The Electrical Worker online
September 2014

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On Labor Day, Celebrating Our Victories

It's Labor Day in the U.S., Labour Day in Canada. In a few cities and towns, IBEW members will march in traditional parades behind our union's colors. But even more busy working families will be shopping in big-box retail stores — those overwhelmingly nonunion workplaces that today employ nearly a quarter of all workers in the U.S.

Times have changed. But Labor Day still marks the one occasion during the year when many journalists and media outlets attempt to sum up the state of unions and organized labor.

The past year has seen unprecedented media attention across North America on how, despite huge productivity increases, wages for almost all workers have remained flat or fallen, even while the incomes of the 1 percent have blown through the roof.

Some commentators have accurately attributed this rising economic inequality to the fact that unions, which use their leverage to fight for a more level economic playing field for both members and nonmembers, have lost numbers.

Organized labor's decline and perceived weakness is serious business. But, looking through this year's issues of The Electrical Worker, we have much to celebrate this Labor Day because IBEW members aren't giving in to adversity or demoralization.

Our organizers have branched out, expanding the Brotherhood's reach to workers like satellite technicians employed by NASA in Mississippi and tool makers in Illinois. Even in the face of political attacks on public sector workers, the IBEW has won municipal worker campaigns in California and other states.

New hydroelectric and transmission projects are planned for jurisdictions as spread out as Newfoundland and Texas. So our union is signing up an exceedingly diverse workforce to build and maintain them.

Hard numbers are important. But growing the IBEW between now and next Labor Day also depends upon how we and our families spread the word about how our union serves our communities.

No one is doing this better than the spouses of IBEW linemen who are organizing financial and emotional support for families whose breadwinners have been killed or injured on the job, or local unions that are going the extra mile to provide more training opportunities to returning military veterans.

Our challenges are many. But this Labor Day, let's celebrate our achievements. And let's renew our commitment to showing our fellow Americans and Canadians who lack knowledge about labor unions, what the IBEW is made of.

That's the best way to make every day Labor Day.


Also: Hill: Diverse Voices, Common Purpose Read Hill's Column

Salvatore J. Chilia

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer