The Electrical Worker online
March 2016

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Honoring Our Heroes

In this month's Electrical Worker, we met Staff Sgt. Irvin "Butch" Johnson, a 91-year-old veteran of World War II who came home and built a comfortable life in Cumberland, Maryland, with the help of the IBEW.

Butch was honored recently for his heroism under fire in Germany, but we're equally proud of his more than 65 years of service to this union.

The truth is, Butch's story isn't that different from hundreds of thousands of members of the military who came home from Europe or the Pacific, Korea or Vietnam, or from more recent conflicts like Bosnia and the Persian Gulf and chose a union job as their pathway to the middle class.

These men and women served their country with honor and distinction, and unions, including the IBEW, served them back, fighting for fair wages, decent benefits and safe working conditions here at home.

Today, a new generation of veterans are coming back from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we owe them the same opportunities afforded to those who came before them.

Through initiatives like Helmets to Hardhats, which helps to place returning vets in qualified construction apprenticeship programs like the IBEW's, we're able to honor our heroes and set them up for lifelong careers.

Some of our locals are even taking up the cause on their own. At Los Angeles Local 11, Business Manager Marvin Kropke hired former Marine Sgt. Major Mike Kufchak in 2014 to spearhead military recruitment, and the initiative has been a huge success, bringing in more than 175 new apprentices so far.

In Seattle, Local 46 has been actively recruiting and training vets for almost seven years through its Veterans in Construction Electrical (VICE) program. Hundreds of apprentices have come in through that program and dozens have made journeyman already.

Our union benefits from the diversity of its membership, and these members of the military who embody the discipline and work ethic we pride ourselves on are an important part of that mix.

So thank a veteran for his service, whether he's a member of the "greatest generation" like Butch or the brother or sister working next to you on a jobsite. They'll always have a home — and the opportunity for a career — with the IBEW.


Also: Stephenson: Who Cares About Your Paycheck? Read Hill's Column

Salvatore J. Chilia

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer