Local 773 member Barbara McElmurry honored at Illinois Black History Month Celebration

“The Union is only as good as the people in it,” said Barbara McElmurry, paraprofessional member of Laborers’ Local 773 and recent honoree of the Outstanding Achievement in Workforce and Labor award at the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office Black History Month Celebration in Springfield, Ill.

Barbara has been a member of Local 773 for over 25 years. Joining LIUNA was important to her because she saw a need for people to be represented. “It’s a commitment of service, knowing that you’re living to make a difference in someone’s life,” she shared. “I believe we are to help each other grow. We’re not in it just for profit, but for personal growth.”

Tory Woods, Local 773 Field Representative, has been a direct recipient of Barbara’s commitment and talent to helping people grow and be their best. “She challenges her members to know the ins and outs of their contract and labor laws,” said Tory. “The energy she gives off is infectious.”

Barbara’s love for knowledge and education is a frequent theme she returns to, and helps form the bedrock of her work with the community. In addition to her work with Local 773, she has been with the Meridian School District 101 for approximately 40 years, where she aids those in special education. Barbara was instrumental in bringing the first Head Start Program to the southernmost counties in Illinois. This required many trips to Springfield, Ill., and Washington D.C., advocating for her community and its needs. In addition, she was involved in the first organizing campaign for her bargaining unit at Meridian school.

“If you’re going to be a part of something, you should know about it,” she said when asked about her passion for educating Laborers on their contracts and the labor laws. “That way you can know what your input is, and how you can make it better. I help them because that way they know what it means to be a part of something, working together as a unit.

“Get out there and work for what you believe in, but first make sure you know what you believe in,” she added.

For Barbara, it all comes down to service. She no longer drives, but still goes to her job at Meridian School daily with help from her granddaughter. She states that the children still need her and that’s what keeps her going, her love for her students. When she isn’t aiding at school, you can also find her cooking and preparing food for those in her community, organizing toy drives and collecting food for the pantries and helping those in need.

And service is what keeps her engaged with Local 773, as well. “What gives me the push and the drive is knowing I’ve got a duty. It’s not a chore; I’m doing what I love,” she said. “Why am I going? Because I have a job, yes, but I’m going to try and make a difference today.”

Her service is widely recognized in the Local. “Mrs. McElmurry is the highest example of what a LIUNA member should strive to be,” said Jerry Womick, Local 773 Business Manager. “She’s not only a strong advocate in her workplace as Union Steward, but a leader in her community, making a significant impact in the lives of so many.”

When she retires, Barbara plans to continue being a part of LIUNA in some fashion. For her, it’s about a commitment to serve, to help people grow. “Whatever you do, do it with love,” she said.

As long as LIUNA is filled with people like Barbara, with a focus on caring and mutual support, it will be a strong Union indeed. Congratulations to Ms. McElmurry on her well-deserved award!

Award photo

Left to right: Local 773 Business Manager Jerry Womick, Illinois State Treasurer Michale Frerichs, Barbara McElmurry, and Local 773 Field Representative Tory Woods