The Electrical Worker online
October 2012

From the Officers
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Time for a Choice

It's show time. By the time you will receive this issue of The Electrical Worker, President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney will be debating and making their final push for our votes.

The IBEW didn't wait until after the Democratic and Republican conventions to talk about the issues facing union members and all Americans on Nov. 6.

We brought together thousands of workers and our families in Philadelphia on Aug. 11 to make clear to both political parties that we want positive action that will move our nation forward — positive action that will secure the place of workers in our society and create a broadly shared prosperity, not just more wealth for those on the top tier.

This election represents a clear choice between those two alternatives.

A few years back, we might have categorized a promise to block or reverse generations of progress made by unions — like Mitt Romney's vow to the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors (see page 3) — as bluster or false bravado.

But that was before the painful loss of collective bargaining rights by public workers in Wisconsin. That was before last year's implementation of right-to-work laws in Indiana and the successful movement by unions to stop Ohio from following Wisconsin's lead.

That was before tens of thousands of Americans, including some of our own members — frustrated by unemployment and a slow economic recovery — returned the U.S. Congress to corporate and Tea Party control in 2010.

We would certainly like to return to a time when Republicans in Congress could join with Democrats to enact legislation without being called traitors by their party's leaders.

But, brothers and sisters, that is not the world we live in.

We should no longer have any doubts about the real priorities of a right wing that has consistently obstructed significant legislation to put Americans back to work just to make President Obama appear ineffective. We shouldn't second guess the motives of politicians who would threaten to sink our national economy just to protect tax breaks for their wealthiest campaign donors. That is their record.

There was a time before widespread political polling and daily discussion of "enthusiasm gaps" and "candidate likeability" percentages when union voters took a hard look at both candidates and asked themselves a simple question: "Which one has demonstrated in record and words that they are on my side?"

The world has grown far more complex, but that question can be easily answered in 2012. It can be answered by hundreds of thousands of autoworkers, parts workers and even some IBEW members whose jobs were saved by the Obama-Biden administration's rescue of General Motors and Chrysler. Can we afford to forget the absolute contempt of Mitt Romney, who said "Let Detroit go bankrupt?"

To those who say that President Obama has failed to turn around our economy fast enough, we refer you to the words of Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention: "No one, not me, not anybody else, no one could have completely healed that [recession] and built a whole new economy and brought us back to full employment in just four years. It has never been done in the history of the world."

"Which candidate is on my side?" That question can be answered by U.S. military veterans who no longer have to travel three hours for medical care because they have VA medical clinics nearby thanks to Obama-Biden administration initiatives, or by citizens who were denied medical insurance because of pre-existing conditions, but who now have coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

In 2008, the IBEW Journal detailed how President George W. Bush had packed government agencies with leaders selected almost exclusively from corporate America. Conflicts of interest were rampant. Many had thin resumes in their areas of responsibility.

All that has changed. President Obama has appointed experts to lead agencies, men and women who see their role as protecting people, not just corporate profits. Many come from the ranks of the labor movement, or as in the case of Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, from union families.

Under Secretary Solis' watch, fatalities on the job have gone down by 18 percent. And wage theft, which gives unfair advantages to nonunion contractors, has been successfully challenged by a beefed up force of investigators. DOL has sent strong financial support for renewable energy training to many union apprenticeship programs.

The surest way to undo the progress that leaders like Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hilda Solis have made in building a more balanced, progressive society is to vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan on Nov. 6. We simply cannot afford to return our agencies of government to the highest bidders.

This debate is not about "small" government or "big" government but the need for good, balanced government. The Obama administration has demonstrated that commitment over the last four years and the president and his appointees deserve our votes.


Edwin D. Hill,
International President

Salvatore J. Chilia,
International Secretary-Treasurer