December 2010

From the Officers
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Understanding Recovery Agreements

There's an old saying that a good racehorse does not ask for a dry track. An effective union learns how to compete and bring projects across the finish line, even in a troubled economy.

Some local unions across the country are busy figuring out just that, by trying new methods including the new classifications—construction wiremen and construction electricians—making it easier to win those jobs that we have traditionally not been doing, as well as being more competitive on the type of work that we have lost or even conceded to the nonunion sector.

You know the kinds of work I'm talking about: strip malls, big box stores, fast food restaurants, hotels and homes. You see them every day as you travel around the jurisdiction and elsewhere.

Getting membership support for a new program while thousands of journeymen and apprentices are unemployed was never going to be easy.

Now some members are suggesting that the International and locals back away from recovery agreements until times get better. Others charge that new classifications will keep journeymen and apprentices on the street even longer.

I'm all for open debate and discussion, but there has to be an alternative offered or at least a realistic viewpoint on our future, brothers and sisters.

We were losing large sectors of work long, long before the recent recession. And all of us—at every level of our union—share some of the responsibility for not coming up with good solutions to this problem.

The world was changing. A whole new era of electrical workers and contractors are emerging using modern technologies, planning and new tools. This is necessitating the consideration of different classifications. As we thought in the past—and it did not happen then and will not happen now—those contractors using these new tools, technology and workers will not stay in the small-bore, low-margin jobs, while we continue to do the high-profile, high-overtime projects. That thinking was dead wrong then and is dead wrong now and we will continue to lose employment opportunities for all of our classifications.

We can stay wrong or we can face reality. Those are our choices. Effective local leaders don't just wait on orders from someone else. They dig in and fashion solutions that make sense.

In coming months, the pages of the Electrical Worker and our Web site,, will be reporting on how local unions are using recovery agreements to put electricians back to work.

Our failures belong to all of us. Now it's time to share our success in adapting to and shaping change in the inside electrical industry.

Also: Lee: A Mandate for Jobs, Not Partisanship

Edwin D. Hill
International President