March 2010

From the Officers
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IBEW at Fulcrum of Nuclear Revival

It's more than fitting that President Barack Obama chose Local 26's apprenticeship training center outside of Washington, D.C., to deliver the exciting news on Feb. 16 that he was approving billions of dollars in federal loan guarantees to build two new nuclear reactors in Georgia, the first to be built in the U.S. in three decades.

Since the late 1980s, more than 300 members of Atlanta Local 84 have operated two reactors at the Plant Vogtle nuclear facility adjacent to a site that was cleared last year for the new ones. The diligence, responsibility, productivity and respect for safety of the existing work force provide a strong template for the new members who will be hired to bring the reactors online. But this news sweeps in a much broader spectrum of the work force.

The IBEW joined other building and construction trades picketing the site after a nonunion contractor was awarded the preparation work. Because of our activism, the trades are on the cusp of signing a project labor agreement with the Southern Company that will put thousands of union construction workers to work building the reactors once they are approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

As you can see from the front page story of this issue, the IBEW is involved in all phases of the push toward a greener energy future, and we believe that nuclear power is a crucial part of the mix. Nuclear has its critics who are already saying that massive cost overruns will lead to default on loans, or that safety and operational problems could put us in greater peril.

These critics don't know the IBEW. They don't know the exemplary performance of thousands of members in nuclear plants and construction sites across the nation. They will soon. Brothers and sisters, we have brought huge construction projects in on time and under budget in every corner of our continent. Our charge is to match that pursuit of excellence in all aspects of the Georgia project. Our union has taken decisive steps with our partners in industry and academia to establish new nuclear training programs to replace thousands of our most skilled workers who are nearing retirement. Our success at Plant Vogtle will be measured by the yardsticks of a swift learning curve and a bold, timely and safe startup.

Getting people back to work will be done not in one fell swoop but in many smaller actions. The loan guarantees are an important step forward for both a sensible energy policy and jobs.

Edwin D. Hill
International President

Double-Talk on the Recovery Act

When Congress passed President Obama's $787 billion stimulus package last year to help revive the economy, a grand total of three congressional Republicans—out of a total of 218—voted for it. The GOP denounced the bill as irresponsible big government spending. But as an article in the Washington Times (a conservative paper, by the way) recently pointed out, this didn't stop many of those same lawmakers from seeking out Recovery Act money for their own districts.

The article points to a letter from Missouri Sen. Christopher Bond—a vociferous critic of the Recovery Act—to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting stimulus funds for a project that he said would "create jobs and ultimately spur economic opportunities."

Bond's colleague in the House, Rep. Joe Wilson—best known for his "You lie!" outburst during Obama's first address to Congress—also had no problem petitioning the federal government for stimulus money for his South Carolina district, despite his public opposition to the stimulus plan. All told, more than 90 Republican lawmakers—all opponents of Obama's bill—stealthily tried to steer federal stimulus monies to their own districts.

And many more made sure to boast to their constituents about all the stimulus funds and new jobs they brought home—all thanks to legislation they denounced in the halls of Congress.

Genuine political differences are one thing; sheer hypocrisy is something else.

Most economists agree that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped save the economy from sliding into a new Great Depression. The three best known economic research firms all estimate that the bill added nearly 2 million jobs and saved millions more.

While the stimulus bill helped to prevent total disaster, we all know more must be done.

Now Congress is debating a new jobs bill. Is the GOP serious about joining together in a genuine bipartisan manner to do what it takes to create jobs? Or will it continue to play political theater for the beltway crowd and their own extreme right-wing base? Fifteen million unemployed Americans will be watching.

Lindell K. Lee
International Secretary-Treasurer