Release time : 2015-06-12 10:37:32
SKF machine operator Rick Weilacher will be honored with this year's George Ritzer Labor Award, which recognizes outstanding leadership in the Jamestown area labor community.
The award will be given to Weilacher at 4 p.m. during Jamestown's Labor Day festival, which will be held at Bergman Park on Sunday from noon until the fireworks display at 8:30 p.m.
Weilacher, who has worked at SKF for more than 40 years, currently serves as president of Local 338, United Auto Workers. He has been active in the labor union for years, serving as steward from 1977 to 1980, committeeman from 1983 to 1996, Bargaining Committee chairman from 1996 to 2002 and then moving up to the position of president.
''He's for the workers,'' said George Spitale, a city councilman and a past recipient of the George Ritzer Labor Award. ''He's loyal to the labor movement, and everything he does is in the best interest of his workers.''
A lifelong resident of the Sugar Grove area, Weilacher has been praised for his work representing the union's 535 active members and its 573 retired members while the U.S. manufacturing sector has met relentless competition abroad.
''He has represented his membership in a very admirable way, especially in these tough times,'' said Jack Rudy, Jamestown Central Labor Council president. ''Especially in a day of globalization ... that is a wonderful feat.''
Weilacher was also praised for his leadership by ensuring the right people are at the negotiating table representing Local 338 members, according to Rudy.
''Rick has put some good people around him with the negotiating team, and that's a sign of a good leader,'' said Rudy, another past recipient of the labor award.
Rudy joked about how he could go on and on about Weilacher's accomplishments if time permitted it, but Weilacher himself remained humble, saying there were probably others more deserving of the award.
Weilacher reflected on how things have changed in the 40 years he has worked at SKF and the 30 years he has labored for Local 338. Things have gotten tougher, he said. In past years, labor unions would simply fight for whatever they could get from their employers. Now, though, they have to also ensure the company remains competitive so the jobs don't get lost.
''It's gotten a lot tougher. Now we have to try to compete with other companies. ... Now we have to look at it from the company's side,'' Weilacher said. ''That's the biggest change I've seen.''
In addition to his union work, Weilacher was also one of the original members of the Employee Assistance Program and is active in the United Way.
The George Ritzer Labor Award is named after George Ritzer, a local labor leader who served as Jamestown Central Labor Council president for more than 20 years, leaving the post only two years before his death in 1980.