October/November 2001 IBEW Journal
President Hill opened the convention
at 9 a.m. and introduced the Reverend Margot Campbell Gross
of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco
as one of the activists of the Bay Area Organizing Committee,
a coalition of religious, union and academic groups. The coalition
is currently rallying support for the right of the Marriott
Hotel workers to have union representation.
In her invocation, Reverend Gross said "We pray for
each and every one in America as they react to this terrible
news in grief, in numbness, in pain." She urged everyone
to follow the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "We
must learn to live together as brothers, or we shall perish
together as fools."
President Hill announced to the convention that in addition
to the members of Local 3, New York City, who were at work
in the World Trade Center when the terrorists struck, "Local
1212, New York City, also lost four members in this tragedy."
He promised later word on the relief fund to handle the outpouring
of contributions from convention delegates.
President Hill introduced Ralph Leigon with the affectionate
term "old warrior" because "International Secretary
Emeritus Ralph Leigon is one of the leaders from whom we have
learned and are proud to follow in office."
President Hill traced Leigons service in World War II, his
rise through the ranks of the IBEW and his great performance
in developing the Democratic Party in his native Nevada. Leigon,
who told the convention he hadnt missed an International
Convention since 1950, became International Secretary in 1976
and served until his retirement in 1985.
"You will not forget the work that you do here,"
Leigon said. "Every convention establishes its own identity.
Youre different than any other weve ever had, and youre
different than any other we will have in the future."
After the IBEWs unprecedented effort in the 2000 elections,
Leigon said, "Allow me to add just one word of caution.
Dont neglect to involve retirees" in the future work
of the Brotherhood. [ Leigon
Resolutions Committee Chairman Brian DArcy and Secretary
Barbara Musacchio then continued their report.
Resolution No. 9 on the reciprocity of welfare funds was
sent back to the committee for reconsideration. The committee
had recommended nonconcurrence on the grounds the issue can
only be addressed by a signatory trust fund. But Delegate
Fernand Tardif of Local 625, Halifax, Nova Scotia, sponsor
of the resolution, cited a misunderstanding of intent and
offered new language. By a standing vote, the convention agreed
to return the resolution to the committee to consider Tardifs
proposed new language. Tardif said his new phrasing made clear
there was no intent to curtail local autonomy over welfare
The convention approved the Resolutions Committees re-write
of Resolution No. 10, stating that the IBEW "take a strong
position with the other building trades to uphold and honor
the jurisdictional HV/AC electrical work interpretation of
the Green Book." The committee said the change made
clear that the National Building & Construction Trades
Council, author of the Green Book, does not hold authority
Mike Hnatkowsky of Local 98, Philadelphia, said "most
of us know the HV/AC systems and controls that once were pneumatic
are now predominantly electrical or electronic" but that
members of the UA (Plumbers & Pipefitters) "still
Resolutions 15 and 16 on the rollover of traveling construction
workers pension benefits were approved after the committee
combined the two resolutions and recommended concurrence.
The adopted resolution says the convention supports "all
efforts to enhance the portability of benefits for traveling
participants" and states that the International Officers
will work to that end.
National Electrical Benefit Fund (NEBF) Trustees were urged
"to continue to strive for a lower age for full retirement,
as well as a lower age for early retirement opportunities
with lesser penalties" under a resolution substituted
for Resolutions 17, 21, 22 and 23, all dealing with the NEBF.
The convention approved the committees substitute.
Similarly, six other resolutions (Nos. 18, 19, 20, 24, 25
and 26) on NEBF were combined in a committee substitute which
the convention approved. In discussion on the substitute resolution,
Delegate James Kauffman of Local 24, Baltimore, said "We
cannot require the trustees of the NEBF to take an action,
[but] we can state on the record the improvements we would
like to be considered."
Improvements mentioned in the resolution include increases
in benefits and the contribution rate, independent medical
evaluations in disability cases and more liberal clauses on
break in service and surviving spouses benefits.
The right to rejectsingled out as a festering problem by
President Hill in his keynote addresscan mean rejection for
union activism, Mark Catello of Local 573 told the convention.
Catello said he had a "target on my back. Like some of
you, I have been rejected, fired and had many tactics used
against me because of my union loyalty."
Committee Secretary Musacchio said the combined resolution
passed by the convention (Nos. 27 and 28) calls for a right
to reject only for cause and would require an employer who
rejects an applicant to provide the reason for that rejection.
The decision on when to invoke Council of Industrial Relations
(CIR) mechanisms for dispute settlement should be left to
local collective bargaining, the convention said in agreeing
with the committees recommendation of nonconcurrence with
a resolution (No. 30) calling for all construction agreements
to have mandatory CIR language.
The convention reiterated its opposition to electricity deregulation
(Nos. 31 and 32) by concurring with the committees recommendation.
On deregulation, Dave Poklinkoski of Local 2304, Madison,
Wisconsin, said the deregulation fight can now consume a good
50 percent of a utility locals resources.
"The privatization battles go on in Canada. Half of
the states in the U.S. have not deregulated; and those that
have deregulated are stepping back and stumbling," he
said. He quoted an exhortation by California public official
Dave Freeman, a scheduled speaker at the convention who also
spoke at the Utility Conference as saying, "We rise up
united in one voice and drive a dagger in the heart of this
thing called utility deregulation."
President Hill introduced Kevin OSullivan, a third generation
IBEW member from Local 164 in Jersey City, New Jersey, as
a replacement speaker at the request of President Edward Sullivan
of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department.
Sullivan was unable to get to San Francisco and asked that
OSullivan speak for him. OSullivan is the BCTD political
field representative who helps mobilize local unions from
all the trades; he was attending the convention as a guest.
OSullivan told the convention that the growing strength
of the trades in political and legislative affairs was evident
in President Bushs attempt to reach out to them for support
of his energy proposal. "And were going to support it
if we can get assurance that the 1,800 power plants and related
transmission lines will be built with union laborespecially
union electrical workers." [
O'Sullivan Speech ]
President Hill reported that convention delegates had contributed
$17,930 to IBEW PAC and "that does not include local
union checks that have been given to us."
He then introduced "one of the finest labor lawyers
in the United States," IBEW General Counsel Laurence
Cohen. "Larrys legal credentials are without peer in
the world of labor law and his commitment to working people
runs as deep as anyones. He has the heart and the soul of
a trade unionist."
Cohen traced recent court cases affecting the IBEW, including
the preliminary federal court decision against President Bushs
Executive Order banning Project Labor Agreements on the grounds
it violates the National Labor Relations Act. Cohen also warned
that Bush appointments do not bode well for union workersincluding
reactionary Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalias son to
be the top lawyer at the Labor Department. [
Cohen Speech ]
Delegate Donald Krause of Local 499, Des Moines, Iowa, spoke
from the floor to report an ongoing problem since 1991 with
maintaining insurance benefits for utility company retirees.
"We have filed an NLRB case but the company has appealed
it every time weve won the case." He said the intervenors
are big companies like Southern and Enron and the holdup on
the NLRB decision means "people who have retired since
1991 are paying an awful lot out of their pocket." The
fourth NLRB decision has called for back pay since 1991, with
interest, but "were waiting to see if the company appeals
this case again."
In response to a question from the floor about the disaffiliation
of the Carpenters, President Hill said he met recently with
AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney, Carpenters President Douglas
J. McCarron and labor mediator John Dunlop, a Harvard professor
who was Secretary of Labor under former President Gerald Ford.
"I can tell you there is progress," President Hill
said of the attempts to get the Carpenters back into the AFL-CIO.
"I understand your frustrations because I have my own
concerns about vertical agreements. I can tell you that we
will fight them, were not going to let that just happen."
Delegate Gary Butz of Local 405, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, asked
President Hill about the disaffiliation, saying Carpenters
in his area "are running around with Force of One T-shirts
which means to us vertical organizing, to take out the basic
President Hill said IBEW locals will be getting a solicitation
from Local 15 for financial assistance for their members who
are locked out in Chicago by Midwest Generation, which has
hired consultants in a brutal attempt to go union free. He
thanked Ron Delgado of Local 47, Diamond Bar, California,
for his call for aid for Local 15.
Chairman Keith Edwards and Secretary Lloyd Lavin brought
the conventions attention to the Report of the International
Executive Council, on which Edwards commended the IEC "for
its good faith effort in its conduct and discharge of its
duties." The name of International Representative Steve
Stump was added to the list of deceased officers and representatives.
When the Resolutions Committee resumed its report, the delegates
rejected on a voice vote the committees recommendation to
concur with Resolution No. 34 on benefits for domestic partners,
including life and medical insurance benefits in same-sex
A speaker urging concurrence with the resolution emphasized
that it "did not force local unions to put it in their
contract. But, if were going to represent everyone, sexual
orientation should be included." Another said it "does
no more than what many of the employers that we represent
provide for our members in the state of California."
In opposing the resolution, one speaker said, "the IBEW
has to recognize the financial impact this would have on our
Brotherhood. If we start including friends, neighbors and
my best friend that lives with me, were going to be giving
benefits to people who do not have a legal right to those
Delegates approved the recommendation of nonconcurrence on
Resolution No. 37 on referrals. The resolution had proposed
that once an applicant for employment has reached Group 1
status, that applicant would be entitled to Group 1 status
in the hiring hall where that status was first attained. The
committee recommended nonconcurrence because referral has
traditionally been resolved through collective bargaining
and because "the operation of union hiring halls is governed
not only by collective bargaining agreement, but by federal
labor law." The committee reported that resolutions identical
to No. 37 were voted down at the 1991 and 1996 International
Timothy Wyatt of Local 340, Sacramento, California, the sponsor
of the resolution, spoke briefly against rejection of the
proposal, which he defined as "Once Group 1, Always Group
1 in your home local." He also said "we do not believe
this change would violate federal law." By voice vote
the convention upheld the Resolutions Committees recommendation
of nonconcurrence. At noon, the convention recessed, to reconvene
at 2 p.m.
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