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Statement of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers on the Death of Retired IU President John T. "Jack" Joyce

Retired IU president John Jack JoyceJohn T. "Jack" Joyce of Washington, D.C. and Swan's Island, Maine, renowned labor leader and the longest serving president in the history of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC), died on February 14th in Washington. He was 77.

As BAC President from 1979 to 1999, Brother Joyce navigated the union through a series of profound challenges involving every facet of its operations. Among his lasting achievements were the creation of the International's pension and health and welfare programs and an expanded governance structure that increased participation among the union's diverse membership. His commitment to labor-management cooperation paved the way for the establishment of the International Masonry Institute (IMI), the industry development and training arm of the union and its signatory contractors that continues to provide state-of-the-art craft and safety training for union bricklayers, tilesetters, cement masons, plasterers, stone masons, marble masons, terrazzo workers and restoration specialists in the U.S. and Canada at its flagship training center in Bowie, MD. In his efforts to ramp up continuing education opportunities for local union officers, he infused programs with presenters ranging from retired bricklayers to Nobel Laureates. 

And while there was no fiercer defender of BAC's status as an independent craft union representing all the trowel trades, guided by Samuel Gompers' observation that if labor is weak in one place, it is weak in all places, Jack's tireless advocacy for workers' rights transcended industry and national borders. As a Vice President of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, he held leadership positions on the Federation's committees on pension investment, national defense and housing. Internationally, he served for 15 years as a member of the U.S. delegation to the International Labor Organization, and on the executive committees of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the Inter-American Organization of Workers. Inspired by Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy's "Architecture for the Poor," he believed that developing nations would be well served if construction unions in those countries were to link training to affordable housing, and worked to establish building trades and masonry training programs in Egypt, Poland, South Africa and El Salvador.

In remembering his late friend and Brother, BAC President James Boland said, "Jack had trade unionism in his blood. He was a rare individual – someone I can truly say was born to lead. He had a deep intellect and an agile mind…He believed passionately in the dignity of the individual worker. And when workers banded together to form unions, he was equally passionate about the capacity of unions' to advance social and economic justice. He had a bold vision for global solidarity, and no one worked harder to make it a reality…And yet by far, Jack dedicated the greatest proportion of his energies to the International Union of Bricklayers and the members he loved above all else."

Jack Joyce was born December 6, 1935 in Chicago, and followed his father, two uncles and brother into the bricklaying trade and membership in BAC Local 21 Illinois. His grandfather, also John T. Joyce, was a founder of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union and leader of the strike that eventually led to the eight-hour workday. Joyce's father, Edward R. Joyce, a staunch trade unionist in his own right, served for many years at the helm of Local 21. With his parents, Joyce attended his first international bricklayers' convention as an infant, the first of many.

He attended the University of Notre Dame, majoring in English and philosophy. In 1958 he enlisted in the U.S. Army. During his two-year active duty tour he served with the American Forces Network in Europe as a news writer. While in Germany, he met his future bride, Annemarie Straub. After returning to Chicago, Joyce worked briefly for the Masonry Institute of Cook County before becoming administrator of the training, pension, and heath funds for Local 21.

He relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1966 to serve on International Union's Executive Board, first as secretary, then treasurer before becoming president in 1979. Throughout his career, Jack was a lifelong enthusiast and promoter of excellence in masonry construction and the skilled craftsmanship that makes it possible. He instituted the union's prestigious Louis Sullivan Award that periodically honored architects whose work echoed the superior design of the award's namesake.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Annemarie Straub Joyce, a brother, Edward R. "Bud" Joyce of Chicago, a life member of Local 21 IL, and 18 nephews and one niece.

Memorial donations may be made to the Washington Home and Community Hospices either online, at or by contacting Mollie Haines, Director of Development and Communications (202-895-0128

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