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Convention Energized by Young Worker Delegates

September 15, 2011

Attracting young workers and developing a fresher message for tomorrow’s labor movement are more than just lofty goals at the 38th Convention.

A group of forty-eight young IBEW members selected from states and provinces across North America arrived in Vancouver as part of the union’s RENEW effort (Reach Out and Energize Next-gen Electrical Workers). The young activists will network with delegates and attend sessions sponsored by IBEW’s Education Department on the union’s history, laws and structure.  

RENEW participant Jeb Keola Kalani Kaneshiro, a journeyman inside wireman from Honolulu Local 1186, entered the IBEW’s telecommunications branch in 1998 just out of high school. He says:

I am in Vancouver to learn and observe as much as I can to pass it on to everyone back home.

Kaneshiro is bringing his own rich experience to the convention. Concerned that too many young workers aren’t developing mechanical skills as readily as they are mastering computer technology, he is helping to set up an electrical merit badge for the Boy Scouts on Maui, Kaneshiro says:

I hope to get more young people interested in doing what I do.  It’s very rewarding entering a place you built.  It’s an amazing feeling you get taking something from nothing to something extravagant.

Jennifer Gray, from Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245 has worked as a customer service representative at Pacific Gas and Electric for five years. She was tapped as a shop steward by her business representative after questioning a supervisor’s interpretation of the parties’ labor agreement.

Gray participated in last year’s AFL-CIO’s Next Up young workers summit.

 She returned to her local and and set up a Facebook page to engage more young workers in the union. Gray says:

This is my first IBEW convention.  I’m willing to observe and learn and take on any role that is needed. I’ve done so much growing being involved in the labor movement and politics. I live and breathe this stuff.

International President Edwin D. Hill will address a gathering of the RENEW activists on Thursday. Says Hill:

Young workers across North America are facing an uncertain and sometimes frightening future. RENEW is designed to tap the initiative of young leaders, give them a better knowledge of the IBEW and the tools to succeed in changing the lives of their peers and building a stronger union.




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