February 2011

Letters to the Editor
index.html Home    Print    Email

Go to www.ibew.org
Winning the Perception Battle

I just received and watched President Hill's DVD on CW/CE workers helping the IBEW recover work we have lost. I have been a member of the IBEW for almost 25 years, and at various times have been involved with organizing. I even came in through an organizing campaign I led. We won the election, but the contractor never signed an agreement. While I can see a benefit to this tactic in the short-term, in the long run the nonunion sector will just cut their cost (wages) to get below our labor cost.

Our biggest problem is the public's view of unions. The corporations and the business sector have tarred us with the brush of being lazy and greedy ne'er-do-wells. I just read a letter online blaming UNIONS for rising health care costs, the high prices of automobiles, the reason our schools are in bad shape, and have in the past seen us blamed for just about anything bad you can think of. We need to show the benefits of being union, by running a national media campaign, extolling how unions can help make lives better. If we do this right, the public should see that unions aren't the protectors of lazy bums and people looking for the easy way out.

By arranging for insurance for our members, we actually help keep health care costs down. It's the people without insurance (nonunion) that drive up health care costs, because someone has to pay for them, and it's usually done by charging those with insurance more. They don't seem to see that the foreign car companies (mainly nonunion) charge just as much for their cars. Why blame a working man for making $25 an hour ($50,000 a year), when the CEOs and upper management get millions? When I salted a contractor a few years back, I had a discussion with a co-worker about wages and unions. I told him that the employer wouldn't be paying us as much as he was (about half of scale) if it wasn't for the threat of the higher union wages. He disagreed, and said he thought the contractor was a nice guy who wanted to see his people prosper.

We need to clean up our image and make belonging to a union respectable once again.

Robert Newport
Local 481 member, Indianapolis, Ind.