This from the Sudbury Star in Canada:
It was almost a first for union boss Leo Gerard.
Gerard was apparently blind-sided when it was announced Thursday that the executive and membership of United Steelworkers Local 6500 had named their new hall after the international president of their union.
That news came just before the ribbon was cut at the grand opening of the local's new headquarters at 66 Brady St.
"I guess it's almost a first. I'm almost speechless," said a teary-eyed Gerard when a cloth cover was removed from the plaque reading "Leo W. Gerard Hall," which hangs over the entrance to the main hall.
The day was a bittersweet one for Gerard, Local 6500 members and residents of the community. They were excited about the transformation of the former grocery store into a state-of-the-art hall and conference centre, but tears were also shed for the Steelworkers' Hall at 92 Frood Rd. that burned to the ground in September 2008.
Local 6500 president Rick Bertrand said that hall was a place where meetings, union schools, days of mourning, children's Christmas parties and other events were held for more than 40 years.
He recalled seeing many of the people who crammed into the atrium of the new hall Thursday at the fire scene on Frood Road three and a half years ago.
Bertrand said he remembered the pain in the eyes of members, retirees and residents who watched a large piece of Sudbury history go up in smoke.
He quoted Gerard who said at the time that next to the death of a family member, the burning of the old Steel Hall was the saddest day of his life.
"So today's a new chapter for us," said Bertrand. "Today, the Steelworkers will continue that tradition to support this community and to support the membership."
He reminded guests of how USW Local 6500 has supported the community over the years, raising millions of dollars for charitable causes.
Just recently, it reached the $500,000 mark in donations from its cent an hour contribution by members to Health Sciences North's Children's Treatment Centre.
The local raised $360,000 for United Way in 2011 and $30,000 for the Edgar Burton Food Drive, and collected thousands of cans of food for the Sudbury Food Bank.
It was "altogether fitting" to name the hall after Sudbury native Gerard, who rose through the ranks as a member of the union representing production and maintenance workers to become president of an international union, said Bertrand.
Gerard recalled "all the things that went on in that (old) building and all the tough decisions that were made, and all the positive decisions that were made to benefit our community.
"One of the things that always made me love my union even more was that our union, in particular Local 6500, never, ever saw itself as just a collective bargaining tool.
"We saw ourselves as an instrument of social and economic justice for our members and for our community. And we fought for the things that mattered for working people," said Gerard.
The union doesn't want 66 Brady to be known as just its home. "We want this hall to be seen as the community's home that they can come and use and be proud of the work that we do on behalf of working people," he said.
As proud as he was to have the hall named after him, it was also humbling, said Gerard.
"There's a part of me that says I don't deserve it."
Dozens of retirees attended the opening and Bertrand insisted they enter the main hall before anyone else.
"They're the ones who fought for everything we have today," he said.
There were oohs and aahs as people poured into the hall where a musical combo was playing on the main stage and a buffet of finger foods was laid out for guests.
Mayor Marianne Matichuk attended, hugging Bertrand as she entered the hall.
Vale vice-president of mining and milling, Kelly Strong, attended the opening as did spokeswoman Angie Robson.
Greater Sudbury Police Chief Frank Elsner and Deputy Chief Al Lekun were among the guests.
Gerard called the hall one of the most beautiful in Ontario, adding: "I'm a little prejudiced now that it's mine."
Gerard, USW national director Ken Neumann and district 6 director Wayne Fraser presented Bertrand with a plaque to be hung in the hall.
"Whoever thought we could build something better than what we had at 92 Frood Rd.," said Fraser.
He said he was proud of the local for turning the hall into such a showpiece, crediting member Roger Lafontaine for spear-heading the project.
He called Local 6500 the best USW local in North America.
Neumann expressed thanks to USW retirees for giving the present- day union a solid foundation.
"You're the ones who have fought the fight," he said.