Tony Skinner, well-loved and respected leader of Ventura County’s labor community, passed on in late August of this year. He was an advocate, champion and ally, and his kind yet direct manner had a great impact on all who met him.
“He lived and breathed the labor movement,” says Martin Rodriguez, Business Agent for Ironworkers Local 433, as well as President of Tri-Counties Building and Construction Trades — where Tony was Executive Secretary and Treasurer up until his passing. “He was a good man. I don’t think Tony had any enemies that I was aware of, there was no big animosity from anybody. He was well liked in the community.
“His approach to labor was Hey, why wouldn’t anybody want to see their employees have better wages and benefits? That’s who we represent — those that don’t have a voice. Tony was our front man.”
EARLY WORK ETHIC
Tony’s interest in worker and the trade unions started early — around the dinner table during his younger days growing up in Oxnard.
His slightly younger sister Nancy Skinner, only 16 months apart in age from Tony, remembers growing up in “the south end of Oxnard, in a very family-friendly neighborhood — lots of kids, lots of play, hide and seek, kick the can, skateboard races, all of that stuff.”
Tony’s interest in work and the trades started early. “It started at our dinner table. Every night we had to be at the dinner table at 5:30 with mom and dad,” she says. “We’d talk about our day, and dad would talk about work — about the labor movement, and what was going on politically. Tony always paid attention to that.”
“Labor runs deep in our family,” says Tony’s older sister Jeanne Skinner. “Our grandfather on our dad’s side was just a few weeks shy of being a funding member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 952.” Tony’s father was the Business Agent at IBEW Local 952 as well — and Tony served as President of the same union.
PASSION FOR EDUCATION
Learning, especially in the trades, was important to Tony — so much so that he was founder of the Architecture, Construction Engineering (ACE) Charter High School in Camarillo. He worked on making the school a reality, and, in 2010, the ribbon was cut and the school was open.
“I didn’t realize what a big deal (the school was) until I went to the opening,” says Jeanne. “I was super impressed with that.”
Tony was also very involved with the IBEW apprenticeship program, sitting on the interview panel, and inviting “all the elected officials to come for graduation every year, to see what it meant to these young men and women to go through the program and see how they succeeded,” says Jeanne.
MAKING HISTORY WITH PROJECT LABOR AGREEMENT
In December 2018, the Oxnard Harbor District Board of Commissioners took a historic step in signing a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). The first of its kind in Port of Hueneme’s history, the PLA ensures local labor for all Port projects estimated at or over $250,000.
Said Tony at the time, “This PLA will go a long way in putting our local people to work, expanding our apprenticeship programs, and giving our returning veterans a place to work when they come home (through the Helmets to Hardhats program).”
In 2019, the Port’s first PLA project was completed — demolition an obsolete warehouse, which was a giant step in the Port’s ongoing modernization project.
A LASTING LEGACY
Those remembering Tony remember someone passionate about politics, a good connector, and a great person.
“I knew he was a hard worker,” Jeanne remembers. “I was amazed at his knowledge in starting a school and helping politicians get elected.”
Martin Rodriguez agrees. “Tony’s work ethics and his focus on labor and politics is a legacy he’s going to leave,” he says.
“Tony was always very approachable,” says Nancy. “In many ways, Tony didn’t know a stranger. He could walk into a room and just gravitate towards people, and people gravitated towards him. He had a very sweet smile, bright eyes, and kindness just exuded from him.”