The Electrical Worker online
June 2013

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Jonathan Gardner

Seventh District International Vice President Jon Gardner retired effective May 31.

A native of Salem, Mass., Gardner moved to Tucson, Ariz., in his early youth, later enrolling in University of Arizona as an electrical engineering major.

Securing a summer job during college in a copper mine north of Tucson, Gardner says, "I began working as a miner, breaking rock with a 16-pound double-jack, 2,000 feet underground."

In 1961, after transferring to the mine's electrical department, Gardner joined Tucson Local 570 and was enlisted to teach an IBEW-sponsored course in electronics.

Working a straight midnight shift in the mine to continue his education, Gardner was tapped by a new Local 570 business manager to serve as assistant. In 1966, after completing his electrical engineering degree, he was hired as an International Representative.

In a letter to Seventh District local unions, Gardner says, "Over my career in the IBEW, I had the good fortune of assisting in organizing thousands of new members, negotiating hundreds of contracts and handling hundreds of cases at arbitration and before the NLRB. However the goal of all these activities was to empower and serve the membership. They are the most important people in the IBEW."

Brother Gardner, whose father was a member of the Machinists union, says his greatest challenge was in convincing local unions and signatory contractors to embrace change. He expresses pride that all locals in the district voluntarily adopted the Code of Excellence.

Based on research, he says, 60 percent of the productivity issues on construction sites, planning management and supervision, were the responsibility of employers. "To truly address performance, the Code of Excellence needed to be a joint program."

Taking the lead in establishing foreman training throughout the district, Gardner says, "We changed local models to make contractors more competitive," and the Foremen Development Series was an important part of convincing contractors to change their business model to be more competitive and use the CW/CE classifications.

In a few areas, the contractors were slow to accept the IBEW's role in training foremen. Convincing contractors to use CW/CE job classifications across the district was also a slow process.

Gardner credits Austin, Texas, Local 520 for piloting a program to evaluate the skill levels of workers in new classifications and provide an acceptable structure for implementing new classifications. He says, "We validated our evaluations by testing journeymen and apprentices which, in turn, gave CW/CEs credibility in the eyes of the contractors, as they were paid commensurate with their skills."

Fewer than 10 percent of strategic plans developed by organizations are implemented, says Gardner, because leaders are either afraid of making mistakes or putting in the hard work necessary to be successful. "I like change," he says. "But I also recognize that there is luck in this business and a lot of things have just worked out well."

In his letter, Gardner says, "I'm not going to retire to a rocking chair…" He may heed his wife's advice to write a book about his career and is planning to assist other unionists with arbitration cases and hearings before the NLRB.

"It may sound corny, but I like the members I worked for. Helping someone do something they didn't think they could do is the best part of this job."


Jonathan Gardner

Steven Speer

International Representative Steven Speer has been appointed Seventh District International Vice President effective June 1. Speer replaces Jonathan Gardner, who retired.

A member of Phoenix Local 640, Speer completed his journeyman wireman apprenticeship in 1978. The son of a Teamster, Speer joined the IBEW after a heart-to-heart discussion with his soon-to-be father-in-law.

"He asked me what I was going to do to support his daughter," says Speer. "He was an IBEW electrician so I applied to become an apprentice."

He became active in the local, serving on its examining board. In late 1980s Speer travelled for work when the economy soured, returning to Phoenix in 1989.

In 1990, he was elected to the executive board, serving as its chairman. In 1996 he was elected business manager.

As business manager, he helped to organize the state's largest electrical contractor and negotiated a contract that raised the wages of Arizona electricians to national industry standards.

In 2005, he was appointed Seventh District International Representative. In that position he serviced locals throughout Arizona and New Mexico.

While fighting to defend the rights of IBEW members on the job, he says, "I've always believed that labor's best interests are served if we can find solutions that benefit everyone — workers and management alike."

Grateful for the important groundwork laid by his predecessor, Speer says he looks forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

"I feel a great responsibility to the members of the Seventh District and a great responsibility to International Vice President Gardner to carry on the vital progress he's made in advancing the IBEW throughout the Southwest."

The officers, staff and membership of the IBEW wish Brother Speer success in his new position.


Steven Speer

Ronald L. 'Ronnie' Raspberry

We regret to report that former Sixth District International Executive Council member Ronald "Ronnie" Raspberry died on April 8. He was 71.

Brother Raspberry was initiated into Houston Local 716 in 1964, serving as a member of the examining board and the executive board before his election as business manager in 1974. He served as chairman of the Houston Joint Apprentice Training Committee, as vice president of the Texas State Association of Electrical Workers, vice president of the state Building and Construction Trades Council and as vice president of the Houston Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council.

Active in the Democratic Party on the local, state and national levels, Raspberry served his country in the early 1960s as a member of the Marines.

He was elected to the IEC at the IBEW's 1986 Convention in Toronto, Ontario, serving in that position until his retirement.

He was remembered as a tireless advocate for the labor movement and its members, many of whom posted remembrances of Raspberry's life and career, including Local 716 Business Manager John Easton Jr.

"Brother Raspberry devoted his life to labor and elevating the lives of others," Easton wrote on the Houston Chronicle's online obituary page. "He had an awesome vision of members caring for each other and building our own 'union community.' It is because of Brother Raspberry and all those before me that I am here today and I will do my best to continue the long-lasting legacy of Brother Raspberry doing everything I can for the betterment of the labor movement."

The IBEW members, officers and staff send our deepest condolences to Brother Raspberry's wife Roycie, his family and many friends.


Ronald L. 'Ronnie' Raspberry