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July 2015

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He never asked any leader to work any harder than he did. Growing the Brotherhood was his passion. Whether Ed Hill was pushing for more technical tools to track contractors or launching sharp, modern initiatives to align the IBEW with today's markets, he never, ever wavered from that passion.

A thoroughly practical man, he was also a courageous leader who promoted excellence in all IBEW branches and demanded the same from IBEW's employers. Making the lives of workers better. That is what Ed says was his greatest pride looking back over his nearly 60 years in the labor movement. And he did.

The 16th member to serve as international president of the IBEW, Hill announced his retirement effective June 1. He did so only after enthusiastically recommending his successor, Sixth District Vice President Lonnie R. Stephenson, to the International Executive Committee.

Simultaneously, the IEC confirmed the appointment of David J. Ruhmkorff to fill the remainder of Stephenson's term as vice president of the Sixth District, covering Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota.

In a brief email to his International Office staff, Hill said, "I came to this decision after much thought and reflection, concluding it was the right time for the next generation of IBEW leadership to come to the fore."

From his roots as a second-generation journeyman electrician and member of Beaver, Pa., Local 712, Hill rose to regional prominence as the local's business manager and vice president of IBEW's Third District covering New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.

Appointed international secretary in 1997, Hill assumed the newly created position of secretary-treasurer one year later and the office of international president in 2001.

In a message to members upon his appointment as international president, Hill said, "Some leaders in Washington revel in hobnobbing with the powerful. I recognize the importance of a strong presence in the halls of power, but I know that any power we wield comes from our strength in numbers and our solidarity as working people."

Hill's tenure as international president during times of economic crisis for the North American construction industry and attacks on organized labor has been notable for landmark initiatives that flow from that understanding of power.

The IBEW is growing due to innovative organizing and membership development initiatives and a commitment to excellence in training and on the job, both championed by Hill. Under his leadership, the IBEW has harnessed an array of technological tools to better prepare IBEW organizers, servicing staff and local unions to confront dynamic changes in the vast jurisdictions covered by the IBEW — electrical construction, utilities, railroads, telecommunications, broadcasting, manufacturing and government.

One source of President Hill's success is his belief that the Brotherhood best served its members when it best served its customers.

"Anti-union propaganda had created a perception that hiring union workers was bad for business, but we knew better," Hill says. "We just had to remind our customers, and truth be told, some of our members, that high standards of craftsmanship and productivity are hallmarks of the IBEW and the foundation of a profitable business."

One of the highest profile campaigns to get that message out was the extension of the Code of Excellence program from a few locals in the Eighth District into the basic language in every contract signed with National Electrical Contractors Association partners. The program proved so successful with customers, signatory contractors and local unions that it was expanded to other classifications including manufacturing, utilities and broadcasting.

Another signature initiative of Hill's tenure is the implementation of a market recovery program that established alternative job classifications in electrical construction. The effort has helped boost man-hours and market share that were lost by the union's signatory contractors during the recent recession, while getting idled journeymen back on the job.

Market recovery efforts have been recently bolstered by an effort focused on business development that is already setting a standard for the building trades. The establishment of a business development department is the product of resolutions passed at the 2011 IBEW convention in Vancouver, introduced by the union's officers.

While membership development focuses on organizing workers and contractors, Hill's enhanced focus on business development seeks out the owners of large construction projects well before any contracts are written. These relationship-building efforts are supplemented by a well-received national advertising campaign, more organizers and a new training program to get the rank-and-file into the heart of organizing campaigns.

"I always think of Ed as a pioneer, always looking for new ways to help IBEW members in this changing economic environment. He wakes up every day thinking about workers but he is also an ambassador to the entire labor movement," says AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, who formerly served as one of Hill's senior executive assistants. "He believes strongly in innovation and trying new, cutting edge ideas. He often said, 'Making mistakes is good. It's better to try something and fail, than not try at all — because if you're not failing once in a while, it means you're not doing anything new.'"

Sam Chilia, IBEW's Secretary-Treasurer will continue to serve in that capacity. Hill said, "I have been lucky to have Sam as my working partner and I thank him for all that he does for the IBEW. From overseeing health care to planning for the 2016 convention, Brother Chilia plays an invaluable role in our union and will continue to do so."


Hill with 95-year-old Army veteran Jimmy Kice, a 77-year IBEW member


Hill with former Vice President Al Gore


Hill sharing a laugh with country duo Brooks and Dunn at the 2001 convention, with Jerry O'Conner

The Outside View of Hill's Presidency

The character and priorities of the international president guide and speak for the IBEW as a whole. From the outside, President Emeritus Hill has been the embodiment of the IBEW, and on the occasion of his retirement, the labor leaders, politicians and business partners who worked alongside him took a moment to look back on his time at the helm.

Richard L. Trumka,
president of the AFL-CIO

With President Hill's retirement, the labor movement is losing a giant. Our labor movement is growing today, thanks in large part to his outstanding leadership. Ed fights every day to improve the lives of working families. He understands that to achieve a strong economy, the U.S. must invest in the hardworking men and women whose work keeps this country running. I am proud and honored to have stood with such a strong worker and principled leader.


Liz Shuler,
secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO and
former assistant to President Hill

Ed embodies the type of leader we all want to follow — visionary, hard working, passionate about the mission, cares about people to the core, and humble. He led by example and never asked anyone to do an assignment he wouldn't do himself. Ed is a pioneer, always looking for new ways to help IBEW members in this changing economic environment. He woke up every day thinking about workers but he was also an ambassador for the entire labor movement. Solidarity and working together was one of his hallmarks and a signature part of his leadership.

He believed strongly in innovation and trying new, cutting edge ideas and technology. He often said, "Making mistakes is good. It's better to try something and fail, than not try at all — because if you're not failing once in a while, it means you're not doing anything new."


Rep. Donald Norcross of N.J.,
and member of Folsom, N.J., Local 351

President Hill is a visionary leader who knew that the IBEW's greatest strength is found within our rank and file. His influence and legacy can be seen across our nation through the many IBEW brothers and sisters who entered public service with a union label, including myself. I wish Ed Hill the best in his retirement and thank him for his tireless efforts on behalf of the hardworking men and women of the IBEW.


Rep. Nancy Pelosi of Calif.,
House minority leader

When it comes the health and economic security of working America, few leaders have stood taller or spoken louder for our families than IBEW President Ed Hill. President Hill's strong and insistent vision guided the IBEW into the 21st century, and he retires with a towering legacy of leadership on behalf of all America's hard working men and women.


Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio

Under President Hill's leadership, the IBEW has fought for a better trade policy, a strong U.S. manufacturing sector, and critical infrastructure investment, among other important policies. His commitment to American families and our middle class will last beyond his tenure at IBEW. I congratulate him on his many years of distinguished service and wish him the best in his retirement.


Nicholas K. Akins,
chairman, president and chief executive officer
of American Electric Power

President Hill's leadership and dedication to the men and women of the IBEW has been exceptional. AEP is a better company today as a result of improved collaboration with the IBEW. AEP's selection as the first utility for the Code of Excellence was and remains a significant honor for the company.

I imagine that retiring from the organization that he has led and nurtured for so many years will be bittersweet. But the legacy he leaves behind — one of representation based on respect, fairness and incredible concern for the health, safety and financial security of his brothers and sisters, should fill him with pride and contentment.


John M. Grau,
chief executive officer of the National Electrical
Contractors Association

Ed Hill was a tireless advocate not only for the IBEW, but also for electrical contractor employers and the NECA-IBEW relationship. Ed saw the big picture, and realized IBEW member gains are dependent on having successful union electrical contractors. He never gave up on his principles, but he was willing to compromise when he believed the industry as a whole would benefit. I can't imagine where our industry would be today without Ed Hill's leadership. He will be remembered as the driving force that turned our industry around and set it on the path to sustainable prosperity.


Sen. Bob Casey of Pa.

Ed Hill has spent decades fighting side by side with workers who want to make a better life for their families. As a second-generation electrician, Ed knew the challenges that his members faced personally. Fighting for the well-being of workers wasn't just some theoretical exercise for Ed — he lived it. He brought the values he learned in Western Pennsylvania to the U.S. Capitol and state capitals across the country. And Ed never forgot that at the foundation of a strong economy was work with dignity. Ed has made a substantial contribution to the progress that working men and women and the labor movement have made over the last generation. While we'll miss his voice on the front lines, I know he'll continue to stand up for better wages, better jobs and better work conditions for the middle class.


Mark Crosswhite,
chairman, president and chief executive officer of
Alabama Power Co.

President Hill has been ... a visionary leader, helping us all to understand the value of positive relationships between labor and management. President Hill's efforts have benefited all of us working in the electric industry, as well as those customers we are privileged to serve.


Todd Stafford,
executive director of the Electrical Training Alliance

President Hill was an inspiration and an example to all of us. Every new apprentice has, in a sense, the opportunity to follow his path and work his way to the very pinnacle of our industry and the American labor movement. He has been an outstanding leader. From alternative classifications to the codes of excellence, he has no single accomplishment that exceeds the others, they are all noteworthy and of a piece because everything he did was for the betterment of IBEW members and the industry as a whole.