October/November 2011

From the Officers
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Next Step after Vancouver: Win New Allies

While more than 3,000 delegates and guests were assembling in Vancouver under the banner "Brotherhood Beyond Borders" for the 38th IBEW Convention, another gathering was gaining momentum 3,000 miles away in New York City.

With signs saying, "Occupy Wall Street" and "We Are the 99%," a mostly-young, diverse group of citizens was making its voice heard at the heart of the U.S. financial system. Some carried signs denouncing the bankers who nearly collapsed our economy or the influence of big money on the politicians who bailed out Wall Street with taxpayers' money.

Others dramatized, in picture and word, their own stories of lost jobs and disrupted dreams, the bitter fruits of rapidly growing economic inequality in the U.S. exacerbated by politicians who—under the cover of "austerity"—block legislation that would create jobs.

On the surface, the events of early September were very different. Hotels, suits and ties and official credentials in Vancouver. Tents, jeans and open invitations to activists of all stripes in New York, and, now, in cities and small towns across the nation.

However, when we focus on the messages that come out of each gathering, differences between our members and the activists on the street fade.

That is as it should be. Because, brothers and sisters, Vancouver was about building bridges, not just between two great nations, but among citizens of both nations fighting for a brighter and more equitable future.

Economic pain is spreading in North America, urging more of our family members, our neighbors and our own union members to wake up. They are looking for real solutions to their problems and leaders who will stand by their side.

In this issue of The Electrical Worker, we review the speeches, the resolutions and the floor debates from Vancouver.

A single strand runs through the entire convention—the need to intensify our efforts to reach beyond our boundaries and our own comfort zones … to unorganized workers, our own members, our youth, our communities, our employers, our customers and our political leaders, offering the kind of leadership that is truly worthy of a mature, progressive and powerful union.

The IBEW's convention cycle is five years. But no delegate left Vancouver with any consolation that we have five years to begin to accomplish our objectives. We should all be proud that our delegates displayed the courage and determination that our times demand.

If anyone questions the urgency of accomplishing the goals established at our 38th Convention, maybe they should listen not to us, but to some of the men who live in the world of our adversaries, men like William Gross, the managing editor of global investment management firm Pimco.

Gross is one of a growing number of wealthy Americans who contend that high unemployment and low wages are hurting the ability of businesses to sell their products or collect interest on investments.

Suddenly powerful men are worried about the future of our entire economic system if our nations don't change course.

Need we say more?

Listening is the first skill of anyone who hopes to reach out and make change. When even our natural adversaries agree that things need to change fast, we simply have no time to waste.

The success of a convention cannot be gauged at its closing. Progress will be measured by how well our members and leaders grasp the urgency of our times and act to sow new plans.

Our adversaries will always question the ability of workers to change our circumstances just as they ridicule the notion of young activists who have the audacity to claim that society should exist for the 99 percent.

Leave them to their doubts. We choose, instead, to heed the words of Samuel Adams, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Adams said, "It does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."

Vancouver 2011 is behind us. Tireless work lies ahead.

Edwin D. Hill
International President

Salvatore J. Chilia
International President