2016 George Meany Award Dinner

The Boy Scouts of America, Pathway to Adventure Council was honored to recognize Mr. James Sweeney with the George Meany Award on Monday, December 5th 2016 for his service to the community and the working families in our Union Trades.

Mr. Sweeney has been President-Business Manager of the Operating Engineers Local 150 since 2008 and steered Local 150 through the recession while maintaining wage and benefit levels and implementing temporary healthcare subsidies and the Local 150 Food Bank to offer assistance to members in need. James led members through industry-wide strikes in Illinois in 2010 and Indiana in 2011 to preserve healthcare benefits.

In 2011, Mr. Sweeney was named to the Board of Directors of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, where he advocates for the efficient modernization of the nation’s most advanced network of toll roads. Mr. Sweeney also serves as a General Vice President on the International Union of Operating Engineers General Executive Board, and has negotiated nationwide agreements in this position. Mr. Sweeney also serves as President of the IUOE North Central States Conference and as a Vice President of the Chicago Federation of Labor. In addition, he is chairman of various Midwest Operating Engineers benefit funds, including the Health and Welfare, Pension, Apprenticeship, Construction Research and Information Technology Funds.

Distinguished Guests, Mr. Sweeney, fellow Scouters:

This is a tremendous privilege for me.  I am very happy to be here with you tonight, because tonight we honor Jim Sweeney for making significant contributions to the youth of our community in ways that exemplify the values of Scouting.  The George Meany Award we bestow upon him tonight commemorates the life of a great American, who said: “The basic goal of labor will not change. It is - as it has always been, and I am sure always will be - to better the standards of life for all who work for wages and to seek decency and justice and dignity for all Americans.”

Jim, as a lawyer serving as the Council’s president, it is altogether fitting that I should share the following with you, the President of the Int’l Union of Operating Engineers:

An engineer dies and gets sent to hell.  He's hot and miserable, so he decides to take action. The A/C has been busted for a long time, so he fixes it. Things cool down quickly. The moving walkway motor jammed, so he un-jams it. People can get from place to place more easily. The TV was grainy and unclear, so he fixes the connection to the Satellite dish and now they get hundreds of high def channels.

One day, God decides to look down on Hell to see how his grand design is working out and notices that everyone is happy and enjoying umbrella drinks. He asks the Devil what's up?

The Devil says, "Things are great down here since you sent us an engineer."

"What?" says God. "An engineer? I didn't send you one of those. That must have been a mistake. Send him upstairs immediately."

The Devil responds, "No way. We want to keep our engineer. We like him."

God demands, "If you don't send him to me immediately, I'll sue!"

The Devil laughs. "Where are YOU going to get a lawyer?"

There is a revolution going on around the world today that is focused on jobs and equality of opportunity.  I would like to speak with you briefly tonight about building lives and rebuilding communities. 

When I was a boy, my Episcopalian minister father taught me early on that our Lord was a carpenter.  My dad’s own father was a home builder and my dad worked in construction before he became a pastor.  Within a couple of years our congregation outgrew its space and we started construction on a new building.  Years later we added an education wing.  I learned firsthand from a master the importance of building a community.

One of my first toys was a hammer and my dad made sure I learned how to use it.  He and I often went to the lumber yard and hardware store as we worked on an endless list of home improvement projects.  I learned that it is much easier to fix a house than a person, but if you build on a firm foundation, both can endure all kinds of challenges.  I learned that it’s always important to have the right tools and materials, to know how to use them, and to have a plan.  And I learned that after construction ends, maintenance and improvement are critical for the life of any project.

Scouting builds lives and can rebuild communities.  It puts tools in the hands of our youth and well trained, skillful leaders like each of you.  As Scouters, we – that’s you and me - we train youth for life, and in the process we retrain and restore adults.  Scouting is a family activity, however you define family or identify its members.  We build Scouts one member, one family at a time, and in the process, we rebuild communities.

It’s no accident that at least 55 of our 135 merit badges are focused on trade related skills, while the rest are focused on building personal character and fitness, leadership and participatory citizenship.  My favorite merit badge was pioneering and I learned it from a heavy equipment operator.

We will continue to partner with you in Scouting, including in the Construction Trade Union Scouting Program, which adds so much to a Scout’s choice of their life work and fulfillment, and ensures the future of America.  If you haven’t already, please be sure to review the 2016 organization highlights in the program book 

America’s unions and its laborers are the backbone of this country.  Others may forget who keeps the lights on in our offices, the heat flowing in our homes, the roads and bridges we travel safe, and our planes, trains and buses running and on time; But Scouting will never forget you or overlook how important you are.  Our over 22,000 Scouts and member families greatly appreciate the leadership of the Construction trades movement.  Your support is helping strengthen and grow local scouting.

Please be sure to congratulate Mr. Sweeney, and to thank Jorge Ramirez for his leadership and service towards the AFL-CIO George Meany Award process.  I thank them and I thank you.


For over 100 years the mission of the Boy Scouts of America has been to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetime. Our goal is to give every young person the opportunity to join one of our life changing programs.

One is every four Scouts comes from a Union household. Through our programs and methods, Scouts can be our next generation of prepared skilled labor. This event will help to fund the programs, services and infrastructure needed to deliver a quality Scouting program to youth and families in Northeast Illinois and Northwest Indiana.  

The Pathway to Adventure Council serves over 23,000 youth and 7,000 adult volunteers. In addition to our traditional programs of Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Coed Venturing, we offer career Exploring and STEM Scouts. We currently have an Exploring post with the IBEW Local 2 and would like to expand the programs to other areas of the construction trades.

All proceeds of the event will go to support the programs and the youth we serve in the Pathway to Adventure Council.

Title Sponsors - $5,000
10 tickets
VIP reception with honoree
Full-page ad in program, event banner, listed as event committee and specific sponsor – (food, beverage, logistics, recognition, & program)

Vice-Chairman Sponsor - $1,500
10 tickets
VIP reception with honoree
Half-page ad in program
Listed as event vice chair

Full Page Ad - $1,000
Full-page ad in program book

1/2 Page Ad - $500
½ page ad in the program book

1/4 Page Ad - $300
¼ page ad in the program book

Congratulatory statement - $100
100 character sentence expressing goodwill towards the honoree’s achievement

Event Ticket - $100
Event entry for reception and program

Contact: Dan Busby | Director of Development
(312) 421-8800 Ext. 204