingalls and of the need to broaden the labor movement. He brought these themes together when he was asked by Fifth District International Representative James Anderson to teach OSHA inspections and health and safety at Avondale during the organizing campaign.
Under McGill’s leadership, Local 733 organized two city policy departments, other city workers and nursing home and cafeteria workers.
A native of St. Mary’s County, Md., Brother McGill entered the Job Corps at age 16 in Morganfield, Ky., where he obtained his GED and studied electricity.
McGill served as an avionics technician in the U.S. Marines during the Vietnam War from 1970 to 1974 aboard the USS Midway.
“Chico was probably the most ardent unionist I ever knew, working tirelessly for the IBEW. He was not only my boss and co-worker, but a dear friend. We will all miss Chico,” says Government Employees Department International Representative Dennis Phelps.
McGill’s track record on safety led him to participate in rewriting the National Safety Council publication “Protecting Workers Lives.” He worked on numerous projects for MACOSH, the Maritime Advisory Committee to OSHA.
He served as co-chairman of the Emerging Issues Subcommittee of the Federal Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, developing policy on pandemic preparations and other threats.
As a member of the Keys Committee of the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO and a co-founder of the Federal Workers Alliance, Brother McGill challenged politicians who sought to undermine the living standards of public employees through privatization and other schemes.
As a co-founder of the United Defense Workers Coalition in 2005, McGill helped to fight for the defunding of the National Security Personnel System, which would have undermined collective bargaining rights of DoD workers. The struggle met success as NSPS lost its funding under the Defense Appropriations Act of 2010.
Speaking out against the austerity measures of the federal budget sequester in August, McGill said, “Our members need to support Defense Department workers now. The men and women being furloughed today provide essential support to our soldiers, supporting their missions abroad and defending our families against threats at home.”
On behalf of our entire union membership, the officers and staff send our deep condolences to Brother McGill’s five children and six grandchildren.