Richie Stanizzo never forgot who he represented, whether as a board member for the Allegheny County Airport Authority or as a leader of the Pittsburgh Regional Building & Construction Trades Council: organized labor.
“I’ll always remember his toughness. He advocated for his members and was not afraid to go into any situation with that in mind,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “Richie, as everyone knew him by, worked to represent his members. I would argue that our building trades are the best in the nation when it comes to training, innovation and getting projects done on time and on budget.
“(His) work on behalf of working men and women was a big part of that.”
Richard A. Stanizzo Jr., a long-time ACAA board member and labor leader in Western Pennsylvania, died Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. He was 79.
Stanizzo, of the Bon Air neighborhood of Pittsburgh, spent 22 years on the ACAA board, first appointed in 2000 and serving three county executives. He helped the authority navigate through two U.S. Airways bankruptcies to nearly a decade of passenger and airline growth, and ultimately the new terminal under construction today.
He provided diligent service and leadership for decades as the business manager for the Pittsburgh Regional Building & Construction Trades Council. Among his key contributions to the region was serving on the board of the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania and as chairman of the Western PA Apprentice Committee. He also served as a member of the AFL-CIO executive board and the state Building Trades executive board.
An ironworker by trade for nearly 50 years, Stanizzo got his start at Local 3 as an ironworker apprentice after attending Duquesne University. He graduated from St. Mary of the Mount High School in Mt. Washington.
“Richie was a Pittsburgher through and through. He fought for men and women in organized labor and understood the value of PIT and AGC as the center of strong union representation, jobs and leadership,” said ACAA CEO Christina Cassotis.
An open mind
Cassotis recalled the first conversation she had with Stanizzo after being hired in early 2015.
“The first time I met him, he said, ‘I didn’t want you for this job. I didn’t vote for you, and I don’t think you can do it.’ And I said, ‘With all due respect, sir, I wouldn’t have taken it if I didn’t think I could do it.’ And he shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘OK, we’ll see.’
“A few years later he sent me a text—I still have it because I took a screen shot—that said, ‘You do a great job.’ That meant more to me than almost anything because he was tough. He was one of the people who changed his mind about me.
“I think that’s what’s remarkable to me about Richie is that he was opinionated, but he kept an open mind. And that he was masterful at representing his union interests while being pragmatic about the business.”
Paul Hoback, ACAA Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer, recalled Stanizzo’s retirement dinner at Heinz Field a few years ago that was a who’s who of regional union, business and government leaders.
“It really made you realize how special he was in the Pittsburgh region. His building trades would have been the ones to build those key regional projects—the new stadiums, new arena, convention center and so many others,” Hoback said. “Hearing those stories about him walking those construction sites with other regional leaders … he made sure things went smoothly, made sure each project had the proper manpower, that each project was running safely.”
As chairman of the authority’s operations and facilities committee, Hoback said he frequently spoke with Stanizzo over the years, particularly seeking his advice on large construction projects.
“Richie cared about the people. He cared about relationships. Just building a relationship with me on a personal basis and meeting him at Eat n’ Park—that was his go-to place—that’s where I’d always meet him and talk about how we can make the airport better.”
ACAA board Chairman David Minnotte served with Stanizzo on the board for more than a decade but knew him for 50 years from working on a variety of projects.
“Richie was always for the common man and worked to make sure the union was always represented,” Minnotte said. “We negotiated a lot of labor agreements together. He was tough but always fair in wanting good results for all involved.”
ACAA Solicitor Jeff Letwin also knew Stanizzo for many years prior to his airport service and credited him for playing a role in the creation of the Airport Authority in 1999 by garnering union support. Later, once he was appointed to the board, he remained a strong proponent.
“When we were meeting with the unions about the creation of an authority at the time, (then airport director) Kent George was trying to explain how their support would be helpful and that an authority would be beneficial for them,” Letwin said. “Richie led the group of about 13 unions and with his guidance and endorsement, the unions supported the creation of the ACAA. The union support was critical. Without his leadership, it may not have happened.”
Labor leader Tom McIntyre, who Fitzgerald appointed to fill Stanizzo’s ACAA board seat when he retired early last year, said Stanizzo had a strong and direct personality, which helped lead to his success.
“He took over at a time when the Pittsburgh Building Trades, they weren’t that well known. He put the Pittsburgh Building Trades on the map. He’s the one that made us what we are,” said McIntyre, vice-president of Pittsburgh Regional Building & Construction Trades Council. “And I think he had that passion from Day 1. He tried to represent everyone equally. He was as fair as they came.”
For the full family obituary and funeral arrangements at the Brusco-Falvo Funeral Home, click here.