The Electrical Worker online
October/November 2016

Convention Delegates Renew Legacy,
Chart Course for the Future
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The 39th International Convention in St. Louis was a return to the IBEW's birthplace but delegates spent as much time looking to the future as they did to the past.

"We're not here to pat ourselves on the back or to be satisfied with past victories. We're here to learn the lessons of the past to equip us to face the challenges of the future," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson.

Pride in the union's history was at center stage in the days leading up to the convention's start. Stephenson, International Secretary-Treasurer Salvatore "Sam" Chilia and other IBEW leaders officially opened the Henry Miller Museum in front of hundreds of IBEW members and friends.

But as soon as the ribbon — actually a thick copper wire — was cut by many pairs of side cut pliers, the focus turned from the birth of the union to the growth that will ensure the IBEW thrives for another 125 years.

One of the first orders of business was electing the IBEW's leadership team. Stephenson was elected unanimously to his first full term on Monday morning. Chilia was re-elected and New York Local 3 Business Manager Chris Erikson was chosen by acclamation to continue as chairman of the International Executive Council.

Delegates supported an increase in the funding for the General Fund and shored up the Pension Benefit Fund. The district caucuses' choices for international vice presidents and the membership of the IEC were confirmed. The delegates finished voting on resolutions and proposed changes to the IBEW Constitution on Friday.

Before, after and between the votes, speakers representing the labor movement and friends from around the world addressed the nearly 2,000 delegates. The leaders of electrical unions in Italy, Ireland and Australia spoke, as did executives from Alabama Power, Rockwell Collins and Frontier Communications.

North American labor leaders AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff delivered fiery calls to rejuvenate organized labor.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and former governor of Hawaii Neil Abercrombie addressed the importance of the IBEW to the future of working families in America.

Every speaker spoke to the good work done by the Brotherhood.

"We've built a huge level of respect around the world because of the work our members do every day, and we saw the result of that on the stage," Erikson said.

When Stephenson gaveled the meeting to a close Friday, the delegates' work charting the union's next several years was complete.

Stephenson stood before the rows of tables stretching hundreds of feet away in front of him and spoke about the diversity of the delegation, the legacies of families, homes and jobs.

"This week, we came together as one union and one IBEW. We came together unified with one goal: to keep Henry Miller's dream alive," Stephenson said. "And that dream has remained the same since 1891: to organize ALL workers in the entire electrical industry in the United States and Canada."

Stephenson looked over the thousands of men and women in front of him.

"We're going to keep going on and on until every worker in every one of our branches can say with pride: 'I am a member of the greatest union in the world. I am IBEW,'" he said. "So come Monday morning, be ready to work like hell and organize, organize, organize."

Then the gavel fell and the delegates headed out and home to do the real work.

About This Issue

Celebrating the IBEW's birthplace in its hometown, history was among the many themes of the convention. But as President Stephenson said, "We're not just here to study history, we're here to make it."

Nearly 2,000 delegates with a multitude of backgrounds, industries, trades and life experiences listened and shared, at caucuses, conferences, proceedings and discussions. Throughout this special issue, readers will see how their focus was honed in areas of community, history, diversity, growth, leadership, politics, partnership and the Code of Excellence.

Read on to learn how these many themes forged a clear picture of what members contributed to — and took from — the 39th International Convention.



International Executive Council Chairman Christopher Erikson, International President Lonnie R. Stephenson and Secretary-Treasurer Salvatore "Sam" Chilia after their elections to five-year terms on Day One of the 39th IBEW Convention in St. Louis.


Members of Eclipse Shadow Dance told the story of the IBEW during the opening ceremony.


New York Local 3's Sword of Light Pipe Band also performed.