December 2011

From the Officers
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A Winning Formula

The bold choice of Sears service technicians and Star West satellite installers to organize—the cover story in this month's Electrical Worker—refutes the all-too-common narrative that service workers in the private sector are doomed to forever live and work under the dictates of their employers on an inevitably uneven playing field.

In both campaigns, workers met the challenges of coming together as cohesive units despite miles of separation and widely varying ages and cultures. Organizers could have walked away from these difficulties. Instead, they tenaciously tapped their creativity and adjusted their approaches. The Star West campaign took two years of hard work; Sears took months of intensive internal efforts. Web technology and the smart use of social media helped overcome divisions, but organizers also mixed those tools with traditional grassroots methods.

With the largest portion of our members in construction and utilities, IBEW members far too often look at service jobs as being inherently undesirable because of low pay and inferior working conditions.

As we welcome our brothers and sisters from Sears, Star West and other service sector jobs, we need to change our own perspectives and attitudes.

There are no bad jobs, only jobs where workers lack a voice and the power to improve their lives. Moreover, as our reporting reveals, the Sears and Star West workers take as much pride in the services that they provide to their customers as do the members of other IBEW branches. In fact, one of their main motives in organizing was to overcome company policies that undermine their effectiveness.

So the question is: Will all local unions—no matter what jurisdiction and branches they represent—win more organizing campaigns, or will we stand by and leave the job to others?

I hope these two exciting campaigns give us the answer. They demonstrate the powerful benefits of teamwork. I want to thank all of the local union leaders and activists who exemplified the spirit of a forward-looking, progressive union by participating in the Sears and Star West campaigns.

Organizing is never easy. Local unions have a lot on their plates. But a strong union concedes nothing to employers who abuse workers and try to keep us from realizing what we have in common.


Also: Chilia: Lessons from Ohio

Edwin D. Hill
International President