October 2010

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Harold Higginbotham

Fifth District International Representative Harold Higginbotham retired effective Oct. 1, ending an IBEW career marked by a commitment to volunteer organizing.

Initiated into Gainesville, Fla., Local 1205 in 1972, Higginbotham was mentored in his apprenticeship by journeyman electricians who encouraged him to attend union meetings and get involved in the local union.

Higginbotham served on several committees and held various offices in the local before his election as business manager in 1995.

A story in the April 2001 issue of the IBEW Journal describes how, in 1993, Higginbotham and fellow workers Nelson Mathis, Kenny Sykes and Ernest Cooper brought their local back from the brink of extinction by volunteering to organize during the day while working the night shift as journeymen inside wiremen on a nuclear power plant shutdown.

Local 1205's membership had dwindled to fewer than 300 "A" members, with only 70 working. There was a "For Sale" sign on the parking lot and no money to pay the light bills when Higginbotham proposed that the local establish a Construction Organizing Membership Education Training (COMET) class at the union hall.

With a 15-member volunteer committee and a loan from the International, Higginbotham led the rebuilding of the local union, convincing members to support a $10 dues assessment to finance organizing campaigns. The local membership increased to more than 800 and new offices were opened in Tallahassee and Panama City.

"We were real fortunate that the members supported us. We sure couldn't have turned things around without them," says Higginbotham, whose father and grandfather were union railroad men.

Brother Higginbotham, a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, was appointed as one of the Fifth District's organizing coordinators in 1999 and garnered success, initially in the NLRB-election phase of organizing and, later, in using top-down methods.

Leaving his official duties behind, Higginbotham still sees organizing as the union's prime mission. "The biggest thing is for each member to understand that if there is an unorganized electrician out there, he's already got your job. The IBEW can't compete on a level playing field without reaching out and bringing these workers into our union," says Higginbotham.

Higginbotham ‘s retirement will fulfill a longtime dream. "For 40 years, my wife, Val, and I have been planning to travel around the U.S. and see our great country," says Higginbotham.

On behalf of the entire union membership, the officers and staff wish Brother Higginbotham a rich, healthy and happy retirement.

Harold Higginbotham