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October 2012

IBEW Mobilizes for Races
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Nevada IBEW Mobilizes to Defend Good Jobs,
Retirement Security for All

For Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245 member Tom Bird, the fight to uphold decent retirement security for working Americans is an ongoing battle. In 2009, the former NV Energy lineman, along with fellow Local 1245 retirees, took on their former employer when the utility announced it was slashing promised retiree health benefits. In 2010, Bird and other members of the Nevada chapter of the Alliance for Retired Americans traveled the state to protest Republican U.S. Senate nominee Sharon Angle, who endorsed privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

Now, Bird and members of the Local 1245 retiree club are gearing up to take on the Romney-Ryan plan to undermine America's retirement safety net.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's decision to name Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate raised red flags for many seniors.

In his 2010 budget plan, Ryan, who serves as House Budget Committee chairman, called for partially privatizing Social Security, diverting payroll taxes into private funds, and ending the guarantee of care under the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

"If Paul Ryan's blueprint for undermining Social Security and Medicare comes to pass, a lot of seniors will end up on the street, simple as that," says Bird.

Bird says that members of the Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans are working on educating retirees throughout the state and registering voters.

"Millions are being spent on ads with half-truths," says Bird. "We're educating people on the facts on a one-on-one basis."

Also on the line in Nevada is control of the U.S. Senate. Rep. Shelley Berkley has the support of the labor movement in her run against incumbent Sen. Dean Heller, who supported Ryan's plan to end Medicare and voted to slash vital job-training programs.

Las Vegas Local 357 Assistant Business Manager James Halsey says that Romney and Heller have made clear whose side they are on: the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors.

"They want to abolish project labor agreements and prevailing wage," he says. Halsey tells members that a vote for Romney is, in essence, a vote for nonunion Helix Electric, a leading ABC contractor.

The IBEW is also focused on local races, from school boards on up. "Every elected position in this state has something to do with whether or not we can get good jobs, so we have to be involved at every level," Halsey says.

He says he understands why so many members get turned off by elections, with all the negative ads and false promises, but attacks on the middle class by anti-worker politicians means the IBEW has no choice but to take a stand and support worker-friendly candidates.

"We're reaching out beyond just union households," says Bird, who lives in rural northern Nevada. "We're seeing big-time special interest money coming in here, but we think grassroots activism can turn the tide."


IBEW retirees are warning residents about how budget cuts advocated by Paul Ryan would affect their peers.