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December 2015

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Howdy Ritchie Jr.

After 45 years of service to the IBEW, Director of the Pension and Reciprocity Department Howard L. "Howdy" Ritchie Jr. retired on Oct. 31.

Born in Washington, D.C., Brother Ritchie attended St. John's College High School and joined Local 26 in 1971, topping out as a journeyman wireman in 1975.

During his construction career, Ritchie worked on high-profile projects like the J. Edgar Hoover FBI building on Pennsylvania Avenue and above and below ground extending the D.C. subway system and installing third rail heat tape.

In 1986, Ritchie was elected to Local 26's examining board and appointed to staff four years later. While working as a business representative, he serviced government workers, eventually organizing the maintenance staffs at the Pentagon and the Holocaust Museum.

In November 1998, Ritchie was appointed to serve out the term of Local 26 Business Manager Cecil "Buddy" Satterfield, who had been elevated to international representative. Ritchie was elected to the position in 2001.

In 2003, Brother Ritchie was appointed international representative, starting in the Construction and Maintenance Department.

"I was lucky to get to start in that department working for Mark Ayers," Ritchie said, recalling his efforts in helping the IBEW break into new renewable energy markets. "He was a great guy to work for, and I learned a lot from him."

In 2006, then-President Edwin D. Hill appointed Brother Ritchie director of the Personnel Department, where he would serve eight and a half years.

"That was a great job," Ritchie said. "I got to know everyone in the building and really came to understand the bigger picture of what's going on across the IBEW."

As head of personnel, Ritchie was especially proud of the work the union did with the March of Dimes charity. "We had a really strong commitment to that, and it was really rewarding to be part of helping them," he said. Every year, the IBEW is one of the biggest fundraisers for the March of Dimes in the Washington, D.C., area.

Ritchie also enjoyed his relationship with international office employee Len Shindel, who was the shop steward for the Office and Professional Employees Local 2. "We earned each other's respect," Shindel said of his years hammering out contracts and settling employee issues with Ritchie. "You work together when you can, and when you disagree, you do it respectfully. That's what you hope for in any employee-management relationship."

Jack Heyer, who succeeded Ritchie as personnel director last year, was especially grateful to be able to call on his predecessor over the course of the last year. "Howdy's experience and background were a huge asset," Heyer said. "He was always willing to assist with anything asked, and I know he will be missed by all who had the pleasure to work with him."

For the last 13 months, Brother Ritchie said how fulfilling it has been getting to know the members, retirees and the hard-working men and women of the Pension and Reciprocity Department. "It's an important side of this union, and one I learned a lot about."

But, with the arrival of his 65th birthday and his wife's recent retirement, Ritchie decided it was time to bid the IBEW farewell to spend more time traveling, relaxing at the beach in Ocean City, Maryland, and with his grandchildren, who live in the D.C. area.

The IBEW officers, staff and membership wish Brother Ritchie a long, happy and healthy retirement.


Howdy Ritchie Jr.

Bruce Burton

IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson has appointed Bruce Burton to be the director of the Pension and Reciprocity Department, effective Nov. 1. He succeeds Howard "Howdy" Ritchie Jr., who retired.

Burton was born in Detroit, and was initiated into Local 58 in 1982 when he started his apprenticeship. He topped out in 1985 and worked as a journeyman inside wireman for 17 years.

Bruce quickly became politically active in city and statewide politics, said former Local 58 Business Manager Jeff Radjewski.

"He started volunteering on local campaigns, developing relationships and real skill," said Radjewski, who is now the Sixth District Organizing Coordinator.

He was elected recording secretary for Local 58 in 1991, vice president in 1997. During presidential election years, Local 58 had a full-time registrar for nearly a year, a position Burton filled several times.

Burton stopped working with the tools in 1999 when he was hired to be a business representative for non-construction units.

"It was easy to see that Bruce had a knack for this," said Radjewski. "He had really distinguished himself as a politically astute operator in the state. When Rep. David Bonior was majority whip, he and Bruce were on a first name basis. But he had that kind of relationship with the members too. They listened and they liked him."

Burton was appointed international representative in the Political/Legislative Affairs Department by then International President Edwin D. Hill in 2002.

"Building relationships is the single most important tool, but our influence comes from the size of our membership and our ability to get our members involved," Burton said. "Where it really pays off is when that 30-year-old we supported in their run for city council runs for Congress a decade later. They remember where we came in."

Burton said that over the last dozen years, many of organized labor's political victories were defensive, protecting the gains of the past.

"I'm not bothered by that, because we have strong benefits worth protecting," Burton said. "Saving Davis-Bacon, and state-level so-called mini Davis-Bacon laws has meant a lot for our members on payday."

However, Burton said much remains to be done on energy, environmental and pension issues.

As the new director of the Pension and Reciprocity Department Burton will oversee a department that touches every "A" member of the IBEW, ensuring those eligible for the Pension Benefit Fund get their checks.

"The Pension Benefit Fund is one of only three pensions structured as a union dues-financed plan with no employer involvement," Burton said. "The IBEW established it before the 1947 law that created multi-employer pensions. I am very proud of that."

Burton will also oversee the reciprocity system that ensures construction members working outside their home local's jurisdiction maintain their health and pension benefits.

When construction members traveled to work before the reciprocity system was created, they were often dropped out of their local's pension and health insurance programs. Now, most travelers see the benefits portion of their pay packages sent back to their home local so they can maintain their healthcare and keep building for retirement.

"It is a complex and extremely important program that makes life better for our traveling brothers and sisters," Burton said.

The IBEW officers, staff and membership wish Brother Burton much success in his new position.


Bruce Burton

Roy Dickinson

Retired Senior Executive Assistant Roy Dickinson died on Sept. 25 after a two-year battle with cancer, his son Gary said. He was 76.

Brother Dickinson was a Washington native and became a member of Local 26 in 1958, earning journeyman wireman status in 1961. He was appointed international representative in 1966 before serving as assistant director of the research department from 1974-86.

"He was an aggressive guy, which was kind of good for the job," said Robert Wood, the head of research during Dickinson's tenure there. "He had the right goals in mind. He was a hard worker and a good IBEW guy."

Wood said Dickinson's research on companies the IBEW negotiated with was some of the best in organized labor and proved invaluable to locals. Many of them asked him to sit in on their own negotiations, Wood said.

"He knew his job," Wood said. "He could go into any of the negotiations with the big utilities and make a strong case for our workers and the benefits they should get."

The IBEW formed its pension and employees benefit department at its 1986 convention in Toronto. Dickinson was named a senior executive assistant with oversight over the department.

Wood said Dickinson was instrumental in getting IBEW's reciprocity agreements established, which allow construction electricians to maintain their pension and health benefits when traveling outside of their home local for work.

"We had a lot of obstacles to overcome in getting that done," Wood said.

Dickinson graduated from the University of Maryland in 1966 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He lived in Silver Spring, Maryland, and was a longtime member of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. He retired from the IBEW in 1998.

Following retirement, he was a partner in ULTRA LLC, a real estate firm that specialized in projects using union labor. The company was sold in 2004 to Amalgamated Bank, where Dickinson worked until 2009.

"He was a dedicated and strong believer in unions throughout this entire life," Gary Dickinson said. "It was something he was involved in from day one."

Dickinson's wife, Nancy, died in 2009. He is survived by sons Mark and Gary and three grandchildren. His family asks that donations in his memory go to the American Cancer Society or the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.


Roy Dickinson

Thomas J. Hickman

The IBEW regrets to report that Thomas J. Hickman, former executive assistant to the international president and director of manufacturing, died on Sept. 28. He was 80.

A native of Nebraska, Brother Hickman was initiated in 1957 as a member of Omaha Local 1974. He worked as a lineman and showed his union dedication early on. When he went to work for the new AT&T Western Electric factory, he quickly joined the IBEW organizing committee. After that successful campaign, he became the shop steward and a member of the wage incentive committee. He served the local for nine years in various capacities, including vice president.

"We definitely grew up in a union household," said Scott Hickman, Brother Hickman's son. "There were never any foreign cars at our house."

In 1965, then-International President Gordon Freeman appointed Hickman an international representative for the 11th District. Two years later he became the administrative assistant to then-International Vice President Robert Garrity, whom he considered to be a mentor. After Garrity's retirement, Hickman also served as administrative assistant to then-11th District Vice President Jack F. Moore. In 1977, he was transferred to the international office to become the new director of manufacturing.

"It was a big move for us, leaving Nebraska for Washington," Hickman said. "But he loved being there."

During his tenure as manufacturing director, he was responsible for the negotiation of several agreements and contracts with companies including Westinghouse, General Electric, RCA and AT&T. He was also committed to fostering better cooperation among the national and international unions in the electrical and telecommunications industries.

Additionally, he promoted and developed labor/management committees and improved health care plans. Hickman also oversaw the first manufacturing department conference. In 1987, he was appointed to executive assistant to then-International President John J. Barry.

"He was always very proud of his time with the IBEW," Hickman said. "He was thrilled every time he got a promotion."

He participated in the Carnegie-Mellon University's Labor-Management Forum and as a member of the Department of Labor Task Force on Economic Adjustment and Worker Dislocation. In addition, he served as a guest lecturer at the University of Nebraska, Peru State College and the U.S. Air Force Boot Strap Program.

Hickman retired in 1990 but continued to work on behalf of labor. He consulted with former Secretary of Labor Bill Usery, helping unions and management better work together. It was during this time that he worked to bring an end to the 1994 baseball strike.

In his spare time, Hickman enjoyed woodworking, golfing and camping with his family.

Brother Hickman is survived by his wife Irene; his children Deborah "Debbie" J. Fahrenholtz, Julia M. Marks, Scott T. Hickman, Theodore "Ted" J. Hickman, P. Joseph "Joe" Hickman; 14 grandchildren; many great grandchildren and his dog, Alfie.

On behalf of the entire IBEW membership and staff, the officers send our condolences to Brother Hickman's family.


Thomas J. Hickman