Richard Mantia, the longtime head of the Greater St. Louis and Vicinity Port Council, passed away June 4 after a battle with leukemia. He was 82.
Brother Mantia joined Asbestos Workers Local 1 in 1947. He served in the U.S. Navy between 1950 and 1952, then returned to the local. He was elected its business manager in 1966, serving in that capacity until he became the executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council in 1972. He held that position for 20 years.
“Dick Mantia helped rebuild the St. Louis Port Council,” recalled MTD President Michael Sacco. During the 1970s, Sacco was based in St. Louis as a vice president of the Seafarers Union. “He was the first guy I contacted – him, Jack Martorelli and Bobby Sansone. But Mantia was the main man.”
From that point, the port council grew to include two dozen locals and unions as well as hosting an annual dinner dance that draws hundreds of members, their families, elected officials and business partners.
As the head of the building trades, Mantia worked with the area’s contracted employers to create a regional labor-management construction cooperative called PRIDE for Productivity and Responsibility to Increase Development and Employment. Sacco said it ended years of problems between the locals and the contractors. According to the current head of the building trades, Jeff Aboussie (who received the port council’s 2014 Labor Man of the Year award), Mantia saved the labor movement in St. Louis.
“He was a leader, a great individual, a great family man and a solid union man,” added Sacco. “You always could count on him.”