May 2011

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Stephen Schoemehl

Fifth District International Executive Council member Stephen Schoemehl retired effective March 31, ending a career of service to the membership that spanned nearly four decades.

Initiated into St. Louis Local 1 in 1972, Schoemehl served on various committees, including the joint labor management committee as well as the inside and residential negotiating committees. He was also a member of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus.

Schoemehl went on to serve as an organizer/business representative beginning in the late ’90s, then was elected business manager of the union’s flagship local in 2001. He was appointed to the IEC in 2005 by International President Edwin D. Hill, and was elected at the 37th International Convention in 2006.

In the wake of the recession, and with unemployment high in the construction branch, Schoemehl actively promoted IBEW excellence, especially the union’s role in providing critical skilled work for high-tech industries. In an op-ed published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last year, he pointed to massive jobs the membership has tackled, including the Emerson data center in eastern Missouri, which boasts the largest solar panel array in the state.

“If St. Louis has any hope of becoming a destination for equally enduring high-tech industries, including renewable energy manufacturing, it needs a highly-skilled work force to build and service it,” Schoemehl wrote.

Schoemehl was challenged by the emergence in 2008 of St. Louis Carpenters Local 57, which competes against Local 1 for electrical contracts. A Building Trades Unity Rally last summer drew more than 1,000 members from several craft unions who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the IBEW effort. Soon after, an area contractor was forced to terminate its contract with the Carpenters due to a National Labor Relations complaint filed by the IBEW.

In December, Schoemehl helped organize and lead 600 members in a picket outside the Carpenters hall. “We need to be everywhere the Carpenters are,” Schoemehl said at the picket. “We will be on the ground, at the National Labor Relations Board—wherever we need to be.”

An Army veteran, Schoemehl served on many labor-related committees throughout his career and was a member of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council executive board. He was a member of the Pride of St. Louis Executive Committee and was on the United Way’s board of directors. He was nominated as Labor Man of the Year in 2005 by the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council and 2004 Man of the Year by the St. Louis Port Council.

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

Stephen Schoemehl

Michael Walter

St. Louis Local 1439 Business Manager Michael Walter has been appointed Fifth District International Executive Council member effective March 31. Walter replaces Steven Schoemehl, who has resigned.

A native of St. Louis, Walter was initiated into Local 1439 in 1979 as a mechanic with utility company Ameren UE, formerly called Union Electric. He quickly moved up the job ladder and also became active in the local's leadership, taking the role of a shop steward for 14 years. Walter also served as a business representative starting in 1995 and spent nine years on the local's executive board.

During that time, Walter negotiated more than 24 contracts with nine municipal and 15 investor-owned utilities including Ameren, Alliant, Entergy, and Dallas-based Atmos Energy—one of the largest providers of gas distribution in the country.

Walter was appointed business manager in 2007 and elected to the position in 2008. In that role, he was actively involved in public utility rate cases at Ameren UE and successfully helped steer money into training funds on the generation side as well as into funds to hire new technical employees. He has also lobbied to spur on the state's public service commission in addressing staffing challenges resulting from an aging work force.

Walter is chairman of the Missouri Utility Workers Conference. A member of the Missouri Energy Workforce Consortium, he has served as vice president of the South St. Louis County Labor Political Organization and is on the City of St. Louis Workforce Investment Board. He is also currently chairman of the St. Louis County Board of Zoning Adjustments.

"Early in my career, I realized the value of the IBEW and made a decision to be active," said Walter. "I am grateful to be appointed to the IEC. I feel my work with the IBEW is nowhere near complete. I am 54 years of age and feel that I have much more to learn, accomplish and teach to others in my work with the IBEW."

The IBEW officers, staff and membership wish Brother Walter much success in his new position.

Michael Walter

Kenneth Cooper

International Representative Kenneth "Coop" Cooper has been appointed Fourth District International Vice President effective May 1. Cooper replaces Salvatore "Sam" Chilia, who assumed the role of International Secretary-Treasurer this month.

A member of Mansfield, Ohio, Local 688, Cooper completed his journeyman wireman apprenticeship in 1989 and quickly became an active participant in his local union. Throughout his tenure he served as shop steward, vice president, president, assistant business manager and then business manager for nine years—as well as holding several civic and community positions with the AFL-CIO, Building Trades, Catholic Charities, American Red Cross and the United Way.

"My father was a member of the UAW and my grandfather was in the steelworkers," Cooper said. "Union membership has always been a family affair."

As business manager, he helped increase man-hours for wiremen by 28 percent and received multiple awards and commendations for his role in organizing workers and policing his geographical jurisdiction.

"Employees need to have dignity and respect in the workplace, and I'm honored that I was able to play a part in getting new union members better working conditions and increasing the standard of living for them and their families," Cooper said.

In 2006 he was appointed Fourth District International Representative, where he has been servicing utility, construction, telecommunications, railroad, manufacturing and maintenance locals from West Virginia to Maryland's Eastern Shore. Addressing the recent wave of right-wing attacks on working families, he said that now is a critical time to mobilize "to maintain the things our founders fought for and that people risked their lives for."

"We need to get back to doing the things that make America great," he said. "When people take care of each other, earn fair wages and have decent benefits, our communities are stronger and better places to live."

Cooper said he looks forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead.

"As a wireman in Local 688, I was always told that I was charged with one thing—leaving the IBEW better than when I found it," he said. "I take that to heart."

The officers, staff and membership of the IBEW wish Brother Cooper success in his new position.

Kenneth Cooper

Kenneth Rose

Retired First District Vice President Kenneth Rose died on March 19 at the age of 86.

Initiated into Toronto, Ontario., Local 1095 in 1942 after completing a railroad electrician apprenticeship, Brother Rose served as chief steward and president. In 1950, he was elected regional general chairman of negotiations and administration of IBEW's agreement with the Canadian Pacific Railway in eastern Canada. Later, he led negotiations with the carrier throughout Canada.

In 1955, Rose was appointed a First District International Representative. Two years later, he was designated assistant to the International Vice President. Appointed International Vice President for the First District in 1973, Rose assumed responsibility over a jurisdiction spanning nearly 4 million square miles and 10 provinces.

"Ken was a tough guy, but he was fair," says Kenny Woods, who assisted Rose for 13 years before succeeding him as First District Vice President. Rose, says Woods, was an expert in the IBEW Constitution. "His contribution to the trade union movement brought IBEW to the forefront in Canadian politics. He knew what he wanted and wouldn't stop until he got it."

A member of the Premier's Economic Council in Ontario, Rose also served as a founding vice president of the Canadian Federation of Labour and chairman of the Building and Construction Trades Unions, AFL-CIO. He retired in 1987.

Jim McAvoy, a retired IEC secretary and former business manager of Victoria, British Columbia, Local 230, says: "Ken was respected by members, local leaders and other vice presidents alike for his courage to stand up and speak his mind. I never remember anyone thinking of running against him for vice president."

In retirement, Rose enjoyed golfing near his vacation home in Florida. Rose's memorial service concluded with a bagpiper who led mourners to a pond where his ashes were joined with those of his wife, Betty.

On behalf of all members of the IBEW, the officers and staff send our condolences to Brother Rose's children, Kenneth Jr., Lynn and Darlene.

Kenneth Rose

Danny McKinney

Seventh District International Representative Danny McKinney died on March 3 at the age of 62.

McKinney served as business manager of Phoenix, Ariz., Local 266 from 1986 to 1993. In 1993, he was appointed as an International Representative and served as a desk representative at the Seventh District office.

A lineman, McKinney chaired negotiations with his employer, the Salt River Project, and served on the labor-management committee. He was a delegate to the Arizona State AFL-CIO for 17 years.

Later, McKinney represented the IBEW in negotiations with Asarco, covering copper mine electricians in Arizona and Texas.

Brother McKinney, who was raised in the White Mountains of Northeast Arizona, worked in his youth on actor John Wayne's 26 Bar ranch near Springerville. He served in the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968 as a parachute rigger for the 5th Special Forces Group. He was a licensed pilot and enjoyed skiing and riding his dune buggy.

On behalf of the members of the IBEW, the officers send condolences to Brother McKinney's family.

Danny McKinney