WASHINGTON (PAI) - Mark H. Ayers, President of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department since 2007, died suddenly and unexpectedly on April 8 in Washington. He was 63.
Ayers, the son of a miner from St. David, Ill, a small town in the state's southern coal country, was a longtime leader of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 34 in Peoria, Ill., before ascending to national union office. He was unanimously elected president of the department in early 2007, but frequently returned to his home area in Peoria in the ensuing years.
Ayers, a Navy aviator during the Vietnam War, not only led the building trades but was instrumental in starting the AFL-CIO's Veterans Caucus, which he chaired.
Ayers was also a past president of the West Central Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council.
Mike Everett said about his friend and colleague, "In the building trades, we work things out and keep the customers' needs in front of us, Mark provided a lot of leadership for that and he was respected both by his fellow Business Managers and the contractor community. The labor movement was his life and it really mattered to him to do a good job for his members, even of our small local."
Ayers' death shocked and saddened his colleagues.
"I am deeply saddened by Mark Ayers' passing. We join his family in commemorating this extraordinary leader and friend," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said.
"As leader of the BCTD, Mark was a true trade unionist and a valiant warrior for change. His death is a loss to us all," said Laborers President Terry O'Sullivan. Mark was a passionate and effective champion for strengthening the voice of construction workers and their families in government, on the job and within their own communities.
"Mark truly has left the labor movement and our country a better place than the way he found it," O'Sullivan said. "The advancements he helped make for the rights of workers throughout North America will live on for generations to come...He was a good man and a great leader and I am proud to have called him my friend and my brother."
"President Ayers has Steelworkers recognition for his leadership and commitment to the construction trades members for whom he fought with a legacy of integrity during these challenging times," said Steelworkers President Leo Gerard. "He joined us in raising our voice in unity for infrastructure investments to create family-supportive jobs on projects that supported America's future. He set a standard as a trade unionist for us all to make the world a better place for everyone, but especially for those who struggle daily.
"It has been a privilege for the AFT, and for me personally, to work with Mark and the Building and Construction Trades Department in their efforts to rebuild America, create jobs and strengthen communities," said Teachers President Randi Weingarten. "Mark's vision was clear and his commitment steadfast. His life's work stands as a true testament to his dedication as a trade unionist."