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October/November 2016

Summary of Convention Action
On All Amendments to the IBEW Constitution and Resolutions at the 39th International Convention

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Convention Approves Constitutional Amendments

Delegates approved 11 amendments to the IBEW Constitution and rejected two proposals during the 39th International Convention in St. Louis.

Proposed amendments were presented to nearly 2,000 delegates with recommendations for or against by Law Committee Chairman Marvin Kropke and committee Secretary Frank Jacobs. Although delegates followed the recommendation of the Law Committee in every case, there was frequent, and at times passionate, discussion of the proposals from the convention floor.

Three of the approved amendments were related to future conventions. One clarified rules on the removal and replacement of international and local union officials. Several amendments updated rules on eligibility to run for and hold official positions in local unions and the last removed ambiguities from the rules on placing locals in trusteeship.

Constitutional amendments were first considered on Tuesday, Sept. 20. The first proposal changed Article II, Section 7, which required a local union to be current with its per capita payments through the month of August in the year of the convention, or the local would not be able to have its delegates seated.

Since the convention is constitutionally required to be held in September, the August deadline gave the International Office just 10 days to process every local's per capita payment. It was, the proposal argued, "an unnecessary administrative burden" that could be solved by amending the Constitution to shift the date back a month to July. The proposal was approved by acclamation without opposition.

The second proposal offered a change in how the size of a local's delegation to the convention is determined. Under Article II, Section 8, delegations were based solely on per capita payments in May of the year of the convention. A proposal from International President Lonnie R. Stephenson and International Secretary-Treasurer Salvatore "Sam" Chilia changed that to the "average monthly number of members in good standing on which per capita tax is paid to the International Union during the 12-month period ending on March 31." The proposal was approved by voice vote after a brief debate.

The third proposal altered Article II, Section 10, to give the International President the power to grant a local union special dispensation to elect delegates to the convention who did not have two years' continuous good standing if it was "impractical or impossible" to find a delegate who was. The change matched the language of Article XVI, Section 10, which grants the international president the power to allow election of local officers without the requisite two years' continuous good standing when there is no alternative.

"I stand in favor of this motion. Every local union should have the right to have a delegate on this floor," said Vancouver, B.C., Local 258, Business Manager Doug McCay in support of the amendment. The amendment passed without debate.

The delegation was then asked to approve a proposal that created a process for the removal of an International Executive Council member. Article IV, Section 2, gave the international president the power to remove any international vice president or the international secretary-treasurer for "non-performance of duties, disability, or incompetence."

The amendment added "any member of the IEC" to Section 2.

IEC Chairman Chris Erikson rose to support the amendment.

"We all must be held accountable, and the Constitution must provide a mechanism to allow for that to happen, and that's what this is about," he said. The proposal was approved.

Finally, delegates approved a change to Article IV, Section 3(i), clarifying rules over the imposition of a trusteeship. Trusteeships of locals are extremely rare, but the Law Committee concurred with the proposer of an amendment that several changes would make the process clearer, allowing trusteeships to be imposed before a hearing in emergencies and clarifying the IEC's role in deciding if trusteeships should extend past six months. That proposal, too, was approved.

Delegates took up the remaining six proposed amendments the next day.

Delegates approved changes that include a clarification that local union officers must be in good standing from the moment of nomination through completion of their term, unless given special dispensation by the international president.

Delegates also approved a rule requiring local union election observers to be members in good standing and eligible to vote in the election they are observing.

Convention delegates followed the Law Committee recommendation that only penalized parties can appeal disciplinary actions made by international vice presidents, the international president or the International Executive Council.

Delegates cleared up an ambiguity about when recused members of a local executive board should be replaced by the local president. No language was changed, but by moving a single paragraph from Article XVII, Section 11 to Section 12, recused members are to be replaced only when an executive board is serving as a trial board.

Following the recommendation of the Law Committee, the 39th International Convention rejected two proposed amendments. One change would have required a vote any time a railroad local made an agreement that affected the seniority or wages of even a single member.

This amendment produced the most impassioned debate of the convention. On one side were those who felt it would give railroad members a greater voice in their contract. Some opponents argued that the amendment was unworkable while others said that even if it was a good idea, the Constitution for the whole Brotherhood was not the right place for it.

"If this proposal passed, the General Chairman could not conduct his business in a timely and efficient manner. You would never get ratification for fear of losing seniority positions even if they might gain more work," said Roanoke, Va., Local 813 Business Manager Shannon Spotswood.

Rising in support of the amendment was St. Paul, Minn., Local 506 member Jim Davis.

"It is our strong belief that it is only fair and just that the members who have to live and work under these railroad agreements have a voice and direct involvement in such critical agreements being approved from here on out," he said.

After an impassioned and thoughtful debate, delegates voted to concur with the committee's recommendation by show of hands and the amendment was rejected.

Finally, an amendment that would have allowed non-dues paying retirees to run for and serve as election judges and tellers failed.

The vote to increase the IBEW budget via a per capita increase and shore up the Pension Benefit Fund is covered in Delegates Approve Increased Funding for GeneralĀ Fund and PBF of this issue.

Delegate Action on Resolutions

The Resolutions Committee was chaired by Tacoma, Wash., Local 483 Business Manager Alice Phillips. Meriden, Conn., Local 457 Business Manager John Fernandes served as secretary. Delegates began work on Tuesday, Sept. 20 and concluded on Friday, Sept. 23.

Resolutions are non-binding, but they articulate the delegates' beliefs on important issues and influence IBEW policy going forward.

The following actions were taken:


Resolution No. 1: Strengthens the commitment to the Code of Excellence and calls it necessary to continue the IBEW's growth. Calls on implementation of the Code in all branches and for local unions to implement SPARQ, a newly-developed program designed to standardize Code of Excellence training.

Resolution No. 2: Reaffirms the IBEW's commitment to organizing, calling it especially important because of the decline in unionized workers across North America and the rise in the number of right-to-work states. There are now 26 right-to-work states, four more than at the time of the 38th International Convention in 2011. Organizing remains the highest priority of the entire membership.

Resolution No. 3: Called on the IBEW to develop a public education program on the value of public sector workers in the United States and Canada. It encourages local unions to organize and support those workers and pledges the IBEW will fight efforts to prevent them from joining a union. It was combined into Resolution No. 4.

Resolution No. 4: Referencing the increased attacks on public sector workers in both the United States and Canada, the committee noted it was part of a coordinated attack going back to the Reagan administration's firing of the striking air traffic controllers in 1981.

Resolution No. 5: Encourages local unions to support business development programs and cooperate with signatory contractors to exceed customers' expectations. It also called on them to remind potential customers of the superior quality of their training facilities.

Resolution No. 6: Reaffirms the IBEW's long-standing relationship with Helmets to Hardhats, a nonprofit organization that aids military members transitioning from active duty into the construction industry, and calls on it to work with the National Electrical Contractors Association and the Electrical Training Alliance to create more opportunities for veterans. Helmets to Hardhats has helped 22,000 veterans make the transition since its founding in 2002.

Resolution No. 7: Reaffirms a commitment to VEEP — the Veterans Electrical Entry Program, which helps veterans gain entrance into an electrical apprenticeship program.

Resolution No. 8: Delegates went on record supporting Electrical Workers Without Borders, a nonprofit that works to develop an electrical infrastructure in developing nations and regions struck by a natural disaster.

Resolution No. 9: Encourages members who enjoy hunting, fishing and spending time in the outdoors to join the Union Sportsmen's Alliance, a nonprofit for outdoor enthusiasts. The resolution said the group helps unite the labor movement and the committee noted one local union secured work on a large retail development due to its involvement.

Resolution No. 10: Encourages local unions to make full use of political tools made available by the International Office and AFL-CIO, especially during an election year.

Resolution No. 11: Encourages local unions to make every effort to educate members on the dangers of skin cancer, especially those members exposed to ultraviolet radiation.

Resolution No. 12: Asks all locals with manufacturing sector members to make their products available on

Resolution No. 13: Reminds local unions to market the quality of their training programs in their home communities to educators and potential customers. IBEW training programs are the best in the electrical industry and are a better alternative than college for many people.

Resolution No. 15: Encourages Canadian locals to contribute CA$10 per member to the IBEW CPAC, especially after labor's success in last year's federal elections.

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Local 2034 Business Manager Mike Velie made a motion to deny consideration on the grounds that Canadian delegates should be the only ones voting on a resolution that impacts only Canadian locals. That motion passed.

Two days later, during the convention's closing session, the committee reported the IBEW Constitution does not limit delegates' rights to vote on certain issues. All delegates have the right to vote.

Thus, the resolution was not changed and subsequently approved.

Resolution No. 17: Seeks clarification on the definition of a member in good standing. Calls on the International President to issue guidance for local unions.

Resolution No. 18: Encourages local unions to join the National Safety Council and make use of its resources.

Resolution No. 20: Reinforces the commitment to the Safety Caucus' mission and encourages local unions to participate in it. The committee noted workplace safety was a founding principle of the IBEW and this resolution captures the spirit of that without making training mandatory.

Resolution No. 21: Reminds local unions the NECA/IBEW Family Medical Care Plan is a high-quality health insurance option and can help control insurance costs. The committee noted the plan has grown by almost 150 locals covering 85,000 people since the 2011 International Convention.

Resolution No. 22: Affirms ongoing support of the Electrical Industry Pension Reciprocal Agreement and salutes the IBEW members who helped get the nationwide reciprocity agreement off the ground in 1984.

Resolution No. 23: Affirms ongoing support of the Electrical Health and Welfare Reciprocal Agreement and thanks past IBEW members who had the vision to create it during the 1980s.

Resolution No. 24: Asks delegates to request a call-center employee based in the United States or Canada when contacting a company. It calls on the Telecommunications Department to develop a program that educates the full membership to do the same.

The committee noted most companies have policies that will transfer a call from an overseas to a North American-based call center upon request. By doing so, IBEW members are "actively participating in an effort to bring good jobs back to the U.S. and Canada. In turn, this can provide opportunities to organize and recapture work," the committee said.

Resolution No. 25: The IBEW and local unions pledged their support for the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association and continued research into ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. The committee said the resolution reflects the IBEW's history of taking the lead on workplace safety and that further research may determine if there are any links between ALS and exposure to electric and magnetic fields.

Resolution No. 26: Urges the IBEW to enhance its working relationship with the National Electrical Contractors Association, its working partner in construction. The IBEW has had a relationship with NECA for nearly 100 years and a positive relationship is essential for continued growth.

Resolution No. 27: Reaffirms the commitment to a workplace free of harassment and discrimination, including on the basis of race, gender, religion, ancestry, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity and any legally protected status. The committee recommended this be combined into Resolution No. 28.

Resolution No. 28: Adds the right to organize and bargain is imperative to ensure workers are treated with dignity and respect and encourages local unions to include anti-discrimination language in collective bargaining agreements.

Resolution No. 29: Encourages continued participation by local unions in the National Training Institute. The committee statement encourages local unions to send their outstanding apprentices to NTI.

Resolution No. 30: Reaffirms support for the Davis-Bacon Act, the 1931 U.S. law that established prevailing wage laws on federal construction projects. The committee reminded delegates it was critical for local unions and NECA signatories to participate in the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour surveys.

Resolution No. 31: Commends the Hour Power concept for making the IBEW brand more attractive to customers and promoting solidarity among members.

Resolution No. 32: Encourages the IBEW to appoint a standing committee on diversity with representatives from each of the 11 vice presidential districts. This was combined into Resolution No. 34.

Resolution No. 33: Called for the establishment of an International Diversity Council and for it to develop a plan promoting a diverse membership and workforce "representative for all groups." The international president shall promote the plan with the same urgency as promotion of the Code of Excellence. This was combined into Resolution No. 34.

Resolution No. 34: Called for a standing Diversity and Full Inclusion Committee that would continue the work the diversity committee started in 2008. Members should include women, minority ethnic groups, gays and lesbians, and representatives from the bisexual and transgender communities. The International Office will devise a training program implemented with the same emphasis as the Code of Excellence. This resolution passed.

Resolution No. 35: Supports the development of a national policy that encourages the retention of baseload generating facilities. The committee noted that while it's important to diversify electrical generation, baseload facilities provide a stable and economical source of energy and are a source of good-paying jobs.

Resolution No. 36: Calls for legislation that maximizes the use of coal in an environmentally friendly manner and for continued public-private partnerships to study ways to reduce emissions while meeting increased electricity demand.

David J. Thoni, president of Dublin, Calif., Local 595, spoke out against the resolution, saying it ignores the impact of climate change and could be damaging to the IBEW brand. It also moves the IBEW away from other unions and groups that are traditional allies, he said. His motion to change some of the language failed and the resolution subsequently passed.

Resolution No. 37: Encourages the construction of new nuclear power plants and the adoption of better regulatory policy. The committee noted that IBEW members have the skills to construct, operate and maintain nuclear plants.

Resolution No. 38: Asks the secretary-treasurer to explore if an electronic warrant system can be developed for local unions. Such a system would make it easier for them to obtain signatures when dispersing payments and keep records required by law.

Resolution No. 40: Asked the delegates to urge local unions to invest in the IBEW-NECA Diversified Underwritten Real Estate Fund. The committee said it agreed with the intent, but combined it with Resolution No. 41 because of similar language.

Resolution No. 41: Urges local unions to invest in the IBEW-NECA fund because it provides work for members and steady returns on the investments.

Resolution No. 42: Urges local unions to mentor women in the workplace and build on the success of the Women's Caucus. It also encourages local unions to develop their own women's committees.

Resolution No. 43: Encourages local unions to create a new member orientation package and organize face-to-face meetings with more experienced local members. The committee noted these moves should lead to improved member retention.

Resolution No. 44: Affirms the IBEW's continued support of the March of Dimes, noting members' contributions have helped fund breakthroughs in the fight against birth defects.

Resolution No. 45: Reminds construction locals to enter accurate statistics in Project Tracker, which is a crucial tool in the IBEW's attempts to increase market share.

Resolution No. 46: Recommits support for 100 percent participation in the Construction Jobs Board on the first and third Monday of each month.

Resolution No. 47: Delegates went on record supporting the constitutional requirement to use the IBEW's web-based accident reporting system for serious lost-time accidents and fatalities.

Resolution No. 48: Delegates endorsed exploring a merger between the IBEW and the Utility Workers Union of America, which has about 50,000 members working in the electric, gas, utility and nuclear industries.

Resolution No. 49: Encourages members who work near any live radio frequency radiation emitter to document their exposure through their employer's accident reports. Reports should be forwarded to the International Office's Safety Department.

Resolution No. 51: Recognizes the importance of RENEW/NextGen to future growth of the IBEW.


Resolution No. 19: Would have recommended the IBEW Safety Committee "establish and enforce a curriculum" that required construction sector members take a minimum of 16 hours of safety training over three years that was above any Occupational Health and Safety Administration requirements.

The Resolutions Committee recommended nonconcurrence, saying in its report that safety education and training are essential, but making additional training a requirement might be impractical and too expensive for some local unions. It also said the spirit of the proposal would be captured in Resolution No. 20. A proposal to remove the word "require" and replace it with "recommends" was defeated and delegates eventually followed the recommendation and the resolution failed.

Resolution No. 50: Asked for a non-voting seat to be added to the International Executive Council for a RENEW/NextGen council member. Delegates followed a recommendation of nonconcurrence from the committee, which noted it had no authority to add an IEC seat.

Resolution No. 52: Delegates followed the committee's recommendation and voted down a resolution asking for support to hold the 40th International Convention in Philadelphia in 2021. The committee noted the IBEW Constitution states only the IEC can determine the convention site. Plus, adopting the resolution would damage the IBEW's bargaining power with other potential host cities. Chicago Local 134 Business Manager Donald B. Finn asked that Chicago be considered as the host city.


Resolution No. 14: Encourages local unions to increase donations to the IBEW Political Action Committee to an average of $12 per member. Also discourages locals from operating their own PACs, especially for federal elections, in order to avoid duplication of services and the necessity of filing multiple campaign finance reports.

The Resolutions Committee recommend approval, but Winnipeg, Manitoba, Local 2034 Business Manager Mike Velie made a motion to deny consideration because only American delegates should vote on a resolution that effects only U.S. locals. The motion carried.

Later that day, a motion proposed by Atlanta Local 613 Business Manager Gene R. O'Kelley to reconsider was passed. It was then sent back to the committee after Anchorage, Alaska, Local 1547 member Chris Tuck, the minority leader in the Alaska House of Representatives, urged that language be added to differentiate between federal and state PACs.

The committee reconvened and, two days later, reported the IBEW Constitution does not limit delegates' rights to vote on certain issues. All delegates have the right to vote. An amended resolution was offered that encourages local unions to send contributions to federal candidates through the International Office to avoid potential fines; clarifies that this resolution does not address state and local PACs; and emphasizes the $12 per member goal is non-binding. It passed.

Resolution No. 16: Urges locals and districts to use affinity clubs — such as retiree groups — to mobilize members on grassroots issues and campaigns. The committee noted it was an easy way to get more members involved in key activities. A motion to add "women's groups" to the list of affinity groups was approved.


Resolution No. 39: Called for the IBEW to increase its efforts at organizing tree trimmers and looking for ways to make the industry safer. The resolution was withdrawn during the proceedings and International President Lonnie R. Stephenson pledged to explore a tree trimmers committee.


A delegate considers amendments to the IBEW Constitution.


Tacoma, Wash., Local 483 Business Manager Alice Phillips chaired the Resolutions Committee.


Sergio Mayor from Miami Local 349 addresses fellow delegates during debate over a resolution.


Medina Johnson, a delegate representing Durham, N.C., Local 289, speaks during debate over a resolution about the IBEW Political Action Committee.


Gary and Hammond, Ind., Local 697 Business Manager Dan Waldrop addresses the convention.