O’Sullivan recently stepped back into his role as the chairman of the board at Ullico, the labor-owned insurance and investment company — a role he left in 2006. Though he took on the role under unfortunate circumstances after the former Chairman and Ullico CEO Ed Smith died of leukemia, O’Sullivan said that he is stepping into an upswing in the company’s trajectory.

“The future of the unionized sector of the construction industry certainly is bright and so is Ullico’s future,” he said.

Ullico, which started as The Union Labor Life Insurance Company, has since grown beyond just insurance into an union-backed investment company that does a mixture investing in public-private partnerships and buying companies as a means of creating union jobs and bringing returns to its pension fund.

When O’Sullivan last was board president in the early 2000s, it was worth about $3.5 billion, now, he said, they’re approaching $10.5 billion. He attributes a lot of the success to the company’s board, which includes executives from many of the big building trades organizations, including the Laborers’ International Union of North America, where he now bears the title of General President Emeritus, as well as the UA and IBEW.

“It’s a completely different company, and the principals of the building trades unions are on the board,” O’Sullivan said.

As an investment company, Ullico’s flagship program is called J for Jobs, a construction loan fund that requires that the projects it finances use 100 percent union labor. Of these projects O’Sullivan said that the massive private-public partnership to finance JFK’s Terminal One is key.

Ullico has invested about 450 million in the multibillion dollar project to create the new 23-gate terminal that will create about 6,000 construction jobs for the building trades at peak. After the terminal officially opens in several Ullico will be in charge of managing its workers compensation alternative program. It’s the most the company has ever invested in a single project.

In addition, Ullico also has an arm that focuses on investing in infrastructure projects. Over the past few years, Ullico bought a gas company in West Virginia that mainly focuses on natural gas. It also owns a wind farm in Hawaii.

O’Sullivan expects the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to keep on funding projects that will be a windfall for union labor and Ullico by extension for at least the next 3-5 years.

“The work opportunities are there. A lot of what we have to do is we have to recruit non-union workers to say, ‘Hey, look at, this is a golden opportunity for you to become part of our organization,” O’Sullivan said.

LIUNA, with over 520,000 members, has never had more in its history. O’Sulivan said opportunities for unionized construction trades in the heavy and highway construction sectors are “off the chart.” But they’re also looking for opportunities on the private side in affordable housing construction.

O’Sullivan said the wave of recent labor activism from UAW, SAG-AFTRA and the UPS and their incredibly strong agreements bodes well for unions like LIUNA as well. Though the union doesn’t often strike, the level of member engagement and activism is incredibly important to improve collective bargaining.

“We need [members] to show up more to local union meetings. We need them to be engaged when there’s events, when there’s functions, when there’s rallies, when there are political campaigns with that show of support,” he said.


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