Jim LaMantia, who describes himself as a former �hothead,� now works to keep the peace on construction sites throughout St. Louis as the executive director of PRIDE of St. Louis Inc., a group representing owners, contractors and the building trades.
When LaMantia started in the construction industry in 1968 as an ironworker he says there was a lot of hostility between the unions and management and also between the diff erent unions. �There were jurisdictional fi ghts everywhere,� LaMantia says.
PRIDE, founded in 1972 as what is thought to be the first labor-management group in the country, stands for Productivity and Responsibility Increase Development and Employment.At first, PRIDE was not well received among the union members, says La-Mantia. �The union element in St. Louis wasn�t very positive. I was just like everyone else,� he says. �Thank goodness we had people that were foresighted enough and had the wisdom to see that we were going to bring down the construction industry.�
Eventually PRIDE made progress at bringing labor and management together. Collectively, they eliminated 300 work rules to bring more efficiency to the construction sites. The industry stakeholders also began meeting monthly to address stress points.
LaMantia was elected the business manager for the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental & Reinforcing Iron Workers, Local 396, in 1999. He joined the PRIDE executive board in 1999 and was named executive director in 2005.
�The message that is being delivered now is so positive compared to when I started in 1968. There was no message. It was just chaos and confusion,� he says. �Now what we have is leaders on the union side and the contractor side embracing each other.�
Initiatives underway by PRIDE include workforce training, minority workforce diversity and safety training programs. In addition to monthly meetings, La-Mantia also often holds luncheons with workers on job sites in St. Louis. �I try to drive home the positives; we need to try and sell St. Louis and increase market share,� LaMantia says.
Naturally, however, project owners, contractors and union labor still get into disagreements while on the job. But PRIDE helps to break any stalemate that comes up, says LeRoy Stromberg, chief operating officer of Alberici Corp, an employee-owned contractor in Overland, a suburb of St. Louis. �It is nice to have a third party supported by both groups. PRIDE helps to get both parties talking together through the issues very quickly,� he says.
In addition to noting that he spends a lot of time in meetings, LaMantia compares his position as executive director of PRIDE to a firefighter putting out fires. Before any �smoke� turns into a raging fire, he wants to make sure PRIDE is involved, making sure that everyone concerned, including owners, management and labor, are talking before a dispute turns into a work stoppage. �Cooperation is absolutely demanded,� he says.