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Hill Keynote—Reclaim the Union’s Birthright

September 20, 2011

Thanking IBEW members and leaders for courage in standing up to a failing economy and right-wing, anti-labor politics, International President Edwin D. Hill brought delegates to their feet as he asked them to reject fear and pursue the timeless mission of the IBEW and the labor movement. 

Hill underscored the early progress since the last IBEW Convention— “A” membership increasing to an all-time high and an unprecedented grassroots political mobilization contributing to Democratic control of Congress and the election of President Barack Obama. He said:

Our progress came to a screeching halt as the recession spread beyond the shattered portfolios of the big banks and investment houses and spread its tentacles around the world.

 “There is one big difference between us and the generation that founded the IBEW 120 years ago,” said Hill, they had nothing to lose.” Pensions, health care and middle-class lifestyles can lead to some members being fearful, hoping that the storm will blow over, he said.

 Click here for transcript of the full text of President Hill’s keynote address.

But, said Hill, “The Great Recession is looking like an unwelcome relative sleeping on the couch—it is not here for the short term but threatens to settle in for a long stay.”

Declining union numbers and unemployment have exacted great pain on IBEW families, but they have also taken a deep toll on the union movement. Joblessness clouds judgment and results in working people casting protest votes, says Hill, “even if their support goes to phony populists bought and paid for, lock stock and barrel by the corporations and powerful billionaires.”

While declining numbers and right-wing media have hurt the IBEW, “we are in a good position to help restore labor’s standing in the community,” said Hill.

The mobilizations to defend collective bargaining in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states has, said Hill, shown that “The Tea Party doesn’t have a monopoly on anger—and we are showing the upper middle class what real populism looks like.”

 “Our adversaries can mock our idealism. They can scorn our tradition and our beliefs.  But they will never—ever—douse the flame of solidarity that beats in the hearts of every one of us,” said Hill.

     Click here for transcript of the full text of President Hill’s keynote address.

     Click here for delegate reaction to the speech.

     Video of the full speech will be available soon.

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