January 2010

From the Officers
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What I Saw at the Jobs Summit

It was an honor to be one of the more than 100 labor, community and business leaders invited to the White House earlier this month to take part in President Obama's jobs summit.

I knew that we wouldn't come up with a quick-fix solution to the greatest jobs crisis in a quarter-century in just one day, but some innovative ideas were raised and were subject to serious discussion.

President Obama's new jobs program, announced on December 8, contains some important first steps to help revive the economy, including using TARP money to help small businesses grow and increasing investments in our highways, railroads and bridges.

In the spirit of "bold experimentation," called for by President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression, I want to repeat some of the suggestions I offered at the summit.

  • Rebuild Domestic Manufacturing: We need to make sure stimulus money ends up creating jobs where they are needed the most—right here at home. Rebuilding our roads, bridges and schools, not to mention greening our economy through wind, solar and biodiesels, could lead to a rebirth of manufacturing. We can't afford any more incidents like when developers of a massive Texas wind-farm project tried to use stimulus money to off-shore jobs to China.

  • Learn from the innovators: The IBEW hasn't let the recession stop us from continuing to take the high road, upholding the wages and benefits that guarantee our members a place in the middle class, while upgrading our training programs and commitment to on-the-job excellence—the antithesis of the Wal-Mart economic model. In the Bay Area, Local 595 is partnering with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to help green our work force, while to the south, in Los Angeles, Local 11 just signed a deal to build the city's new "green" NFL stadium, creating hundreds of good jobs.

And in Minnesota, our locals are partnering with a new start-up company—LVX System—that has developed a revolutionary wireless Internet system that connects to the Web using energy-efficient LED lights.

President Obama and Congress now have the opportunity to reverse more than 30 years of economic stagnation. The IBEW, our industry partners and the labor movement stand as ready leaders in this effort.

To read a longer version of this column, check out my blog on the Huffington Post at www.huffingtonpost.com/edwin-d-hill.

Edwin D. Hill
International President

A Step Forward in Copenhagen

Consider the gigantic challenge that faced 100 heads of state and representatives of thousands of non-governmental organizations, including 400 trade unionists, who gathered last month in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

All delegates shared an intellectual understanding of the need to reduce the overheating of our planet’s atmosphere. But they were all over the map on how to do it.

Developing nations said they need financial help from wealthier nations—like the U.S.—to limit their use of fossil fuels. Developed nations hung tough, insisting that if such help is given, nations like China and India must not gain a competitive advantage in global trade by escaping pollution goals.

IBEW Utility Department Director Jim Hunter was part of an International Trade Union Confederation delegation that promoted a “just transition” to a green economy. They pushed for public investment, innovation, skill development, and labor protections, arguing against those who would leave the green economy to the free market. Such an approach, they said, would mostly benefit the global corporate elite.

For a time, it looked like the conferees would end up without an agreement. Then President Barack Obama arrived and negotiated a deal with China, India and other developing and wealthy nations. It is a start at addressing one of our most solemn obligations to future generations.

Developed nations will contribute over $100 billion to help developing nations. In return, China, India and other major developing nations agree to accurately report on and verify their emissions goals.

I respect the passion of environmentalists who say that this agreement is too weak. But, like a first contract in a newly-organized shop, Copenhagen is a work in progress, a first step.

Congress will soon be debating climate change legislation. The IBEW will follow up Brother Hunter’s significant participation in Copenhagen by insisting upon a realistic transition to cleaner energies that will require a mix of sources, including nuclear, coal, natural gas and renewable technologies. We will need the support of members in contacting your senators and representatives.

Next year, another world climate change conference will be held in Mexico. The IBEW will be back at the table carrying the voices of our members to the world’s decision makers.

Lindell K. Lee
International Secretary-Treasurer