Carpenters Local 171 Celebrates 130th Anniversary

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Henry Crognale, who will turn 96 later this month, is proud to have been an active member of Local 171 of the Carpenters union a half century, “40 years as a working member, 10 years as a nonworking member” he says, “but I paid my dues.” He pulls his dues payment book from his suit coat to prove it.

Crognale, George Anderson, Mike Bajnok, Donald Beach and Charles Ivan Sr., received their 70-year membership pins Friday night at Local 171’s celebration of the 130th anniversary of its founding in Youngstown.

Crognale, whose son drove him here from Columbus, is a little hard of hearing and uses a walker to get around. But, he emphasized, “I take no pills of any kind. I just have a bad hip.”

During his career, he worked at Warren Engineers, beginning as a carpenter’s apprentice and becoming general field superintendent 20 years later. Despite being a member of management, “I always kept my membership,” he said. “I never gave up my [union] card.

The 98 carpenters presented service pins suggest their trade promotes longevity. Besides Crognale, Anderson, Bajnok, Beach and Ivan, eight members received 65-year pins, nine 60-year pins, five 55-year pins and 13 50-year pins.

The local still has its original charter, signed April 19, 1886, by the founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Peter J. McGuire, Tony DiTommaso Jr., reminded 250 retirees and their families at Mr. Anthony’s Friday night. DiTommaso is president of Local 171 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America.

It was a night of celebration — “a very joyous occasion,” as DiTommaso noted – of seeing old friends, of reminisces of good times and hard times (such as manning picket lines), of noting the passing of members who had contributed to the local, of recognizing retired officers of the local such as Jim Herrholtz and Roy Houser as mentors to the incumbent board, and presenting pins.

Another 86 carpenters have 51 or more years.

On hand to help the local celebrate the anniversary were former state Rep. and Sen. Bob Hagan, his wife, state Rep. Michele Lepore Hagan, and state Rep. John Boccieri, the keynote speaker.

State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, unable to attend, sent a proclamation from the 171st General Assembly recognizing the milestone.

Billy Keel, retired business agent of the Painters union and now labor liaison with United Way of Youngstown and Mahoning Valley, saluted the pro bono work of Local 171 over the last five years. That charitable work includes the carpenters building wheelchair ramps at 25 houses in the Valley.

In his remarks, Boccieri began by relating that one of his grandfathers, Stephen Filisky, had been a member of Local 171, the other belonged to the United Steel Workers of America, both his parents belonged to the teachers union and he had just joined the airlines pilots union.

The Filiskys often led a hardscrabble life, Boccieri said, and often it was tough for them to make ends meet. When she was a child, his mother’s breakfast sometimes consisted of a mush his grandmother made by adding hot water to old bread.

He also remembered his mother telling him how Local 171 looked after its members in lean times by bringing vegetables and meats to their home.

But the thrust of his speech dealt with this year’s elections, especially at the state and national levels and the need to raise real wages and reduce income inequality.

In her brief remarks, Lepore Hagan reminded her listeners, “My grandfather McGarry was a member of Local 171.”

And Crognale assured DiTommaso that he will return in five years to receive his 75-year pin.

Pictured: Henry Crognale, soon to turn 96, shows his service pin presented at the union’s 130th anniversary banquet by Tony DiTomasso Jr., president of the Carpenters union.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.