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Laborers Union Local marks its 100th anniversary

Members of Local 81 of the Laborers International Union of North America listen as U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky helps dedicate their new union hall in Valparaiso in 2014.

Laborers Union Local 81 will mark a century of representing some of the hardest workers in Northwest Indiana.

“Local Union 81 construction craft Laborers build your roads, bridges, buildings and maintain much of the hot firebrick on the blast furnaces and coke ovens inside the steel mills and power plants in Northwest Indiana,” said Mike Campbell, business manager. “Installing water lines, sewer lines, gas lines, hazardous waste removal, asbestos abatement, and pouring of concrete are just some of the work and projects that our skilled, trained and safe workforce of laborers do day in and day out, whether we are working inside of a 1,200-degree furnace tearing out with 90-pound jackhammers for 12 hours at a time or behind a hot asphalt paver on the highway, to working in sub-zero temperatures outside in the elements all winter. Our Laborers along with our signatory union contractors help build America every day.”

The union local started 100 years ago in Gary in 1918. It now represents 1,258 construction workers out of its union hall and training center facility at 3502 Enterprise Ave. in Valparaiso.

The union, which goes by LIUNA for short, bills itself as "the most progressive, aggressive, and fastest-growing union of construction workers, and one of the most diverse and effective unions representing public service employees."

National union officials, U.S. House Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, and state lawmakers from Northwest Indiana plan to mark Laborers Local 81's 100th anniversary with a ceremony at the union hall at noon on Jan. 25.

“Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s our membership had to go on strike and fight hard to get health insurance and pension benefits that many of us take for granted today,” Campbell said. “We owe them much gratitude for what we have today. I am very proud in my 37 years as a hardworking, blue-collar, union Laborer to work side-by-side with all of our brothers and sisters that work so hard as well and who gets up every day to lace up their boots pack their lunch box and go to work to make a difference for their families and all of the middle-class working families in Northwest Indiana and throughout America.”

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.