Dennis Duffey, Secretary-Treasurer of the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council since 2009, retired on Sept. 1, ending a career in the building trades that spanned 45 years.
The state building trades executive board voted their president, former UA Local 776 Business Manager and former President of the Lima Building and Construction Trades Council, Mike Knisley, to replace Duffey as their next secretary-treasurer.
Mark Douglas Jr., President of the Tri-County Building and Construction Trades Council and Business Representative for IBEW Local 306 in Akron, was elected by the OSBCTC executive board to replace Knisley as board president.
Duffey, the IBEW Local 8 Business Manager from 1992 to 2007 and president of the Northwest Ohio Building Trades from 1997 to 2007, was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT) Ohio.
The non-profit arm of the state building trades helped create a bi-partisan building trades coalition in the state legislature, which has been key in maintaining Prevailing Wage and stopping So-Called “Right to Work” legislation from being enacted in Ohio.
According to ACT Ohio Executive Director Matt Szollosi, when Duffey became Secretary-Treasurer in 2009, he felt the OSBCTC did not have enough political strength in Columbus and he believed the building trades were in harm’s way politically. He also felt the OSBCTC could provide more services and value to the crafts across the state.
After conducting a national search, Duffey pushed for an organization model similar to that of Affiliated Construction Trades West Virginia. He and former Laborers Local 310 Business Manager John Kilbane, who served as President of the OSBCTC, went to work on selling the proposal to all the crafts.
ACT Ohio was created in 2010 and a year later, ACT Ohio and the OSBCTC staved off an attack on Prevailing Wage, when the Ohio House proposed a $3.5 million Prevailing Wage threshold.
Duffey’s work at that time with Senate President Tom Niehaus to reduce the threshold level proposal to $150,000 preserved Ohio’s Prevailing Wage law, which to this day, remains one of the strongest in the country.
“There is no question that Dennis has been absolutely instrumental in building a strong, bi-partisan building trades majority in Columbus,” said Szollosi. “His work with Tom and a number of Senate Republicans [in 2011] opened his eyes to the value of bipartisan support.”
“Ohio’s building trades have not been held harmless over the past 10 years because Republicans here are different. It’s because decision makers on both sides of the aisle are educated on the building trades’ business model and we’ve moved to become bi-partisan politically,” Szollosi contineud. “Nobody pushed harder for this than Dennis.”
Mark Douglas, who replaced Knisley as the State Building Trades Executive Board President, said working with Dennis was an honor.
“It wasn’t easy for him to be a trailblazer when we were all used to the status quo,” said Douglas. “It’s easy to look back and say it was a great idea, but he ran with it and did all the legwork. He was proactive instead of reactive.”
Douglas said it is impressive how many of the decisions made during Duffey’s tenure have worked out well to keep Ohio as a pro-building trades state, including the hiring of Szollosi as ACT Ohio’s Executive Director.
“Dennis really moved the needle for us in Columbus,” said Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary Dave Wondolowski. “When he was elected to the OSBCTC post, nobody knew us in Columbus. The formation of ACT really put us on the map. None of this would have happened without Dennis’ vision.”
Now, after giving so much to the building trades, Duffey is about to embark upon the next stage of his life.
A Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, Duffey is married to his wife, Kathleen, and they have
five children and 10 grandchildren.
During a retirement party held in Columbus on Aug. 22, Duffey said he is looking forward to spending more time with his grandchildren and enjoy his interests, which include golfing, fishing, history and gardening.