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May 2017

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Kenneth W. Cooper

Fourth District Vice President Kenneth W. Cooper was appointed International Secretary-Treasurer, effective May 1, to fill the unexpired term of office of Salvatore "Sam" Chilia.

"Kenny's time as a vice president and business manager shows he's a leader who gets things done and will be able to maintain the strong financial position that is so important to all our brothers and sisters," International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said.

For Cooper, it is another step in a career that began in 1986, when he was initiated into Mansfield, Ohio, Local 688. He completed his journeyman wireman apprenticeship in 1989.

"I grew up a poor kid in Mansfield, Ohio," he said. "The IBEW gave me the skills and the opportunity to move into the middle class and I want to pass that along to other people. I said it to our staff in the district office many times, the most important thing we do is to organize, represent and help working families."

Cooper is a first-generation IBEW member, but union ties run deep in his family. His father was a member of the United Auto Workers and his grandfather was in the United Steelworkers. He was active in the IBEW almost from the start, serving as steward, vice president, president, chairman of the pension and welfare fund, assistant business manager, and finally, Local 668 business manager for nine years.

As business manager, he helped increase man-hours for construction wiremen by 28 percent and received multiple awards for his role in organizing workers and negotiating fair contracts in his jurisdiction.

"Employees need to have dignity and respect in the workplace and I'm honored I was able to play a part in getting new union members better working conditions and increasing the standard of living for them and their families," Cooper said.

He also was active in several civic and charitable organizations in Mansfield, a city of about 47,000 midway between Cleveland and Columbus. He volunteered or served on the boards for the local chapters of the AFL-CIO, Catholic Charities, American Red Cross and the United Way.

Cooper moved to Las Vegas in 2002 to be with his wife Gina and worked for Las Vegas Local 396 as assistant business manager, where he was a leader in the organizing of five new bargaining units at Nevada Power Company, now known as NV Energy.

"The experience gained there provided a wealth of knowledge in regards to organizing in large, investor-owned utilities," he said.

Cooper moved to the Fourth District office as an international representative in 2006. Then-International President Edwin D. Hill appointed him vice president five years later — replacing Chilia, who became secretary-treasurer. Cooper was elected later that year at the International Convention in Vancouver and re-elected at last year's convention in St. Louis.

As vice president, Cooper instituted a 100-day program for new business managers. He and his staff would work with each of them to develop a series of goals to reach early in his or her tenure. Not only was it a good education for the business managers, it also improved communication and developed a sense of working together within the district, he said.

"It serves them well in meeting their goals and provides a good foundation for new leaders," he said. "It all runs together."

During his tenure, the IBEW organized nearly 1,500 workers at Asplundh, an international tree-trimming service, with many of them in the Fourth District. Workers voted for representation in 39 of the 42 elections at Asplundh sites across the Fourth District.

Cooper also oversaw the successful organization of 1,400 workers at Baltimore Gas and Electric last January.

"There are so many duties when you're a vice president, but my No. 1 priority was organizing and that will continue to be my No. 1 priority," he said. "I know our financial situation improves when we add members and continue to represent middle-class families."

The IBEW officers, staff and members congratulate Brother Cooper on his new position and wish him much success in the months and years ahead.


Kenneth W. Cooper

Frank J. Furco

Lisle, Ill., Local 701 Business Manager Frank Furco has been appointed by International President Lonnie R. Stephenson to serve on the International Executive Council, representing the Fifth IEC District. The appointment, which was unanimously approved by the IEC, took effect on March 1.

Brother Furco, 58, was initiated into the IBEW in 1979, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a journeyman wireman at Local 701. His two younger brothers, Tim and Jim, are also members.

"It's an enormous honor to be asked to fill this role on the IEC," Furco said, "and I plan to do everything I can to be an advocate for the members and locals in the states I represent. I want them to know their voices are being heard at the international level."

Furco started out his career as an IBEW leader in an unlikely place — on the softball field. It was the late 1980s, and his leadership on the field got him noticed by then-business manager Stan Perry, who asked him to teach apprentice school. "I guess that went pretty well, because five years later, our next business manager, Art Ludwig, asked me to run for executive board," Furco said.

Over the next 15 years, Furco would go on to serve as an organizer, business agent and assistant business manager, alongside roles on Local 701's social club, PAC committee, health and pension trusts and more.

In May of 2010, he was appointed to replace outgoing business manager Kenneth Lambert. He served for just a month before facing his first election.

In his nearly seven years as business manager, Local 701 has flourished, renovating and expanding the local offices and hiring a full-time organizer with the sole responsibility of bringing in new members.

Despite being the smallest geographical IBEW local in Illinois thanks to its location in the union-dense suburbs of Chicago, Local 701's 1,600 members put in over 2.3 million hours last year, and they're looking to grow.

"Organizing is a big priority for us," he said, "even though it's a new idea for a lot of our members. We need to be ready to continue to grow with the industry."

Furco's current service includes three years on the Council on Industrial Relations and two terms as secretary-treasurer of the DuPage County Building and Construction Trades Council. He is also treasurer of the Chicago-area Construction Industry Service Corporation, a labor-management association.

"I'm just really excited to have the chance to work alongside International President Stephenson in this role on the IEC," Furco said. "He's not too far removed from working in the field, and he's an approachable guy. I want to be the same kind of leader for the working men and women of the Fifth IEC District."

The Fifth IEC District represents IBEW members in the states of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The officers, staff and membership of the IBEW wish Brother Furco all the best in his new position.


Frank J. Furco

Brian Malloy

Fourth District International Representative Brian G. Malloy was appointed vice president for the Fourth District, effective May 1. Malloy replaces Kenneth W. Cooper, who was appointed international secretary-treasurer.

"I'm very humbled," Malloy said. "I appreciate the confidence that President Stephenson and Secretary-Treasurer Cooper have in me."

A native of Mount Savage, Maryland, Brother Malloy was initiated into Cumberland Local 307 in 1979. He served as Local 307's president and business manager prior to being appointed international representative for the Fourth District in 2001.

"I'm really proud of him," said daughter Breana Malloy, an attorney and international representative assigned to the Political and Legislative Department. "He can do anything he puts his mind to. I have no doubt in my mind that this will be great for the district as well as for him."

Malloy's commitment to Local 307, its members and their families, has been constant, said Business Manager Rodney Rice. From working with incoming officers to attending funerals and other events, he never lost touch with the local and its community.

"He was a tremendous help to me. We would talk every day when I first started," Rice said. "He's still very highly respected here."

Brother Malloy says he plans to continue the IBEW's No. 1 priority of organizing, and growing the Fourth District's membership.

"In everything I do, I plan to do my very best," he said. "At the end of the day, it's all about the membership."

His daughter Breana witnessed that commitment to the rank and file first-hand, she said.

"That's his motto," she said. "Being an IBEW member has always been more than a job to my dad. It has been a commitment to his sisters and brothers."

Having worked under three vice presidents, Brother Malloy says he's had the benefit of seeing up close what the job entails. He's also observed different leadership styles, which helped refine his own.

"I like to listen a lot," he said. "I'm more of a listener than a talker."

Malloy also served as area vice president for the Maryland AFL-CIO and secretary-treasurer for the Western Maryland Building Trades during his time with Local 307.

"I've got all the confidence in the world that he'll do a great job," Rice said.

The Fourth District is comprised of Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.


Brian Malloy

James L. Hunter

Retired Utility Department Director James L. Hunter always knew he wanted to be an electrician, like his dad.

Brother Hunter, a native of Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, began working with his father at his small residential electrical contractor while he was a teenager. His father Glen went to work at Pepco; in 1973, Jim followed him.

Six years after he started work and joined the utility's independent union, the IBEW launched an organizing drive. Hunter, then a substation relay technician, jumped in. When it was successful, he became active in the newly chartered Washington D.C., Local 1900. He served as a steward, then chief steward, executive board member and on several negotiating committees.

But by the early '90s, Hunter said relations between the company and Local 1900's then leaders were breaking down. More than 1,200 grievances were in the arbitration process and nothing was getting resolved.

"When it became clear that the union was going to fight everything no matter the merits or the significance, the company just clicked off and said no to everything," Hunter said. "They thought they were fighting for the members, but when the grievance procedure collapses, it hurts members and you lose the company's respect."

He decided to run for business manager. In a four-way race against a nine-year incumbent, Hunter won on the first ballot.

It took two years, but Hunter and his staff cleared up the backlog and rebuilt the grievance process, winning settlements for hundreds of members.

And then the job changed.

In September 1996, Pepco announced plans to merge with the utility to its north, Baltimore Gas and Electric. The IBEW had just lost a nasty organizing campaign at BGE. The company had spent tens of millions of dollars fighting the campaign and the IBEW had filed dozens of unfair labor practices complaints in its wake. BGE CEO Christian Poindexter had said publicly that the newly merged utility would not be unionized.

After the regulatory bodies overseeing the merger agreed to it in principle, Hunter and Local 1900 filed suit to stop it, questioning the companies' rosy cost savings estimates and the similarity of the separate grids.

The suit did not prevent the merger, but it delayed it for so long that the companies abandoned the effort. The lawsuit was extensively covered in local and national media and Hunter's story was told in the March 1998 issue of the IBEW Journal.

"After the merger failed, and let's be honest, we killed it, the company [Pepco] realized that we had power and they needed to work with us. So, when they came to us for help selling more power generation to the Public Service Commission — not stay neutral, but actively support the idea — what did we get? Guaranteed jobs, a three-year extension of our contract, guaranteed benefits," Hunter said. "Why? Because we were powerful and we had the relationships in place to take advantage of that power."

In 2002, then-President Edwin D. Hill named him as an international representative. Two years later, Hill made Hunter Utility Department director.

Hunter took his idea that a powerful union could find ways to work with regulated utilities for the benefit of both. His main tool was the Labor and Management Public Affairs Committee, a coalition between the IBEW and the investor-owned utilities represented by the Edison Electrical Institute.

LAMPAC, Hunter said, transformed the relationships the IBEW has with many utilities because it brings together the most senior people on both sides.

"We joined with EEI and built LAMPAC to highlight ways we can all do better when we all work together where we can. Once they see the value of a hard, but honest negotiation, they are less likely to see everything as a fight," Hunter said.

Looking back, Hunter says the best part of being a director was the simplicity of the job.

"I work for the members. That's it. It is without question one of the great parts of this job that every day I have one question: what can I do to help you?" Hunter said.

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


James L. Hunter

Donald A. Colston

International Representative Donald Colston has been appointed director of the Utility Department, effective May 1. Brother Colston will replace James Hunter, who retired.

Colston joined Louisville, Ky., Local 2100 in 1980 when he took a job at Louisville Gas & Electric. Three years later he earned his journeyman lineman ticket and was named chief union steward for the electrical department.

Colston was elected treasurer in 1989 and business manager in 1998. He was re-elected in 2001, but resigned when then Gov. Paul Patton appointed him his labor liaison and director of administrative services for the Department of Workers' Claims.

Government work was not for him, Colston said, and he left the job after a year and returned to Louisville Gas & Electric's grid as a troubleman.

Starting in 2002, Colston became Local 2100's political education director and began working with the Kentucky AFL-CIO's political department. From 2006 to 2009 he coordinated political education for state and local elections near Louisville. In 2010 he was the state AFL-CIO director and assisted the IBEW's state political coordinator, International Representative Don Vidourek.

In 2008, Colston was appointed by then-Gov. Steve Beshear to the Kentucky Workers Compensation Nominating Commission for Administrative Law Judges. In 2010, Beshear appointed him to the Labor and Management Board of Directors, a position he held until 2013.

Colston left the board, and Kentucky, after International President Emeritus Edwin D. Hill appointed him to be an international representative in Washington D.C., as the Brotherhood's national political coordinator. He was later transferred to the Utility Department.

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


Donald A. Colston

Edward Collins Jr.

Second District International Representative Edward Collins Jr. retired Sept. 15, capping a 50-year career with the IBEW.

Brother Collins was initiated into Springfield, Mass., Local 455 in 1967. He moved up the ranks of his local, first as recording secretary in 1969, then as president in 1971 and business manager in 1973. Then-International President J.J. Barry appointed him international representative for the Second District in 1988.

"I can't imagine anything more rewarding to have had as a job than helping members achieve their goals," Collins said.

Collins' labor activism began when he suffered an injury on the job. While working as a fuel handler, his hand was crushed in a conveyor belt that was transporting coal at the West Springfield Generating Station, requiring surgery.

"I was a member of the union, but I didn't have any greater interest than any other rank-and-file member," Collins told Western Massachusetts Politics & Insight, a local political blog. "That got me active."

Collins, who also worked as a meter installer and tester, became a founding member of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, an organization dedicated to workplace safety, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

He also served as secretary-treasurer of the New England Utility Council-IBEW, executive vice president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO and president of the Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

A longtime political activist, he is a member of the Massachusetts Democratic Party executive committee and co-chair of the labor outreach committee.

"With politics and labor, it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Everything that we achieve at the bargaining table can be wiped out with the stroke of a pen when the wrong people are elected," Collins said. "To my mind, you can't be a good trade unionist without also being involved in politics."

Collins was a delegate to four Democratic National Conventions, for then-presidential nominees Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama, and most recently as a delegate for Bernie Sanders.

"Ed truly lived the life of a trade unionist," said Local 455 Business Manager Brian Kenney. "He was a great mentor."

Brother Collins served in the Navy from 1964-1969 and graduated from Springfield Technical Community College with an associate degree in 1978.

Collins says he is staying active in retirement, serving as vice chair of the board of trustees for the University of Massachusetts and on the board of the university's Building Authority. When not serving, he works on classic cars and enjoys sports car racing.

The IBEW members, staff and international officers wish Brother Collins and his wife, Paula, a long and happy retirement.


Edward Collins Jr.

Ralph Merriweather

After 48 years in the IBEW, Seventh District International Representative Ralph Merriweather has retired, effective Jan. 1.

"Ralph is irreplaceable," said Director of Professional and Industrial Membership Development Carmella Thomas. "He can talk to anyone, and I mean anyone. His great gift is that he will find out what is most important to a person and talk with them so that people really hear him."

Merriweather joined Austin, Texas, Local 520 in 1969 when he started working at Wide Lite's outdoor lighting fixture factory. A year later, Merriweather joined the U.S. Navy, serving as a shipborne electrician until 1973 when he was honorably discharged. Merriweather returned to Wide Lite and rejoined the IBEW.

At the Local 520 annual picnic that year, then-Business Manager Max Ladush approached Merriweather and told him the federal government was putting pressure on him to get more minorities in the apprenticeship program. He asked Merriweather, who is African American, to join.

Merriweather said no.

"When you say you want me, it had better have nothing to do with color or government," Merriweather said. "I think he was startled. He had never heard people come back to the business manager that way."

It took three years. Ladush finally asked him directly and Merriweather went from a BA Member to an A member.

It was a principled boldness that Merriweather carried throughout his career.

Brother Merriweather topped out in 1980 and after working for five years around the capital, he was hired by the city of Austin as an electrical inspector. In 1987 he was hired by Local 520 to be an assistant business manager and the local's first organizer, a job he held for 12 years.

"I didn't know anything about organizing but I knew everyone, union or nonunion, because I inspected every job," he said.

In his first six years, the local's 12-percent market share jumped to more than 70 percent.

"One of the biggest contracts I signed was on the back of a Whataburger bag," Merriweather said. "We signed a real contract back at the hall the next day, but when he agreed, I wasn't leaving there without a signature."

Merriweather was appointed to and served on many boards and committees throughout his career including the City of Austin Electrical Board for nine years. Then-Gov. Dolph Briscoe appointed him to serve on the Rural Capital Private Industry Council. In 1997, Merriweather was commissioned by Gov. Ann Richards to serve on the newly formed Texas Workforce Commission as the labor representative.

He was also an officer of the Central Texas Labor Board, a director of the Rural Capital Area Private Industry Council, member of the Vocational Education Board overseeing all apprenticeships in the state, on the Capital Area School-to-Work Program and Travis County Criminal Justice Planning Committee.

"Everywhere I heard they would be training trade people, I would call the governor and get on the board," he said.

An early member of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus, Merriweather was the Texas leader of the A. Philip Randolph Institute and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

In 1999, then International President J.J. Barry appointed him a Seventh District International representative as an organizer.

His proudest moment, he said, was the chartering of Weslaco, Texas, Local 1015 in 2002 with a jurisdiction covering the southeastern Texas-Mexico border from north of Laredo to the Gulf Coast.

Merriweather may be best known for his tattoos. For every 100 people he organized into Local 520, a lightning bolt was tattooed on his neck. He stopped at ten, five on either side.

"I was running out of room," he said.

When Merriweather retired, the Seventh District staff and International Vice President Steven Speer all came out with lightning bolt temporary tattoos on their necks.

"I enjoyed my job because I did it my way," Merriweather said. "When people started talking about doing something outside the box, I didn't even ever know there was a box."

The officers, staff and members wish Brother Merriweather a long, healthy and adventurous retirement.


Ralph Merriweather

Donald Woolridge

Sixth District International Representative Donald Woolridge has retired after 38 years of service to the IBEW, effective Oct. 11, 2016.

Brother Woolridge was born in Anna, Ill., and served as a paratrooper in the Army's 187th Infantry 101st Airborne Division from 1972-75. He completed his apprenticeship to become a journeyman lineman and a member of West Frankfort, Ill., Local 702 in 1978.

Education was a priority throughout Woolridge's career. He chaired several committees for American Line Builders Apprenticeship Training, a cooperative program administered by the IBEW and American Line Builders Chapter/NECA. It trains linemen in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.

"To me, it's the finest apprentice organization there is," said Woolridge, who went through the ALBAT training himself as an apprentice. "I think it's our job as journeyman linemen to teach these young men and women and pass our knowledge along to the next generation. I take great pride in watching these apprentices grown and learn."

Woolridge joined Local 702's staff as a business representative in 1994 and was serving as assistant business manager in 2003 when then-International President Edwin D. Hill asked him to become a Sixth District international representative.

It wasn't an easy decision, he said. Gary Roan, Local 702's business manager at the time, was nearing retirement and Woolridge knew he had a good chance to replace him.

"In the end, it looked to me like a way that I could do what I was doing not just for my local, but for more locals and help more people," he said. "Leaving my own local was tough because I felt like I was letting them down in a way. Everyone there had done so much for me. But they were great about it."

The key to being a good international representative was always being honest with business managers and members, even if the news wasn't necessarily good, Woolridge said.

"I was blessed to have the locals I did," he said. "They all cooperated and I think I earned their respect. My job was to make their job easier and that's what I tried to do."

During his tenure, Woolridge worked under four different Sixth District vice presidents, including International President Lonnie R. Stephenson.

"Through all of it, we were both friends and co-workers," he said. "When the transition was made to a new vice president, it wasn't like we didn't know the guy. The respect was there and we knew what was expected and what he wanted."

Woolridge graduated from Antioch University with a bachelor's degree in labor studies. He is a member of the American Legion and said he always appreciated the IBEW treating Veterans Day as a holiday. That allowed him to attend the annual parade in West Frankfort, he said.

"No matter what, I've got to be home for Veterans Day," he said.

Woolridge has two children and three grandchildren. He and his wife Stacy plan to remain in West Frankfort, a town of about 8,000 people in southern Illinois near both the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Retirement will give them more time to work on the water garden at their home and participate in more pistol shooting competitions, a hobby for both, he said.

Woolridge also is an avid pool player. He said he is a 9-handicap on the American Poolplayers Association's system, just one step short of its highest ranking, and he's hoping to play in more tournaments throughout the Midwest.

The IBEW officers and staff thank Brother Woolridge for his service and wish him a long and happy retirement.


Donald Woolridge