Chicago Local 18007’s Mike Konrath will be retiring from Peoples Gas after 31-years of service. He started February 20, 1990 and will be retiring February 22, 2021. His contributions to the local over his long career have been monumental.
“Mike played an instrumental role in setting up and making whole our PEACE Team,” says Local 18007 President Tim Jaroch. “In his facilitator role, he had an immensely positive effect on safety out in the field. He took the role and made it his own, showing us all the leader that he is!”
PEACE Team facilitator
Chief Steward Sean Gaurige, who first worked with Konrath on a two-man crew, will be taking over from him as the PEACE Team facilitator, says, “Mike created the culture of safety that we have now. Coming from the street department, having ‘been there and done that,’ he brought knowledge and experience that really hit home with the members.”
The local’s Planning Effective Actions Controlling Exposures (PEACE) process centers safety in everything the local does by connecting front-line workers with union safety facilitators.
‘No name, no blame’
“We want to jump ahead of something before it turns into a safety issue,” Gaurige explains. “If we see an unsafe exposure happening, we stop it at the field level before an accident occurs. Our policy is ‘no name, no blame.’ Coming from another union employee, with no discipline involved, it works. We want to make sure everyone goes home safely.”
The company’s response to COVID-19 is a recent example of how the PEACE Team works to get out in front of things. Working with management, the team became the avenue for communicating the dangers of the virus with union members. “Coming from us, members listen. Coming from management, they may not,” Gaurige says.
The PEACE Team has a coordinator in each shop and the company pays them to go out and observe their fellow-union members to make sure they are working safely.
The PEACE Team’s symbol is two hands shaking. “To me what that means is the company and the union shaking hands to do everything we can to make everybody safe.” Gaurige adds, “We’re always bumping heads with management, but when it comes to safety, we agree.”
In addition to making the PEACE Team a success, Konrath also played a huge role in the Commercial Drivers License training that the union does in-house. “This training was made possible because of brothers like him, looking to keep our local union strong,” Jaroch notes.
Thanks to the UWUA’s Utility Workers Military Assistance Program (UMAP), most new Local 18007 members are veterans. “Giving back to someone who gave for us, it feels good to train them. And we owe a lot of that to Mike,” Gaurige, who is a CDL instructor, says.
“The loyalty and hard work that Mike has displayed through the years can never be put into words. His shoes will be impossible to fill,” Jaroch concludes. “To say he will be missed would be an understatement! Mike is our family; our brother and he will always have a place in Local 18007. Best wishes on your retirement and good luck on your next adventure!”