Happy 100th Birthday to a Long-Time Union Member
Paul Pimentel, research director for the Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA), pays tribute to an extra special union brother.
On May 28, George Dirig will celebrate his 100th birthday and in August, his 75th year of continuous service as a member of SMWIA Local 20.
Dirig started working in 1923 for CV Dirig Sheet Metal at age 14. The shop where he worked fabricating furnaces belonged to his brother. The shop later evolved into a specialty shop with a long list of repeat clients throughout the Indianapolis area.
Dirig filed his official application to join the SMWIA on May 1, 1934, at age 24. The original application form, which is still on file at Local 20’s Fort Wayne office, indicates he was earning 60 cents per hour before joining the union. His pay would rise to 80 cents per hour after his application was accepted.
At 18, his son, Gene, followed in his footsteps and started working at CV Dirig. Gene later bought the business and in his own words “he didn’t own it, it owned him.” His father remained employed there at what became his son’s company until his retirement Jan. 1, 1973. Gene claims that since Dirig is the oldest living retired member in the Fort Wayne area that that makes him the oldest living apprentice in the Fort Wayne area-the nickname by which the elder Dirig still calls him. Although he no longer can physically perform the work, Dirig is called upon for ideas and layout methods for fabrication projects. To this day, his son visits him for final approval on blueprints.
For SMWIA President Michael Sullivan, Dirig’s celebration has special meaning. Sullivan was business manager at Dirig’s local union. Says Sullivan:
Brother Dirig’s 75 years of continuous, good standing service gives real meaning to union brotherhood. On behalf of every member of the SMWIA, we wish him continued good health and honor him as a credit to the SMWIA and to the labor movement.
In addition to working at the shop, Dirig made a name for himself in the antique automobile restoration business, including work he has done for celebrities such as Jay Leno.
On his birthday, Dirig will be presented with his 75-year award, which is encased in a handsome wooden case. The leaders and members of this great union are proud to honor his accomplishments, loyalty and dedication to the principles and purposes of the trade union movement.
Congratulations and happy birthday, George Dirig!