January 2011

Letters to the Editor
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The Real Problem

In the November 2010 issue of The Electrical Worker, the front page article "Manufacturing Crisis, Roadblock to Recovery: 'Made in China,'" like similar articles I have read, seems to lay most of the blame on China.

The Chinese have not invaded the U.S. and forcefully relocated factories to China. They have done what states and cities across the United States have been doing for years, mainly offer cheaper labor and costs to companies. Think of the furniture industry and textiles in the New England states that relocated to the South for cheaper labor.

It is the businesses who are moving these factories and jobs overseas, of their own free will. These companies have no loyalty to the American worker, and thus no loyalty to the United States, but they expect us to bail them out, pay all the taxes, and to fight and die in wars to protect their interests. If you want to solve this problem, start there.

How? Well, I know my pension invests in many of these companies. In fact there are many union pension plans across the country that are major investors in the stock market. I believe there needs to be a coordinated effort among these plans to sell stock in companies that have relocated overseas, and invest in smaller companies that are trying to build here in the U.S. Yes, it will hurt our pensions and retirees in the short term, but we are in a fight, and in a fight you have to expect to take a few punches. Our investments in the stock market are really the only weapon we have to fight with, and it is time for us to use that weapon.

Secondly, I have not seen any meaningful effort by politicians, of either stripe, to impose sanctions on these companies.

But we continue to buy things without looking at the labels or caring about where it was made. Sure it is cheaper upfront, but over the long term? Less tax revenue taxes means less money to spend on firemen, policemen, hospitals, picking up trash, filling potholes, maintaining parks, etc., all the things that we come to expect from living in modern country.

Think about this. Or don’t. But your choice will affect your city, your state, your country, your children, and your wallet.

Kevin O'Driscoll
Local 617 member, San Mateo, Calif.

A Man’s World?

I read with interest "First District Opens Doors to Women in Construction" (November 2010 Electrical Worker). It brought back many memories of my 30-year career in the IBEW. I was the first woman to be accepted into Long Island, N.Y., Local 25's apprentice program back in 1979. I didn't realize at the time what an incredible opportunity I was given and how much a part of my life the IBEW would become.

When someone described how unwelcoming and hostile her work environment was, I felt compelled to write. The only time I was ever brought to tears was during my apprenticeship when my classmates (my peers) gave me a huge bouquet of roses on our graduating night. I did get some ribbing over the years but it was all in good fun.

I think working in construction as a union electrician is one of the best career choices a woman can make. The concept of "a man's world" does not hold true here on Long Island. I have also worked in Connecticut where I was a "woman" and "traveler." I was treated very well. I make a living wage, I have medical and retirement benefits; not too many of my female friends can say they have the same. While construction is not for every woman it is also not for every man. If I had any advice for the First District it would be to try to attract the best people, not just women.

After reading the article it also became abundantly clear how lucky I was. I truly feel I am part of a family. We may disagree sometimes, we may tease each other, but my brothers have ALWAYS had my back! 

Keri Webster
Local 25 member, Hauppauge, N.Y.