"Honorable toil” is a favorite expression of Bob Ryan Sr., executive director of the Plumbing Council of Chicagoland since 1991 and a plumber by background. The perpetually jovial Ryan uses it at every opportunity to describe the work of his Council constituents and, by extension, everyone who turns a pipe wrench for a living.
A Catholic Church deacon, Ryan frequently gets called to invoke the Lord’s blessing upon various business and social events. I’ve heard him do this at least a dozen times, and never without paying tribute to the honorable toil of the plumbing trade.
The Council is an industry promotion organization funded by contributions from agreements with UA Local 130, the nation’s largest straight-line plumbing union with some 5,600 members throughout the greater Chicago area. Make no mistake about it, the Council is a partisan organization aimed at promoting the interests of Local 130 members and signatory contractors. However, it takes the high road in doing that. You don’t hear Council leaders publicly bashing their nonunion counterparts or anyone else. Instead, they use relentlessly positive messages, charitable works and political clout to improve the economic lives of the people they represent.
Building Name RecognitionThe extraordinary publicity reach of this organization includes:
CharityEach year the organization dedicates time and money to at least a dozen Chicagoland charities that benefit children, the elderly, the mentally impaired or poverty-stricken. Highlights include an annual Christmas Party at the Misericordia Home for developmentally disabled citizens. Another Christmas season event provides entertainment, lunch and a generous allotment of toys for more than 800 children who go to school in the vicinity of Local 130’s union hall.
A Council program called “Plumbing for Seniors” operates in conjunction with Chicago's Department on Aging to fix plumbing systems of low-income senior citizens.
CloutNot just anyone can toss a couple of tons of dye into the Chicago River without ending up in the gun sights of a CPD SWAT team!
Each year, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley proudly struts the length of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and flanking him to the left and right will be Bob Ryan and other Plumbing Council officials. You can rest assured no city or state official will fail to return a phone call from the Plumbing Council, and its lines of communication extend deeply into the federal government as well.
Chicago has a reputation for rough and tumble politics, but a lot of that owes to news media sensationalism. Truth of the matter is that Chicago is known as “the city that works” because of widespread cooperation among political interests that bridges ideological, racial and class divisions. This attitude is best expressed in the Plumbing Council’s own words, describing its endeavors with a local charity known as the Mercy Home:
“Forget political correctness. Forget political parties. Forget liberal and conservative. Forget the color of your skin. Providing food, clothes and shelter for these kids is a cakewalk. The question is, ‘How many can we mend and fix?’ Now, let’s talk sense!”
A recent invocation by Bob Ryan at a council function asked the Almighty’s blessing to guide them in using their honorable toil to “leave the world better than before.” Their activities show they know that the Lord helps those who help themselves.