Take Five Five questions for our new VP and Regional Manager, Mike Hellstrom, Jr.
Laborers Local 108 member Mike Hellstrom assumed office in early November as LIUNA Vice President and Eastern Regional Manager. Most recently, he served as business manager of the Mason Tenders District Council of Greater New York, and he succeeds Raymond M. Pocino who announced his retirement after serving for 25-years as VP and 66 years as a Union Laborer. We sat down with Mike to find out more about him, week one, and what to expect in the future.
Q. One week down. Any surprises?
HELLSTROM: Not really. I think that’s because I came into the position ready to learn. We can’t know everything, but we should be willing to learn anything. Thankfully, I wasn’t thrown into the fire. Ray Pocino spent countless hours with me in preparation of the transition. Also, our local unions, district councils, and funds have been open and eager to work with me.
Q. You mentioned Ray Pocino. Can you talk a bit about what Ray means to LIUNA?
HELLSTROM: Ray is a everything you want in a Union leader and his legacy will live on for ages. We all know about LIUNA’s motto: Justice, Honor, Strength. We know the importance of solidarity, organizing the unorganized, and protecting our jurisdiction. These are our values and Ray added to them his standards of always trying to do better, never giving up, and never becoming complacent. He is an amazing man and a good friend.
Q. Will things be different under you?
HELLSTROM: Of course, it will be! We are different people with different styles. The challenges I face may also be different than what Ray faced. Things will change because life around us always changing. What won’t change is our mission: we will continue to provide the pathways to good middle-class jobs in construction and the industries we represent. We will support our members and ask our members to support each other.
Q. What makes LIUNA special?
HELLSTROM: Just look at the numbers. LIUNA members earn more than their non-union counterparts. We also don’t have the huge wage disparities based on race, gender, and ethnicity. If numbers aren’t your thing, look at our people. LIUNA members come from all walks of life. We celebrate our diversity and value unity more than uniformity. Our training and apprenticeship funds, our safety, organizing, and political action funds—best in the business. I have been a Union Laborer for 38 years and every day I am grateful for the opportunity.
Q. You ready?
HELLSTROM: I hope we are all ready! LIUNA members already know, we aren’t given anything. We work for it; we fight for it. Being ready for whatever comes our way is practically a requirement for being a union laborer. On the job, in boardrooms and legislative chambers, and on the streets and in our communities, LIUNA must always be ready for the next challenges and opportunities.