A decade after taking over the ironworkers’ union at a particularly low point in its history, General President Joseph J. Hunt, 68, is stepping down, expressing confidence that the union now is one of the most “transparent and progressive” in the building trades. Replacing him—as of Feb. 1 in an expected succession—will be Walter Wise, general secretary since 2008. The union has 125,000 members, according to a spokesman.
Hunt took over the top post of the Washington, D.C.-based International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers in 2001, several months after the resignation of his predecessor, Jake West, who was under a federal probe for allegedly using union funds to pay for personal expenses. Hunt, union treasurer at the time and a former union district council president in St. Louis, was not involved.
In his acceptance speech then, Hunt referred to “troubling revelations and disturbing truths” about the activities of West and other former union officials (ENR 8/27/01 p. 11). Two years later, West was sentenced in federal court to three years in prison and fined $125,000 for embezzling union pension money.
Hunt was challenged by an Ohio union official for the presidency, but he later won praise from federal officials for posting the union’s financial disclosure forms on its website. He says he will remain chairman of Washington-based Union Labor Life Insurance Co. which had also faced ethical issues before he joined its board in 2006.
Hunt says he will continue to work with the Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust, a labor-management unit launched during his tenure that seeks to increase union market share.
Wise, 59, is formerly president of the union’s mid-Atlantic district council and studied engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg. He is challenging union leadership to double market share in 10 years.