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Dick Mantia, 82, Co-Founded Pioneering St. Louis Union-Management Pact in 1970s

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In 1972, union construction work in St. Louis was in turmoil, with the industry facing hundreds of restrictive labor work rules, frequent disputes among craft trades and disrupted projects.

ENR reported that "after just 12 days into construction of an Anheuser-Busch modernization project, a jurisdictional dispute erupted despite a nonstrike agreement among all unions. Work stalled for five months." Richard Mantia, then executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building Trades Council, and Alfred J. Fleischer, managing partner in a local contractor, realized the need for a new labor-management approach.

Mantia, a key architect of a regional union-contractor pact then unprecedented in the U.S., died in St. Louis on June 4 at 82. The cause was leukemia, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Mantia, a former union asbestos worker, and Fleischer formed PRIDE, short for “Productivity and Responsibility Increase Development and Employment.” Members also included groups representing owners, engineers and architects.

"Dick Mantia was one of the most, well respected labor leaders of his time," says David Zimmermann, a PRIDE board member and president of Local 36 of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association. "He knew how to listen to people and facilitate a resolve for
their problems.

PRIDE gained national attention in the industry and beyond. ENR cited Mantia for his efforts in 1975 and in 1977, as did the U.S. Labor Dept. in 1982. The effort spawned creation of similar labor-management groups in cities such as Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

Fleischer died in 2004.

Mantia was PRIDE co-chairman until 1992 and, later, an adviser and emeritus board member.

“What early meetings between Al Fleischer and Dick Mantia may have lacked in etiquette ... was made up for in integrity and forthrightness aimed at holding everyone responsible for increasing industry productivity,” said ENR in a 1997 editorial. "At that time, future development in St. Louis hinged on the industry's willingness to change in ways that would restore productivity, cost efficiency and employment stability. Truly, the signing was a challenge to the status quo."

Even so, PRIDE was unable to prevent a two-month-long strike by 300 concrete drivers in St. Louis in 2000, and it played a role in a locally controversial move to offer the strikers a $500 bonus to return to work.

Officials also told ENR that PRIDE could not prevent area work, particularly in heavy-highway, from going to nonunlon contractors.

“PRIDE had no tangible power, but Mantia and Fleischer made certain peer pressure from the organization convinced unions and management to resolve differences peacefully and away from the jobsite,” Douglas R. Martin, executive vice president of the National Electrical Contractors Association in St. Louis told ENR. “Mantia somehow managed to inspire trust and calm from both [sides], particularly during periods of conflict.”


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