January 2011

From the Officers
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´╗┐Hold the Tightwads Accountable

During the election season, a candidate for mayor in New York City got national media coverage and a load of laughs when he announced that he was running as a member of the "Rent is Too Damn High Party."

All joking aside, I don't think any of us would have a problem joining the "Unemployment is Too Damn High Party."

And no matter who we blame for the current crisis, most of us are impatient and concerned about how long it is taking to put our economy on the road to recovery.

All of us, working or unemployed, do ourselves a great disservice if we leave our impatience in the voting booth and depend upon our new leaders—Republican or Democrat—to solve problems on their own.

They can't or won't.

Shrinking budgets and rising deficits at all levels of government have led to more competition over how scarce resources will be allocated and to a national debate over how deficits will be reduced. Politicians need facts, persuasion and pressure from real people or many will simply do the bidding of their biggest contributors.

And those same corporate contributors are sitting on billions of dollars in profits, as high as in pre-recession days, waiting for demand to increase. Don't believe us? It said so in the Wall Street Journal, not exactly an anti-corporate publication. They say the business executives are waiting for demand to rise before they spend money. Hello? Loosen your wallets. Build. Train people. Most important, hire more workers. Then you will see demand rise. And if government can chip in with short-term spending, so much the better.

All branches of our union have much to gain by entering the competition to convince our leaders to make public policy that puts our members to work, raises the living standards of our surrounding communities, and reduces deficits by growing the economy.

We're talking about projects like the Taylorville Energy Center in Illinois, a coal gasification project that holds the potential for 10 million hours of labor and opportunities for 2,500 construction jobs and hundreds more in mining. We're proud that several of our Illinois locals have joined with the AFL-CIO, under the leadership of IBEW member and state federation president, Michael Carrigan, to gain legislative support for the project.

We're talking about the efforts of San Diego Local 569 and many others across the nation lobbying for major new projects in solar and renewable energy.

We're talking about the role that our New York locals played in passing legislation to stop worker misclassification and wage theft under the leadership of Denis Hughes, president of the state's AFL-CIO and a member of Local 3.

Brothers and sisters, these are not normal times. We've known boom and bust before. But it has been decades since we've seen this slow an economy. Today's tactics need to be adapted to this new reality.

Last month in cities across the country, unemployed members showed up outside the offices of congressional representatives to draw attention to the need to extend unemployment benefits.

We often complain about how labor is ignored in the pages of our newspapers or on local TV. But these protests were widely covered. Why? Because some workers decided to make a personal commitment to go beyond voting, beyond sending letters, beyond making phone calls to showing up and making themselves heard.

That's the activist tradition of responsible militancy that we need to rekindle if we are going to break through the news embargo, push our elected leaders over to our side and put our members back to work.

In this issue of The Electrical Worker, we talk about how not to reduce deficits. The best way to reduce deficits is to get unemployed workers back on the job. Until then, those who have money will sit on it, and those who don't will sink further into debt and despair.

It's time to fight to get our economy back in balance and get all of our people on the job.

Edwin D. Hill
International President

Lindell K. Lee
International Secretary-Treasurer