OLYMPIA (May 14, 2021) — The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO has announced the retirement of longtime Workforce Development Director Bill Messenger and that Chelsea Mason-Placek has rejoined the WSLC in that position.
Since 2006, Messenger has worked at the WSLC to find alternatives to plant closure and job dislocation. When such closures and layoffs can’t be avoided, he has helped the affected workers get access to job retraining and reemployment program opportunities. Unfortunately, he joined the WSLC with firsthand experience in this area, having fought to avoid closure of Weyerhaeuser’s Cosmopolis pulp mill where he worked and served as local union leader. His union’s sustained and creative efforts earned recognition in the form of the WSLC’s Mother Jones in 2006, but the plant closed later that year and more than 200 workers lost their jobs.
“Over the years, I have seen tens of thousands of workers at the moment they have lost their jobs in all their vulnerability,” Messenger said. “The only thing that kept me doing my job was that I knew that my co-workers and myself were going to be there advocating for them until they were on their feet again.”
WSLC President Larry Brown thanked Messenger for his years of service in the “toughest job there is” at the Council.
“That’s difficult and stressful work, facing entire communities of people who are suddenly in very desperate circumstances, and doing everything you can to help them,” Brown said. “But over the years, Bill has always made us proud with his compassion for the people he serves and his expertise in navigating administrative hurdles to get them assistance. He and the rest of our Workforce Development team have truly made a difference in the lives of thousands of Washington families. That’s a tremendous legacy. We wish Bill all the best in his retirement and thank him for his dedication and service.”
Chelsea Mason-Placek, who worked alongside Messenger at the WSLC from 2008 to 2011, is now rejoining the WSLC as Workforce Development Director. Before coming to the WSLC, she worked for U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-9th), including as his liaison to organized labor. Over the past 10 years, Mason-Placek has served as legislative director, first for the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA)/IFPTE 2001 and then for the International Association of Machinists (IAM) District 751.
“From my original time at the Labor Council and the years since, when I had the privilege of working for SPEEA and the Machinists, I’ve come to really appreciate the importance of organized labor making workers the center point of workforce development,” she said. “I’m honored to be back at the WSLC doing the impactful work of helping laid-off workers and advocating for workforce development that truly serves working families. Although I’ll greatly miss working with my friend Bill, I wish him all the best in his retirement.”
Mason-Placek currently represents labor’s interests on the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Information Advisory Council. At the WSLC, she will work closely with fellow Workforce Development Directors Kairie Pierce, Rachel McAloon and Emmanuel Flores, and Workforce Development Coordinator Karen White.
“We are very lucky to have Chelsea return to the Council with all the experience and knowledge she brings,” said WSLC Secretary Treasurer April Sims. “We have confidence that she will hit the ground running — alongside the rest of our Workforce Development team — and continue to provide these critical services to Washington’s working families.”
The WSLC’s is dedicated to advocating for Washington’s working families. From initial entry, to career transition, and when facing job loss, the WSLC’s Workforce Development Department seeks to ensure universal access to:
● Portable skills and a voice in career development
● Continuity for those navigating the workforce system
● An economy that works for both workers and businesses