JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The longtime leader of the Missouri AFL-CIO is stepping down, and labor leaders across Missouri say his tenure was marked by great unity among unions and focused opposition to anti-labor policies.
Hugh McVey announced his intentions to step down in July a few weeks ago, citing health concerns and a desire to spend more time with his family. McVey, a longtime staple of Missouri labor and one of the most influential union voices in the Capitol, says he feels “extremely honored,” to have served.
“I’m honored I got to do this job, I’m honored I was able to be part of a fight in supporting working families,” McVey said. “And I believe our members will continue to support those working families across Missouri.”
Bob Soutier, President of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council, called McVey’s tenure as president “wonderful.”
“Not only is Hugh a friend of mine, but he’s been a wonderful president and an excellent leader for our cause,” Soutier said. “He’ll be sorely missed, but at the same time he has positioned them to be successful in the future.
Ron Gladney, longtime counsel to the AFL-CIO, said McVey’s toughest job was uniting unions representing vastly different individuals and interests.
“He has the unique ability to handle a complex job with divergent interests and maintain an extremely healthy family life,” Gladney said. “Those are qualities we can all aspire to.”
Gladney joined other union members in remarking on McVey’s reputation for uniting the various sects of the labor movement often at odds. As labor’s clearest voice in Missouri, it was McVey’s job to make sure construction unions, trade unions, industrial unions and public employee unions — all with different interests and strategies — worked together to protect their common needs.
“He has the most unique leadership role in labor compared to anyone else,” said Jeff Aboussie, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council. “The one thing people should mirror from Hugh is his ability to bring people together. It’s one of the most difficult jobs in labor working with legislature and executive and fellow labor members, it’s not something I envy.”
In the last decade or so, labor related issues like “paycheck protection,” “Right-to-Work,” and changes to prevailing wage law have become more popular among conservative politicians. Aboussie called this time period “one of the most trying in labor history,” and credits McVey for the so-far successful campaign against anti-labor policies.
“Working with Hugh McVey over the last two-and-a-half years has been an absolute pleasure,” Mike Louis, Secretary Treasurer of the Missouri AFL-CIO, said. “This has been a critical an challenging time for all of Missouri’s working families. Hugh’s political expertise and candor helped to instill in me a set of values that I will be able to use the rest of my life, both as a labor leader and as a human being. The labor movement will certainly miss Hugh in this role but I know he’s always in our corner as we continue the struggle for all workers here in Missouri.”
Louis is likely to replace McVey, labor leaders say.
“They’ll be in the very capable hands of Mike Louis,” Soutier said. “He’s absolutely been a success. If he were a pitcher, he’d have won every game he started. We’ve been facing Right-to-Work for 3 or 4 years and we beat them back.”