ADDISON — When the Italian American Labor Council of Greater Chicago makes the decision to honor an individual as its Man of the Year, it looks for someone who has a lasting effect on the community.
“This person is chosen for their leadership and contributions to improving the well-being of the American worker,” explained IALC President Anthony Guida. This year, honoree Chris Kennedy fit the bill perfectly. He was honored Oct. 14 at a dinner dance in Addison.
During his 12 years as president of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, Kennedy was able to work with governmental agencies, labor groups and independent small businesses to bring companies and good jobs back to Illinois.
As the largest commercial building in the world, the Mart spans two city blocks, sits at 4.2 million square feet and is one of the largest LEED-certified buildings in the world.
While leading Chicago’s Wolf Point development, Kennedy was able to bring in 2,000 construction jobs and other permanent jobs to Illinois.
Around Labor Day every year, Guida recalled the Merchandise Mart would notify the unions and ask that they bring their union hall flags to the Mart so they could be displayed in the lobby.
“That’s something I’ll never forget. That’s one of the reasons we asked you to come — because of your strong dedication to Labor,” Guida added.
Kennedy thanked the 240 attendees at the event who were there to honor him, including several individuals he worked with at the Merchandise Mart. “You made living in Chicago such a pleasure,” he told them.
Drawing on his Immigrant ties, Kennedy said our country was a pioneer in a new form of government — a multi-cultural Democracy, which is currently under attack, from outside and inside forces.
“We cannot allow the celebration of our cultural heritage to be attacked and be diminished,” he explained.
The Irish and Italians created unions in America, as well as supported them with laws they passed. “We built the model Democratic Party to work hand in glove with Labor. Democrats and Labor, working together is who we are in our country, when we are at our best in America,” Kennedy said to applause.