The Electrical Worker online
April 2018

From the Officers
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Making Green Jobs Good Jobs

In the last few months, The Electrical Worker has published an in-depth exploration of the radical transformation of the bulk power system.

The changes in this business since I joined this Brotherhood more than 40 years ago have been breathtaking. When I was an apprentice, houses and offices used electricity for little more than heat, appliances and a handful of lights.

Today, the average person uses five times more electricity than the average person did in 1950. It's the same story in the commercial sector, with business consuming more and more power running the systems that help them stay competitive.

For the most part, that change has been good news for nearly 400,000 IBEW members employed in generation, transmission, distribution, construction and rail. Skilled electrical workers are more valuable and valued than ever before.

Grid-scale renewables and the transmission lines that connect them to customers are putting thousands of our members to work. Installing smart meters, electric car charging stations, microgrids and the millions of sensors that will inform and empower the utilities of the future is our work now.

I know this isn't true for everyone. Many trades have been disrupted by the technological advances, and some have disappeared almost entirely. Tens of thousands of our own members have seen their futures darken when their coal, nuclear and natural gas plants closed. It's been devastating for them, their families and often their towns.

That's why we'll continue to fight like hell for market rules that stop punishing reliable baseload generation and support next-generation nuclear and clean coal technologies. Not only is baseload critical to grid stability, it's vital to you, our members and to the communities you live in.

But as we do that, we're also working to meet the next challenges, where many of the new generation industries, especially wind and solar, are replacing what were good blue-collar careers with fewer lower skill, lower wage jobs.

It doesn't need to stay that way.

Utility jobs aren't good jobs by some natural law; brothers and sisters from previous generations fought long odds to make them that way.

Success will take organizing the work, organizing the workers and insisting on public policies that strengthen the hand of working people. A few first policy steps are laid out in a sidebar to this month's story (page 6). I urge you to cut that list out and speak to your elected representatives about them at every occasion.

The future is in our hands. My expectation is that we will live up to the legacy that was handed to us and that generations to come will inherit an electrical industry at least as good for working families as the one we inherited. I look forward to embracing that challenge right alongside you.


Also: Cooper: It's Time to Stand Up Read Cooper's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President