July 2011

Letters to the Editor
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In a Union Worker's Shoes

When he was running for office, President Obama said that he would be willing to put on a comfortable pair of shoes and walk a picket line if working families needed his help. I think it's pretty clear that we need his help now with all the anti-union attacks in Wisconsin and around the country.

All of us should send President Obama an old pair of shoes to remind him of his promise. If a pile of shoes showed up at the White House, it would help make the point that promises need to be kept—especially when it involves something as important as standing with working men and women and their unions.

I noticed that people in Egypt took off their shoes to show their disgust when President Mubarak refused to resign. The situation is different here, but the same rule applies. Politicians who don't keep their promises don't deserve our respect. Any official who refuses to stand with the working class and defend our unions deserves to get our shoes—or the boot.

Larry Metzger
Local 30 retiree, Corvallis, Ore.

A Better Life for All

I've been retired since 1996 and to help keep myself current, I joined a weekly discussion group at our community center. The group consists mostly of conservative Republicans and two of us are the only Democrats. We have a moderator and our discussions are kept civil.

Recently there was a discussion on unions and as you can probably guess, much of the sentiment was anti-union. One man commented that he had been driving past some road work and saw two workers with shovels just talking next to a hole in the road. An hour later he passed the same site and the two were there in the same spot, still talking, obviously not getting anything done.

When it was my turn to speak, I said, "When I worked in New York City … if there was a hole in the ground, two years later, there would be a 50-story building on the same site filled with working people. This is the union I belong to."

My message to you: don't let anyone put down unions. Remind them of how much unions have accomplished: the elimination of child labor, increased safety at work, pensions, vacations, health care coverage, and much more. The union movement was responsible for the creation of a thriving middle class and a better life for all.

William Bartnick
Local 3 retiree, New York

Old Boys' Club?

In the May issue of The Electrical Worker you featured the retirement of the International Secretary-Treasurer (Lindell Lee). It's not surprising to me that once again an International Executive Council member has retired before his term in office has ended. And once again, it's not surprising that another executive was appointed to that position just months ahead of the International Convention. This action will ensure that the appointee will be elected at the Convention. This tactic has been repeated for the 43 years that I have been a member. It's so common now that the executives of locals are also using this process to get the members they want elected. I am of the opinion that this practice might be morally wrong for a labor organization that stands for fair democracy for all members.

This practice, for the sake of continuity, I think takes away a little bit of our union's soul. For it is perceived that unless you belong to the old boys' club, you do not stand a chance of being elected to a position.

We have made great strides in the last decade on the outside; we must now look to improving the inside of our organization both at the International and local level. We must reach that point where all the members of our great IBEW are made to feel that they are truly all equal and are exposed to the same opportunities.

Louis Marino
Local 353 member, Toronto