January 2012

From the Officers
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Going on the Offense in 2012

We've closed the book on one of the toughest years for organized labor I've seen in my lifetime. From Wisconsin to Florida, Tea Party-influenced governors put the bargaining rights of public employees on the chopping block, while the new GOP majority in Congress declared war on the National Labor Relations Board, the unemployed and basic workers' rights, taking every opportunity to demonize unions. We have been blamed for everything from the decline of manufacturing jobs to the ongoing recession. You would have to go back the 1920s to find a time period when labor was as much under the gun as it has been in the last year.

It is not nearly as bad in Canada, but some politicians there are also using the recession as an excuse to go after hard-won workers' rights.

We played good defense in 2011, holding the line against the right-wing special interests. But it is time for the IBEW and the union movement to stop waiting for governors like Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Ohio's John Kasich to launch their next hit. It's time to have a real discussion about how we can go on the offensive in 2012.

I'm not suggesting we ape the polarizing tactics used by the corporate-backed politicians, who tried dividing private sector workers against their public sector counterparts. I'm talking about a positive outreach effort to show how unions can bring together all working families — the 99 percent — to restore the dream of a shared prosperity for all.

We need to educate those elected officials not under the sway of extremist ideologues, along with our neighbors and the media, about the good things we do every day — from providing the best training in the electrical industry, to lending a helping hand to communities in need, to sitting down with honest employers to increase our nations' productivity and competitiveness. The IBEW has always taken our commitment to on-the-job excellence, a prosperous nation and economic opportunity seriously.

The struggle we fight, the cause we have dedicated our lives to as IBEW members, is not just for a dwindling group of true believers. Our efforts help guarantee a fair day's pay for a fair day's work and give working people who can't afford their own PAC a voice in the legislative process, which benefits all working Americans and Canadians.

The message is already starting to spread. The thousands of students who camped out in the Wisconsin state Capitol or the community activists who got out the vote against Senate Bill 5 in Cleveland might have not been union members, but they knew that the anti-worker agenda was never just about labor, but political paybacks to the 1 percent. Many of them are unemployed or underemployed. These political paybacks come at their expense too.

Let 2012 be the year we turn those links into unbreakable bonds of solidarity for real economic recovery and jobs.


Also: Hill: Calling Their Bluff on Taxes

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer