The Electrical Worker online
May 2017

'An Untiring Dedication to Our Common Cause'
Secretary-Treasurer Chilia Retires
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After nearly 50 years of service to the IBEW and the North American organized labor movement, International Secretary-Treasurer Salvatore J. Chilia announced his retirement effective May 1.

"We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Sam for everything he has done for the IBEW," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "He has shown an untiring dedication to our common cause and we are a stronger union because of it. He is not only my partner, but my friend as well."

The union's top financial officer, Brother Chilia took responsibility for the IBEW's many pensions, funds, and health care programs and guided them through the wreckage of the worst recession in nearly a century.

He leaves behind a growing union with a healthy general fund, National Electrical Benefit Fund pension funds that are the envy of the labor movement and a NECA/IBEW Family Medical Care Plan that not only provides care for tens of thousands of people, it lures business owners to the IBEW's doorstep.

"Yesterday, I was talking to my wife Arlene and I said if the American dream is you work hard and get paid well for it; you have a pension and you raise your family in dignity so they do better than you did, then I lived the American dream plus," Chilia said. "And it is because I joined this union when I was 19 years old."

Stephenson appointed Fourth District International Vice President Kenneth W. Cooper to fill the rest of Chilia's term of office. Fourth District International Representative Brian G. Malloy will replace Cooper. The International Executive Council unanimously approved the appointments.

A Lifetime of Service

Chilia is a second generation IBEW member, but unlike most, he followed his mother, not his father. His mother, Judy Chilia, worked in a generator and alternator factory represented by Cleveland Local 1377. At age 96, she still collects a pension from funds her son oversees.

Sam joined the apprenticeship program of Cleveland Local 38 in 1967 and got his journeyman ticket in 1971.

"My father died in 1956. But I always felt the union was just as special to me as it was to the proudest fourth-generation journeyman because my mother worked all her life in a manufacturing plant under an IBEW contract," Chilia said.

"People worked hard for every dollar in those retirement accounts. You want the person looking out for that money to really know where it came from and what it means," Stephenson said. "Sam always did."

Chilia worked with the tools for more than 20 years before he went on staff at Local 38. He was elected president in 1989 and then business manager in 1997. In 2001, he was elected to the International Executive Council for the Third IEC District at the 36th International Convention in San Francisco.

Then, 40 years after starting his apprenticeship, in 2007, Sam became the Fourth District international vice president.

In 2011, International President Emeritus Edwin J. Hill appointed him to finish the unexpired term of retiring International Secretary-Treasurer Lindell Lee. Later that year, at the Vancouver International Convention, Chilia was elected to his own full term by acclamation.

"Sam never spent much time blowing his own horn. He was always interested in getting things done, not getting credit," Hill said. "The proof of Sam's quality as a labor unionist, as a man and as a friend is there for everyone to see. In his reputation as a good worker, in his rise through the Brotherhood. He was quiet about it, but there is no trade unionist in North America who worked smarter or harder for working families than Sam."

In addition to the FMCP and the NEBF, Chilia managed the IBEW's general fund, the pension plans for IBEW officers and the one for office staff and others.

He was also responsible for the union's political operations. Under Chilia's leadership, the IBEW has stepped up grassroots organizing and member education.

"I'm fortunate to stand in the shoes of some of the giants in IBEW history: former International Secretary-Treasurers Lindell Lee, Jon Walters, Jerry O'Connor, Ed Hill, Jack Moore and so many other outstanding brothers, back to our first International Secretary, J.T. Kelly, who once mortgaged his furniture to keep this Brotherhood operating," Chilia said. "Every day, I have fresh appreciation for all they did to build and maintain a solid organization that has stood the test of time. All I can hope is that I played my part."



International President Emeritus Edwin D. Hill, International President Lonnie R. Stephenson with International Secretary-Treasurer Salvatore Chilia, who is retiring after 50 years in the IBEW.