Labor Guild presents annual Cushing-Gavin Awards

The Labor Guild held its 57th annual Cushing-Gavin Awards Dinner on Dec. 1, continuing a long tradition of honoring representatives of both the labor and management communities who have helped create compromise between the two groups.

The dinner, hosted by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 103 in Dorchester, was the first in-person Cushing-Gavin Awards ceremony since 2019.

"Having both management and labor being given these awards shows how integral cooperation is. Especially in their line of work, so that everyone comes out happy regardless of what dispute it is," said Labor Guild Boyle Fellow Bruce Tran in a Jan. 8 interview.

As a Boyle Fellow, Tran is responsible for visiting sites of labor disputes and seeing what the Labor Guild can do to help settle the matter. The Labor Guild, founded in 1945 with the sponsorship of the Archdiocese of Boston, provides support and labor rights education to working people.

Tran said that Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven A. Tolman, who received the Labor Award, was "the star of the night."

Tolman has been president of the state AFL-CIO since 2011, a job he took after serving seven terms in the Massachusetts Senate. During his time as a senator, he helped increase working families' access to healthcare and education. According to Tran, he provided "a vital safety net for families in need."

Prior to his political career, Tolman spent 23 years working for Amtrak. During that time, he was the local chairman of the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks and was active in the Transportation Communications Union and International Association of Machinists. He was elected to the State House in 1994 and became a senator in 1998. He was assistant majority leader when he resigned to become AFL-CIO president.

During his time as president, Tolman pushed for several successful legislative reforms, including a higher minimum wage, the strongest sick time laws of any state, and a "bill of rights for domestic workers," which includes minimum wage, overtime pay, and time off.

The Management Award went to Nicole I. Taub, chief of staff and senior advisor for policy and legal affairs for the Office of the Police Commissioner in Boston. According to her biography on the Labor Guild website, Taub is responsible for "high-level administrative tasks of the Office of the Police Commissioner, including operations, strategic development, legal affairs, implantation and evaluation, inter-bureau and inter-agency cooperation, inter-governmental relations, and personnel management."

Tran said that she received the award in part for her work to improve relations between government officials and the public.

"She keeps things in good standing between them," he said, "and negotiating what it is that they need to keep things running and smooth."

The Management Attorney Award went to James W. Bucking, a partner at the Foley Hoag LLP law firm in Boston. Bucking has focused his 32-year law career on labor relations and collective bargaining, with experience in healthcare, energy generation, transportation, hospitality, janitorial, and retail sectors. He has negotiated dozens of agreements between labor and management, particularly in the clean energy sector in recent years. In 2021, he bargained an offshore wind project labor agreement with the Massachusetts Building Trades Council, the first of its kind in U.S. history.

The Labor Guild also uses the Cushing-Gavin Awards to recognize those who mediate disputes between labor and management but are not on either side. This year's Father Edward F. Boyle Award went to arbitrator and mediator Gary D. Altman. The award is named after the Jesuit priest who was executive secretary of the Labor Guild for 37 years until his death in 2008. His work earned him the nickname "Boston's labor priest."

Altman, a native of Norwood, attended Catholic University Law School. He became a commissioner to the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission (which later became the Division of Labor Relations) in 1980.

Tran said that Altman "laid the foundation" for the Division of Labor Relations.

Also in 1980, he helped pass Proposition 2 1/2, which expanded collective bargaining for firefighters and police officers. After that, he worked as a mediator for the Joint Labor Management Committee for Police and Fire. He became a full-time mediator and arbitrator in 1993, working throughout New England. He even paid a visit to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba to arbitrate a dispute involving school teachers who once worked on the base.

Altman has also worked with the American Arbitration Association, served as co-chair of the Boston Committee on Public Sector Labor Relations, and was on the Advisory Committee for the Division of Labor Relations.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley provided a video introduction thanking the award recipients and dinner attendees for their continued support of the Labor Guild. Father Bryan Hehir, an ex-officio Labor Guild board member and Secretary for Health and Social Services for the Archdiocese of Boston, delivered the invocation.