The Electrical Worker online
January 2014

From the Officers
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Open Discussion, United Action

President Abraham Lincoln once said, "He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help."

For the last few years, I have asked members who oppose recovery agreements and the establishment of construction electrician and construction wireman classifications to put their hearts and minds into coming forward with alternatives that will help put our unemployed members back to work.

All too often, the most vocal critics have come up empty. They left the difficult work of developing strategy to win back our union's market share in the electrical construction industry to others.

In this issue of The Electrical Worker, I have tried to reconstruct the factual basis for our organization's establishment of recovery agreements and the use of CE/CW classifications — the necessity of working with our signatory contractors to stay competitive in a rapidly changing electrical construction market.

Let's be very clear. Your officers and I didn't sit in an office and dream these programs up.

In fact, our local unions that are winning new work for our members and growing the IBEW are succeeding exactly because they summoned up their courage to participate in a full and open discussion. They looked critically at what open shop contractors were doing in their backyards and what it would take to compete.

Based upon those discussions, we enlisted the IBEW Research Department to study the overall electrical markets in the U.S. and Canada. Then we prepared presentations for IBEW International Conventions and for yearly conferences of the Construction and Maintenance Department.

Again, we invited delegates to go back home and start a dialogue with their members at all levels based upon the facts presented, then to initiate the new classifications.

The process of full dialogue and discussion in the IBEW is ongoing.

But, brothers and sisters, there comes a juncture when decisions must be made and our organization must move forward in united action, the intersection where our focus shifts to how, not whether a particular policy will be implemented.

Let's not fall into the trap of defending a status quo that no longer exists. The IBEW has a proud history of applying our union values to solving problems. And anyone who doesn't see a problem with diminished work from a declining industrial base — combined with our lack of union hands in the small commercial sector — is simply living in denial.

Let's put our hearts and minds, our collective voices and our hard work into building the electrical union of tomorrow.


Also: Chilia: Keepers of the Faith Read Chilia's Column

Edwin D. Hill

Edwin D. Hill
International President