2024 Irish Labor Awards

Thomas Costello

Thomas Costello

Current Company and Position: Retired Union Organizer and Business Representative for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.   Currently, a part time Teaching Fellow at the UBC Training Center.

Family: Married to Terri Costello and have four grown children.

First Job: My first job was working in the family restaurant and pub on the west side of Manhattan as a dishwasher and bartender and doing odd construction jobs on the weekends with my father. 

What it taught me: The fast paced environment of the family restaurant business was a spring board for my future career endeavors as it honed valuable skills such as communication, teamwork and understanding the value of fair treatment in the workplace. These skills were invaluable in fostering collaboration and building strong relationships in the construction industry.

Best advice you could give someone starting out: Build strong relationships by communicating, actively listening and learning from different perspectives. Having a strong work ethic and demonstrating your dedication and inspiring other workers is a key to your future success. The construction industry has a wealth of knowledge that is passed down from prior generations. By listening to more experienced workers, you will learn valuable information that will help you develop your skills and problem solving techniques.

Who is your hero and why? My parents are my heroes. My parents emigrated from Ireland (counties Galway and Fermanagh) leaving everything they knew to build a new life for themselves and our family. They worked so hard to give my brother and I a good life and future. Both of my parents were active union members (32 BJ of the SEIU for my mother and the Carpenters Union for my father). The sacrifices that they made to provide for us instilled a fire in me to work hard and to be able to give more to my family.

Biography: Born and raised between the bustling streets of New York and the vibrant landscapes of Ireland, Tom Costello has always possessed a spirit of adventure and a deep connection to his roots.  He honed his academic skills starting at St. Mary's College in Galway and further developed his athletic prowess on the hurling pitch. He claimed two coveted Connacht championship medals which not only showcased his talent and dedication to the sport but also developed his teamwork and leadership skills.  Driven by a desire to explore new horizons, he returned to the US. Tom received his bachelor’s degree from Fordham University and master’s degree from Cornell University in Labor Studies. He also continued participating in athletics - proudly adding two NY championship medals to his collection, playing for the Rangers and Sligo Gaelic Football Clubs.

During the same time over 45 years ago, Tom joined the Carpenters Union. He quickly rose through the ranks applying his work ethic, technical abilities and leadership skills to excel in various construction projects in Boston, Philadelphia and New York. His journey through the industry saw him progress from Carpenter to Foreman to General Foreman to Job Site Superintendent, and ultimately, Project Manager. After his field achievements, Tom actively contributed to the Union as a teacher in the NYCDCC Labor Technical College, an Organizer and Business Representative. Even in retirement, Tom is a part time Teaching Fellow for the UBC in Las Vegas. He spends a significant amount of time mentoring younger union members by sharing his knowledge and fostering a strong union culture.

Perhaps his crowning achievement lies in his book, The Shovel Hits The Dirt, a testament to his unique perspective and vision for union organizing. By capturing a history of the labor movement, providing insights on organizing along with real world case studies, Tom has created a valuable resource for future generations of union leaders.



2024 Irish Labor Awards