Yes, it's rare for a union to give an award to management -- and the vice versa isn't common either. But it does happen.

For some perspective when reporting an advance story on Saturday's union awards banquet honoring management,  I talked to Patrick Eiding, who heads Philadelphia's largest labor federation, the Philadelphia AFL-CIO. I figured that with 50 years of experience in unions -- dating back to 1963 -- he'd be able to take a long view.

Union honoring management? "Very rare," Eiding told me. On Saturday, United Steelworkers Local 10-1 honored the chief executive of Philadelphia Energy Solutions and a managing director of the Carlyle Group, a private equity fund.  The two organizations were instrumental in keeping running the South Philadelphia refinery, which had been slated for closure by Sunoco Inc.

But Eiding said, it can also go the other way. In 2003, when he stepped down from his leadership position with Local 14 of the Insulators and Asbestos Workers (International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers is the official name) to head the AFL-CIO, management set up a luncheon to honor him.

About 35 members of the local insulation contractors association put together a  little soiree for Eiding, even though, 20 years earlier, in 1983, he led 500 of his members out on strike against them.

Eiding said that even though disputes between management and labor make the headlines, the more common situation is one in which labor and management work productively together. "It doesn't hit the paper when people are working together," he said. "That's why you don't hear of it."

You can click here to read my story on the Steelworkers' award and here for a related blog post. I also wrote about one of the honorees, Philip Rinaldi, chief executive of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, in my Monday weekly feature, Leadership Agenda.  More on him in these two blog posts.