October 2010

From the Officers
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Partisan Hype or Real Solutions?

Bill Brady, who made his fortune in his family's nonunion residential construction business, says that passing right-to-work legislation in Illinois is an "intriguing" possibility. That fact alone doesn't make him remarkable. But what would be truly historic—if not alarming—is if votes from working families, including Illinois IBEW members, help send Brady to live in the state's oldest historic residence, Springfield's governor's mansion, in November.

Electing Brady and other leaders who have no appreciation or respect for organized labor is not the kind of history we need to be making in 2010—at a time when millions of workers are down on their luck, out of jobs and wondering if anyone in political office really cares about what they are going through.

For many members, our hopes for reversing the anti-worker policies of the Bush administration soared high after the 2008 presidential election. Then the winds changed.

Some blame Republicans or weak Democrats for sabotaging President Obama's program to turn around our economy. Others blame the Obama administration for wasting opportunities to pull our nation out of the deep hole dug by the prior administration. Both points have legitimacy.

But now it's decision time. And before we punish incumbent members of Congress and state officeholders for what they haven't done, we need to do a gut check.

Our union's own history should tell us that revenge is not a strategy. Neither is burying our heads in the sand.

Unlike some of our neighbors who vote their emotions or stay home on Election Day, we—as disciplined, hard-working, patriotic citizens—have a responsibility to dig into the issues and support candidates who have tried to set our nation on the road to progress. Then we need to effectively engage our adversaries who would take us backward. Let's review just a couple of political battles since 2008.

Remember when some governors and members of Congress railed against a federal stimulus as "wasteful government spending," despite its saving or creating tens of thousands of jobs? Many of them jumped in front of the cameras when it was time to award projects in their districts and states.

Let's not forget the battle over the future of our nation's auto industry. The President and our friends in Congress who dared to save this industry—for its workers and tens of thousands more, including our own members, who manufacture parts and maintain the plants—were accused by Republicans of "selling out" to unions. "Let the free market rule. This is America," they said. If they had their way, these self-proclaimed patriots would have shipped more U.S. manufacturing offshore.

Despite the clear choices in 2010, media commentators tell us there is an "enthusiasm gap" between Americans who support the new wave of Tea Party candidates and the rest of the electorate. If you're not enthusiastic about the upcoming election, so be it.

But, brothers and sisters, let's not kid ourselves about what is at stake if our members don't vote or if they register what they believe are protest votes for candidates like Bill Brady in Illinois, or U.S. Senate candidate Rob Portman in Ohio. Remember Portman? He was George Bush's trade representative, a "free trader" who presided over tens of thousands of good-paying jobs being shipped to Mexico, India and China.

Have you ever worked good-paying prevailing wage jobs or on projects covered by project labor agreements? Kiss a lot of them goodbye if this wave of phony populists wins in November. Don't take our word for it—just listen to candidates like Meg Whitman in California, who is pouring millions of dollars of her own money into the California governor's race and supports the already-frightening trend of municipalities in her state and across the U.S. setting aside PLA's.

All of us want to see more job growth here at home, from rebuilding our nation's electrical grid to launching more nuclear power plants. Yet some of the same right-wingers who accuse leaders in Congress and the Obama administration of "big government waste" and "passing our debts on to our children" would deprive the treasury of trillions of dollars that could be spent on worthwhile projects by refusing to raise taxes on super-wealthy Americans. Will we fall for their hypocrisy?

The activists interviewed for this issue and for the IBEW Web site (www.ibew.org/Election2010) know which candidates have stood with us on the issues. And they know which candidates have helped perpetuate the anti-worker sentiments and policies that have gained far too much traction over the last few decades across North America. Let's heed their advice and experience.

IBEW members at every level of our union worked so hard in 2008 to set our nation on a new road. We have seen some progress, but every day we are reminded how much further we need to go. Change has never come easy and 2010 could be the toughest test of our lifetimes.

Let's not wake up on Nov. 3 to find that we have elected leaders who are promising to build a bonfire out of our efforts to establish and sustain a fairer, stronger domestic economy.

Edwin D. Hill
International President

Lindell K. Lee
International Secretary-Treasurer