October/November 2011

FOCUS Growth

Delegates Ratify Resources for
Growing Brotherhood
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Closing the 38th IBEW Convention, President Hill said, "You heard a common theme from many of our speakers—if we stand still, we die. If we don't change what's not working, then we are condemning ourselves to a slow death."

Convention delegates voted to change what's not working and strengthen programs that have proven to be effective by approving a per capita tax increase to fund new growth.

Earlier in the week, facing a vast and attentive convention, with colorful panels of members at work in all the union's branches flanking both sides of the hall, President Hill called for hope and renewal, presenting state-by-state slides showing an impressive number of organizing campaigns in progress.

Despite the hard work of members at all levels of the organization, a sour national economy and a corporate-dominated political agenda focused on austerity, not job growth, have contributed to a loss of members.

Making the case to delegates for a per capita tax increase, Hill recapped the organization's challenges since the 37th International Convention in 2006.

Projections of total membership from the last convention fell short by 60,000. But in that time, the organization took in 130,000 BA members, largely through internal and external organizing. Without the organizing program set in place in 2006, said Hill, BA membership would be 40 percent smaller than it is now.

Two alternatives thus faced the 38th International Convention. The IBEW could dial back its organizing efforts, bleed its investments to cover the union's operating expenses and go into a defensive shell. Or delegates could reasonably reassess the organization's financial needs and lay the groundwork for future growth, keeping the union's invested reserves intact.

Convention delegates unanimously took the route of responsible management of resources and dynamic growth.

Two per capita tax increases of $2 per month were approved. The first will be effective Jan. 1, 2012; the second on Jan 1, 2014. A third increase of $1 per month will be effective on Jan. 1, 2016, if membership growth projections are not met.

The additional per capita funds will be deployed to fill gaps in the regional organizing structure, cover the hiring of new organizers to help bring more campaigns across the finish line and enact other measures to revitalize the union.

New revenues will be used to implement programs that won unanimous support as resolutions on the convention floor: establishing new internal education efforts—especially for younger members—and a national business development team.

Always cognizant of the decline in construction and the painful reality of hard-working, dedicated unionists out of work, delegates resolved to authorize the union's officers to kick off efforts to let everyone from homeowners to multinational corporations know that IBEW is the first and best choice for electrical services and construction.

Speaking in favor of a national business development team and marketing campaign, John Dougherty, business manager of Philadelphia Local 98, said: "I've been a delegate to five conventions. I do not know if I've ever supported any resolution more than this. I'm going to ask you to go back home and take a look at the numbers in your retirement funds, your general funds, your trading funds and realize that we need to give President Hill and all the officers all the tools to no longer stay on the defensive but get on the offensive. The old adage of pay me now or pay me later doesn't play at all. Because we might not be around later if we don't start funding these initiatives we put in place."

Credit for the accomplishments of the 38th International Convention must be shared with the entire membership of the union, says International President Hill:

"Our brothers and sisters had the good sense to elect delegates who know that our union's greatest challenges come not from corporations or politicians or the right-wing media, but from internalizing the narrative that we do not have the ability or will to rebuild a stronger labor movement. Delegates had the courage to reject fear, set high goals and move into the future."

Read more: Focus Politics: Cross-border political activism

Read more: Focus Youth: First-ever IBEW youth delegation

Read more: Focus Partnership: Employer cooperation highlighted

Read more: Focus Community: Convention seeks community engagement

Read more: Focus Diversity/Inclusion: Discussion, diversity flow at conferences

Delegates affirmed the leadership team's plans for the future.

Philadelphia Local 98 Business Manager John Dougherty

Johnstown, Pa., Local 459 Business Manager Donald Hoak

Honolulu Local 1186 Business Manager Damien Kim spoke in favor of increasing the per capita tax.

Per Capita Increase
Fuels Membership Development Win

IBEW's regional organizing structure, approved by delegates five years ago, has linked the International's Membership Development Department staff and local organizers to build effective, innovative, winning campaigns.

Just one month before the
38th Convention, 300 Sears technicians in Illinois voted to
be represented by Chicago Local 134.

Matt Kenney, assistant business manager/organizer, Joliet, Ill., Local 176, whose local got the first call from Sears' employees seeking representation, discusses the winning campaign:

"Local union organizers worked hand-in-hand with the International. Local 176 is an inside construction local with little experience representing workers like the Sears technicians, but we got good support from professional and industrial organizers and several locals got involved. The technicians cover a vast geographical area, so the campaign was media and computer driven. It's the way of the future. We're making strides. This is the right time for everyone to be organized and come together. Unions are all they have."