Labor Guild holds 40th annual Cushing-Gavin Awards dinner

BOSTON -- Labor and business leaders and award recipients were paid a surprise visit by Governor-elect Deval Patrick Dec. 7 at the 40th annual Labor Guild’s Cushing-Gavin Awards dinner.

The governor-elect had inconspicuously entered the hall from one of the doors leading to the service kitchen and joined the head table in time to contribute to the more than 1,000 voices in a grand ballroom at the Boston Sheraton singing “God Bless America.”

Greeted by raucous applause, Patrick warned the attendees, “You folks better settle down, or you’ll never get to eat.”

The incoming governor said he wanted to show his respect for the mission of the Labor Guild. “I am honored to be with you all today,” he said.

The Cushing-Gavin Awards dinner was a unique opportunity to celebrate the fruitful collaboration between management and labor, each taking stake in each other, he said. “We must remember the words of the late Sen. Paul Tsongas: ‘No goose, no golden egg,’” said Patrick.

The Labor Guild began in the 1940s in the spirit of traditional Roman Catholic labor activism under the guidance of priests, who were both spiritual leaders and instructors in the practical arts of organizing and protecting workers.

In the beginning, the guild was open only to Catholic union-members who pledged to combat Communism and racketeering. But in the early 1960s, these restrictions were lifted and the current era began of what is now called the “Guild Family.”

Cardinal Cushing entrusted the work of keeping the guild growing and relevant to Father Mortimer H. Gavin, SJ, a professor of labor economics, at both Boston College and the College of the Holy Cross, in 1962.

In a 1967 letter to Cardinal Cushing, Father Gavin proposed “a dinner with some ‘class,’” with awards, named for the cardinal, to be presented to the men and women who had shown distinguished performance in their roles as managers, labor leaders and auxiliary professionals contributing to the spirit of labor-management cooperation. In 1982, the fourth category, legal counsel, was added and the dinner was renamed to honor Father Gavin, who died in 1984 and was succeeded as chaplain by Father Edward F. Boyle, SJ. Father Boyle had been Father Gavin’s assistant since 1970.

This year’s Cushing-Gavin award recipients included physician and medical professor L. Christine Oliver who received the Auxiliary Professional Award for her advocacy of workplace safety, specifically at the Big Dig and construction projects of the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA).

Attorney Ira Sills, who for 10 years was an instructor at the Labor Guild and is a partner at Segal, Roitman & Coleman, received the Legal Counsel Award.

The executive director of the MWRA, Frederick A. Laskey, received the Management Award.

The Labor Award was given to Jay Hurley, the president of the New England District Council of Iron Workers and the former president of the Iron Workers Local 7, based in South Boston.

Hurley began his acceptance speech by greeting the more than 100 friends and family from South Boston cheering him and pronounced himself a “man of labor.”

“Everything I have -- everything I have in my life, I owe to Local 7,” he said.

Hurley said the award was more than recognition of past deeds, but the beginning of a heightened responsibility to work for labor and management consensus.

Also present at the awards banquet was then-Bishop-elect John A. Dooher. Before offering a final blessing, Bishop Dooher said he felt he carried the spirit of both men whose names are on the awards.

Bishop Dooher said he was a member of the last class ordained by Cardinal Cushing.

Also, he said, when he was growing up in Dorchester, Father Gavin, who was a relative of his mother, would visit his house for long conversations over tea and Irish bread. “There was something about Father Mort that told you justice was important to him.”