District Lodge 19

where it all begin

Member Spotlight James Spalo

Member Spotlight James Spalo

District Lodge 19 is proud to spotlight Brother James Spalo

Brother Spalo began his career with the Union Pacific, at the Priviso Yard in Chicago, IL, April of 2000. Brother Spalo started his union involvement by accident in 2007 at Local Lodge 478. Jim readily admits he was one of those members who always asked the President of the Local Lodge the day after the union meeting, “What happened in the meeting, last night?” The President, would become angry and after hearing this numerous times, strongly and politely suggested that I should attend a meeting and see for himself. He went, and continued to go and by the third meeting, he suddenly had a position on the Executive Board as the Conductor Sentinel.

 

A 16 years Air Force veteran, he retired when President Clinton was downsizing Military forces and offered early retirements. Returning home to the Chicago area, he began the task of finding a job to support his family. He bounced around until he heard that the railroad was hiring and they had great pay and benefits. The work hours were no stranger to Brother Spalo and his family as they were similar to that of the military.

 

Spalo Children 1

Brother Spalo and his wife Mary have been married 29 years, have three children, two daughters and a son. Brother Spalo said, “Mary is my support system, love of my life and partner, always has been and always will be.” Our anniversary was July 15th. Mary sits surprised at the comment! But Brother Spalo says with a smile it’s the truth. Our oldest daughter Kimberly, is currently a student and works at Ikea; Catherine is an RN and our son Joseph is in the Air Force, stationed in Europe. The spoiled member of the family is the 10 year old dog named Sidney.

 

Brother Spalo asked why he was chosen to be interviewed as the District Lodge 19 Members Spotlight Union Member, he stated he is nothing special. On the contrary, he has been very involved in the union since 2007 and gives 110% in everything he does. Raising money for the Guide Dogs of American and MNPL at their annual Service Awards Banquet. Selling raffle tickets and other volunteer services as needed. At the September Awards Banquet there will be a 50/50 raffle raising money to aid IAM members affected by Hurricane Harvey.

 

 

Brother Spalo has served in many positions after being the Conductor Sentinel he was a Trustee, then Recording Secretary, ran for Local Chairman losing by five votes, but later replaced the person in that position. Though out on Medical Leave at this time he is fighting to get back to work and still fills the duties of any Executive Board position when called upon, this happens often.

 

A strong advocate of the William W. Wipinsinger Education and Technology Center, (known as the W3), in Hollywood Maryland he talked about instructor Greg Murray, who ignited his passion for learning about Labor History and inspired him to attain his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Labor Studies from the National Labor College in August 2015. He is planning to further his education, in September of 2017, beginning a Master of Arts in Work and Labor Policy Degree, through IAM and SUNY Empire State.

 

Brother Spalo was dealt a devastating blow in February of 2016, diagnosed with stage 4 renal cancer. He was going to do an investigation that day for a Traveling Mechanic, filling in as General Chairman Lee Carter was representing a member in another state. His main concern should have been his health, what the test results would reveal, but his only concern was about the pending Investigation and letting his union brother down.

 

He had two surgeries one to remove a mass on his brain and the other to remove the main tumor from the right kidney. More than one person told him that he lost his knowledge he gained with his Bachelor's Degree, but he says that surgery made more room for his Master's Degree. Humor has been Brother Spalo and his family's greatest coping mechanism.

 

Shortly after he was diagnosed an outpouring of well wishes, prayers and support came from all over, from the brotherhood/family known as IAM, it was humbling, overwhelming and greatly appreciated, said Brother Spalo. He was very grateful to General Chairman Andrew Sandberg for setting up a GoFundMe page and to all those who contributed.   The District 19 Office Staff, made a call while he was in the hospital asking how he was doing. It brought me to tears, states Brother Spalo, "I felt that I was not important enough to have them care about me." This is what a Union is about Brothers helping Brothers. I still have medical issues that arise but we deal with them as they come.

 

"I think through my military experience I have learned that when a problem comes up, you address the problem and look for solutions. When dealing with the Carrier they are more likely to work with you, when you are willing to provide a solution and not jump to putting pen to paper." Brother Spalo states, "When I talk with new members especially young members and speak of solidarity, they look like a deer in headlights. They don’t understand the concept. This is where we need to educate them, get them to want to be involved. It’s all about them, us. Working together as a Brotherhood." He goes on to say, "I don’t do this kind of work because I want something for doing it, I do it because it helps people."

 

Thank you Brother James Spalo for your dedication to the Union, for your service to our country. Keep on being the example as a true Fighting Machinist.