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October 2014

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Reid-Murphy Exhibit Opens at IBEW Museum

The IBEW history museum has opened a new exhibit commemorating the end of one of the most trying times in the union's history.

The Reid-Murphy split divided the IBEW into two competing unions from 1908-1913.

One faction was led by Frank McNulty, an inside wireman who was elected president of the IBEW in 1905. The other side was led by Jim Reid, a lineman and International vice president. Cleveland Local 38 member James Murphy was elected secretary of the Reid-led IBEW.

"By the time the IBEW was a decade old, the membership was expanding rapidly," said curator Curtis Bateman. "The organization wasn't able to hold together."

During this time, both factions held their own conventions and printed their own versions of the official newspaper, the Electrical Worker.

The exhibit tells the story of the split through IBEW publications, internal letters and memoranda, and even cartoons.

One highlight is a letter from American Federation of Labor founder Samuel Gompers criticizing both sides for dividing the union.

The split was finally healed in 1913 after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the McNulty IBEW and ordered Reid to stop using the IBEW name. The museum, located at the International Office in Washington, D.C., is open Monday through Friday.


A new exhibit at the IBEW Museum explores a chasm in the early years of the IBEW.

RENEW Members Boost Leadership Skills, Look to Future

For any budding journeyman wireman looking to advance in the trade, training is always the key.

The same could be said for young workers who are looking to make an impact on their job sites, at their locals and in their communities.

Fourteen members of the IBEW's Reach out and Engage Next-gen Electrical Workers — or RENEW — initiative traveled last spring to Dearborn, Mich., to attend the Young Worker Leadership Institute, a confab hosted by the AFL-CIO.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Local 405 journeyman wireman Jeff Cooling said the conference provided trainings to help him boost his activism back in the Hawkeye state.

"I learned many great things to bring back to my young workers group," said Cooling, a seven-year member currently working for a signatory contractor building a new dorm facility at the University of Iowa.

Forty participants from across the U.S. attended the six-day institute. The IBEW contingent was the largest of all unions represented. Attendees studied communication strategies, organizational development, political engagement, common-sense economics and more. Participants also discussed issues with AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, who has made youth engagement one of the centerpieces of her role since taking her post at the federation in 2009.

For young workers like Cooling, 26, trainings like this help progress and refine burgeoning leadership skills.

"I joined the local in September of 2007 and started going to meetings right away," he said. "I had a big drive to go and see how the union worked. I started being active with the 2008 election cycle, when I knocked on my first doors." Since then, Cooling has mobilized for many regular and special elections and now serves as a registrar at his local. He is also the Eleventh District representative on the RENEW Advisory Council, which comprises of young IBEW leaders from each district who meet and strategize ways to increase union participation and activism among their peers.

In spite of many anti-worker lawmakers and a chorus of pundits and powerful interests vying for the hearts and minds of millennials, young people are overwhelmingly embracing the idea of unionism. A Recent Pew Research Center Poll showed that 61 percent of respondents aged 18 to 29 held a favorable view of organized labor — the highest of any age demographic.

"I am always reaching out to everyone I meet," Cooling said. "I introduce myself as a union electrician."

Following the recent recession, the job market for today's youth remains difficult. A Harvard study published last year reveals that just six in 10 millennials — young people born between 1981 and 1996 — have a job, half of which are part-time. In a February piece for the Atlantic, Jordan Weissmann writes that "at every education level, the 25- to 32-year-olds of 2013 confronted a higher unemployment rate than past generations did when they were stepping into the workforce."

Cooling said the ramifications of those statistics can cast a chilling effect on many members of his peer group. "We are in a time that mirrors the Roaring '20s in this country," he said. "Wall Street and big business are making record profits while jobs like mine, have not seen the wage growth needed to keep a standard of living to raise a family. With my generation's high approval of unions and our thirst for knowledge, it is important that we, the IBEW, teach what a union is and what it can do for everyone going forward."

For more information on RENEW or to get involved, visit the group at


Members of the IBEW's RENEW initiative in Dearborn, Mich., for the Young Worker Leadership Institute, a six-day workshop hosted by the AFL-CIO.

IBEW Helps Build Baylor Football's New Stadium

Football is a religion in Texas. But after 60 years, the shine was off Baylor University's high church, Floyd Casey Stadium.

After two years of construction, Baylor unveiled its new cathedral of football, the $250 million, 45,000-seat McLane Stadium. It would not have been ready for the Aug. 31 opening without the members of Waco, Texas, Local 72.

While the bulk of the electrical work went nonunion, signatory contractors Parsons Electric from Minnesota and Energy and Automation from Waco won the bid to install the audio visual system that runs throughout the stadium. Hundreds of televisions, video cameras and speakers from the concourses to the skyboxes and the data boxes that light them up were wired and hung by nearly 40 members of Local 72.

"Austin Local 520 has the Longhorns and Houston Local 716 has the Aggies. Our jurisdiction is Bear country and we're very proud of our connection to the school," said Local 72 Business Manager Craig Miller. Baylor posted a time-lapse video of the construction at

The team of apprentices and journeymen built the mounts and installed more than 500 video screens throughout the stadium, pulling and connecting miles of coaxial, twinaxial and fiber optic cables to connect them to the control room and the nearly two-dozen data closets throughout the stadium.

"They did a great job and startup testing went very well," Miller said, adding that nonunion contractors were still at the site doing construction work only five days before the opening game. "I am optimistic that our record on this job puts us in position to win away a fair bit of the maintenance and repair work that will likely be needed."

Miller said he would have liked Baylor to be "more supportive" but is proud of the relationship Local 72 has with the college. Ten members are already at work on the new business school and he expects at least 40 to be at work for Rosendin Electric by January.

Miller says the forecast is bright for the 140-member local off campus as well, citing furnace rebuilds and a new scrubber at the Owens-Illinois glass plant which makes the ubiquitous amber bottles for Coors Light and Miller Light.

Canadian National Railway Awards Member's
Community Service

Charles Cox had always heard the pitch about charitable work, how volunteers gain more satisfaction helping others than serving themselves.

But Cox, business manager of Memphis, Tenn., Local 881, who represents workers at Canadian National Railway, was busy with his own family and his job representing workers from Centralia, Ill., to Baton Rouge, La., and Paducah, Ky.

That was until a friend, Neal Heaslett, a member of the board of directors of Youth Leadership in Memphis, convinced Cox to get up early on Saturday mornings to help young people from some of the city's toughest neighborhoods go to work cutting grass or cleaning up their neighborhoods, earning money desperately needed by their families.

"When the kids we were helping showed how appreciative they were," says Cox, "it made all my time worthwhile."

Last year, CN recognized Cox's good works by naming him one of six of the carrier's "Railroaders in the Community," donating $5,000 to Youth Leadership in Memphis, a church-based fund that pays young workers in the program. Cox was featured in a story in the company's newsletter, CN People.

Plagued by crime and drug activity, Memphis gets a bad rap, says Cox. So the leadership group is "trying to make kids into men," instilling a work ethic in youth who, Cox says, come from dire economic circumstances.

The program insists that participants stay in school, attend church services and show up ready for work to earn their pay.

Before heading out to work, mentors and participants go to a local restaurant for breakfast. "Some of their families' rarely have enough money to go to a sit-down restaurant," says Cox.

Participants contribute some of their earnings to their families and save some for their own purchases, helping them learn to manage their own finances. Older youths gain leadership skills by directing younger participants.

"We have an 80 percent success rate, helping keep kids out of the criminal justice system and find productive work," says Cox, whose grandfather and great grandfather worked for Illinois Central Railroad, CN's predecessor.

Cox, an electrician, says he appreciates being recognized with an award for his work, but says that his employer's support has gone much deeper. Bo Harris, a CN manager, has contributed his own money to help buy backpacks and T-shirts for Youth Leadership in Memphis participants.

Cox says he derives satisfaction from representing his 70 members. But few things, he says, compare to having young participants in the youth leadership program come up and thank him for getting involved in their lives.


Memphis Local 881 Business Manager Charles Cox, left, received a Canadian National Railway award for community service.