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Cross Border Political Conference Mobilizes Delegates

September 17, 2011

Delegates gathered at the 2011 IBEW Political Conference made union history September 16 by bringing together IBEW political activists from both sides of the border for the first time.  Attendees took stock of recent victories and setbacks and prepared for challenges of the next year, including the 2012 elections in the United States and important provincial contests across Canada.

Riverside, Calif., Local 440 Business Representative Paul Aguilar compared perspectives on the issues:

Says Aguilar, attending his first convention:

I see the Canadian brothers and sisters with the same problems we are facing in the states. I advise my members at home to get to know their city council members and pay attention to what’s happening in politics in their backyard.

Anti-worker politicians throughout North America, exploiting the sour economy and high unemployment, have taken power in the last few years. Promising to take action on jobs, they’ve squeezed middle class families and attacked collective bargaining rights instead.
Says International President Edwin D. Hill:

The American people let their guard down last November, taking the GOP’s word that jobs would be their top priority. Instead, everything from Medicare and Social Security to our fundamental right to organize – almost everything our movement has won in the 20th century – has been put on the chopping block.

Mike Bellcock, a Milwaukee, Wis., Local 2150 business agent and lobbyist, was knee-deep in the struggle to protect collective bargaining in his state. A 24-year lineman and first-time delegate, Bellcock, attended the IBEW Political Conference. He says:

It was nice to hear acknowledgements from the speakers that Wisconsin is ground zero in the attack on our unions.

Vancouver City Councilor Geoff Meggs, a former labor organizer, told delegates that while important victories for working people start at the bargaining table, union members need to finish it at the ballot box.

The meeting represented an important milestone for the First District, which has been beefing up its political action program in the past few years to meet the rapidly changing situation in the country. Matt Wayland, newly hired First District political action coordinator and media strategist presented delegates with an update on pressing legislation of concern to Canadian members.

New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Don Davies told delegates that if right-wing Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues to attack workers’ rights, the union-backed NDP will fight him “every step of the way.”

Aguilar says the comments of Vancouver’s Meggs struck home when he referenced the conservative opposition to the Obama administration. Regarding the speech the president made to present his jobs plan, the same night the football season debuted:

Meggs talked about the Republican congressmen who preferred to watch football rather than hear President Obama’s job plan. If they lost their own jobs, maybe they would understand that this isn’t a game.

A San Diego, Local 569 journeyman wireman who turned out of her apprenticeship in 2006, Terrelyn Hartman attended the Women’s Caucus and Political Conference on Friday. Leaving the long back-to-back sessions with a notebook full of information, she says:

Having gone to the Political Conference, I’m going to go back and throw out some facts to my friends – like how 80 percent of the income gain in the last decade went to the top 1 percent of the population. That’s a horrible figure. I’ve never been big on politics myself but I understand the importance of being involved.

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