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Season 4, Episode 239

The history of the “Topping-off” Ceremony with Ironworkers Local 17

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Guest Name:

Scott Munnings

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Scott Munnings, Ironworkers Local 17 Business Agent, joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast and talked about the “Topping-Off” Ceremony set to take place later today at the Sherwin-Williams’ Headquarters in downtown Cleveland and its historical importance.

Throughout its history, the Ironworkers Union has celebrated the installation of the highest and last beam being placed in a construction project. In order to hold the ceremony, no injuries can be reported on the job, Munnings said. Oftentimes, the last beam is painted white, and all the tradesmen and tradeswomen who worked on the project have an opportunity to sign the beam. Additionally, an American flag and an evergreen tree are placed on opposite ends of the beam. The tree signifies construction has reached the sky without loss of life or injury and a new beginning with good fortune for the future inhabitants of the building.

Munnings explained that the topping-off ceremony dates back as early as 700 A.D. Originally, Norse communities would place grain on top of new construction projects to honor the Norse God Odin’s Horse and to signify a job well done. The tradition was spread throughout Europe by the Vikings, and then later, after arriving in America, was mixed with a Native American tradition of planting an Evergreen. Despite the various changes, the message remains the same: Celebrating no injuries or loss of life on a construction project.

Since 2022, Ironworkers Local 17 has worked on the new Sherwin-Williams headquarters project. Along with the 37-story headquarters tower, there is also a two-story pavilion attached by a walkway. The honor of performing a Topping-Off ceremony is one that Munnings said is emotional and will leave an impact on those who had the opportunity to work on the project. The ceremony takes place later today, Dec. 4, and several members and their families will attend.

To hear more from Munnings, listen to the show above.

America’s Work Force is the only daily labor podcast in the US and has been on the air since 1993, supplying listeners with useful, relevant input into their daily lives through fact-finding features, in-depth interviews, informative news segments and practical consumer reports. America’s Work Force is committed to providing an accessible venue in which America's workers and their families can hear discussion on important, relevant topics such as employment, healthcare, legislative action, labor-management relations, corporate practices, finances, local and national politics, consumer reports and labor issues.

America’s Work Force Union Podcast is brought to you in part by our sponsors: AFL-CIO, American Federation of Government Employees, American Federation of Musicians Local 4, American Alliance for Manufacturing, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Columbus/Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council, Communication Workers of America, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local 50, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Crafts, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 6, Ironworkers Great Lakes District Council, The Labor Citizen newspaper, Laborers International Union of The National Labor Office of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, North America, North Coast Area Labor Federation, Ohio Federation of Teachers, Survey and Ballot Systems, United Labor Agency, United Steelworkers.


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