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July 2018

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Thomas P. Van Arsdale

The IBEW regrets to announce the death of former International Treasurer Thomas P. Van Arsdale, one of the giants of the Brotherhood from a family of icons. He was 94.

"Tom was a legend, smart, honest and tough," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "There are very few who could claim to have done more for the IBEW and our members than Tom."

Brother Van Arsdale was a third-generation wireman. His grandfather, Harry Van Arsdale Sr., joined the Electrical Mechanical Wireman's Union, which later became New York Local 3, around the turn of the 20th century. His father, Harry Van Arsdale Jr., was business manager of Local 3 from 1933 to 1968 and founding president of the New York Central Labor Council from its founding in 1957 until his death in 1986.

Van Arsdale joined the U.S. Navy Reserve in 1943 while attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He served for three years, rising to the rank of ensign, including a stint overseas during World War II. He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 1945 and immediately applied for the Local 3 apprenticeship. He was initiated into the union where he began work in a supply house, then a cable manufacturing facility and a fixture company. A year later he started his apprenticeship, and in 1947 he became the secretary of the committee of the apprentices, negotiating the first of hundreds of contracts he'd oversee over the years.

Brother Van Arsdale worked with the tools for seven years, but he joined the Local 3 executive board only two years after topping out. In 1958, he came on staff as a business representative and was appointed a director of the Electrical Workers Benefit Society. He was a delegate to the 1962 IBEW convention, the first of many, where he served on the Resolutions and Law committee. That same year he went on a solo goodwill trip to the capitals of 10 South American countries, meeting with labor activists and government officials. A year later he made a 20-day trip to meet with trade unionists in Tokyo, Manila, Singapore, Rome, Italy, Berlin, Paris and London.

In 1964, Van Arsdale joined the National Electrical Code and Standards Committee, a position he held for 14 years. In 1965, he was appointed the assistant business manager for manufacturing.

In 1968, after 31 years, Van Arsdale's father stepped down as business manager of Local 3, and the executive board elected Van Arsdale to finish the term. He was elected to his first full term a year later and was re-elected to the post for nearly four decades.

In an interview around the time of his retirement, Van Arsdale talked about the transition that he had been groomed for.

"To be business manager is like stepping out of the dark into the light, or vice versa," he said, showing his sense of humor.

Van Arsdale took over Local 3 at the height of the power and reach of organized labor in New York City. He was in high demand for charity and governmental boards, serving at some point on the board of the New York State Association of Electrical Workers, the Executive Committee of the New York City Council on Economic Education, the Labor Advisory Committee at Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, on the board of trustees of the State University of New York, the board of directors of the Catholic Interracial League, the Police Athletic League, the Greater New York Fund and the United Way, among many others.

But the majority of his leadership came as the city and labor slipped into the crisis of the '70s and '80s.

"He was a quiet, reserved man of integrity and also a realist," said International Executive Council chairman and Local 3 Business Manager Christopher Erikson, Van Arsdale's nephew. "He had control over the labor movement in very difficult times and had to make many difficult, sometimes unpopular decisions. If it was the right decision, even though it might have been politically unpopular, he made it, and his legacy speaks for itself."

He spoke out against apartheid in South Africa when many didn't, Erikson said, and was committed to diversity in Local 3 and the trades so that men and women from every background benefited from the opportunities in the union trades. In 1975 he received the Award of Merit from the Black Trade Unionists and the Hispanic Labor Committee Award.

"He was bold that way," Erikson said.

Since 1900, a member of Local 3 had filled the part-time position of International Treasurer. In 1978, Van Arsdale continued that storied tradition, proudly serving two decades as the Brotherhood's final International Treasurer. In 1998, the position was combined with International Secretary, and future IBEW president Edwin D. Hill took over the second highest post in the IBEW. Van Arsdale was then appointed to a three-year term as Treasurer Emeritus working on special projects for then-International President J.J. Barry.

In 1986, after a contentious three-way campaign, Van Arsdale was elected president of the 1 million-member New York City Central Labor Council, replacing his father, who had been president for 31 years. Van Arsdale held that post until 1995.

In 2006, 73 years after he accompanied his father to a convention of the New York State Labor Federation and watched future AFL-CIO president George Meany speak, 61 years after his initiation into the local that defined his life, Van Arsdale stepped down as business manager.

Ten years later, though his health was failing, Van Arsdale made his final speech to the IBEW, on video, to the thousands assembled for the 2016 convention.

"One-hundred twenty-five years ago, electrical workers just like you and I founded the National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers here in St. Louis. Now it is your responsibility, for you are the future of the IBEW," he said. "Embrace the challenge. Embrace new ideas. Do not fear failure. Fear not trying. Echoing and living the words of Winston Churchill can only aid in the success of the IBEW: never, never, never give up. I wish you all a successful convention and a bright future for the IBEW."

The officers, staff and members of the IBEW extend our deepest condolences to Brother Arsdale's wife, Phyllis, his daughters Pat, Susan and Jean, his 12 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and to his friends and Local 3 family.

A funeral mass was held at St. Nicholas of Tolentine at 150-75 Goethals Avenue in Jamaica, Queens, May 23. He was interred at Mount St. Mary's Cemetery at 164-15 Booth Avenue, Fresh Meadows in Queens, the borough where he was born and lived his whole life.

Condolences may be sent to Phyllis Van Arsdale at 161-02 Harry Van Arsdale Jr. Avenue, Flushing, NY, 11365.


Thomas P. Van Arsdale

Michael Richard

International Representative Michael Richard has been appointed director of the Construction Department, effective July 1. Brother Richard replaces Jim Ross, who retired.

"I can't think of a better guy for the job," said Local 58 Business Manager Brian Richard, who's known Michael Richard for more than 20 years. "Mike's willing to do the hard work. He won't ask you to do anything he wouldn't do."

The Detroit native followed in the footsteps of his father when he was inducted into Local 58 in 1993. Active in his local, Richard served on committees including safety, bylaws and community services, as well as the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus. Prior to his induction, Richard served in the Marine Corps from 1987 to 1992, rising to the rank of sergeant.

In 2012, Michael Richard was elected business manager, a position he held until his November 2017 appointment as an international representative in the Construction Department.

"Mike's always said that every pair of pants he's owned, every meal he's eaten and house he's lived in was because of the IBEW. He's never lost sight of that," Brian Richard said.

Brian Richard credits his predecessor with putting Local 58 "back on the map." In addition to steering the local through the lingering effects of the Great Recession and Detroit's own long overdue recovery, he built relationships with the state building trades, serving as a trustee, and with the state AFL-CIO serving on the executive council. He also chaired the IBEW State Conference.

"Our relationship with the [AFL-CIO] state fed is probably stronger than it's ever been," Michael Richard said, and that type of relationship-building is something he'd like to see more locals do.

"The IBEW does more than a lot of groups, and that has a lot to do with our history of servicing our members and keeping them engaged," he said. "In turn, when we need people to turn out, they're there. They show up."

The former Marine sergeant says he's looking forward to promoting Helmets to Hardhats, a program to encourage veterans to enter the building trades post-service. He was also appointed by International President Lonnie R. Stephenson to serve on the opioid task force run by North America's Building Trades Unions.

The construction industry is one of the hardest hit by the epidemic and Richard says the task force has an important role to play in helping unions let their members know that they're there to help, even if someone has failed a drug test or relapsed.

"Addiction isn't usually solved after one time in rehab. We need to let them know they'll be welcomed back," he said. "Employers want this, too. That's one of the bright spots in all this."

Richard says he'll continue the work of his predecessor in terms of being a resource for locals and letting districts know the international office is always available to them.

It's also an election year.

"There's a lot at stake," he said. "We're dealing with attacks on the prevailing wage, right-to-work. And we can't just look at the federal level. There's a lot going on locally too."

The looming labor shortage is also of concern. With nearly 25 percent of construction members over the age of 55, Richard says locals will need to put more and more resources into organizing just to keep up with the pace of retirements in the years ahead.

Richard says he'll continue to champion the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus, women's committees and Reach out and Engage Next-gen Electrical Workers, the IBEW's initiative to get younger members involved in the union.

"One of the accomplishments I'm most proud of is increasing the number of women and people of color at Local 58," he said.

The officers, staff and members wish Brother Richard all the best as he takes up his new position.


Michael Richard

Brian Threadgold

After more than a decade's service as a local officer and international representative, Brian Threadgold has been promoted to head the Per Capita Department, the financial engine that keeps the IBEW running.

"My analogy is that it's the heartbeat of the union," said Threadgold, a journeyman inside wireman who rose to the top of Topeka, Kan., Local 226.

Threadgold was sworn into the local as an apprentice in 1998, became president in 2007 and took the reins as business manager in 2010. He'd won re-election twice when International President Lonnie R. Stephenson asked him to come to headquarters as an international representative in the Council on Industrial Relations/Bylaws and Appeals Department. He moved with his wife and three daughters to the Washington, D.C., area last fall.

In just seven months at the International Office, Threadgold quickly proved his value and will "absolutely be missed," CIR/Bylaws and Appeals Director Mike Kwashnik said.

"Brian's done a fantastic job. He hit the ground running," Kwashnik said, describing Threadgold's work with bylaws, appeals and other labor-management matters CIR handles. "His leadership qualities shine through. He was a very successful business manager at his home local, and he served for years on the CIR panel. He shined again in his performance here, even though it was short."

In addition to the CIR panel, which works to settle construction industry bargaining, grievance and other disputes that have reached impasse, Threadgold served on the Kansas AFL-CIO executive board and chaired both the Kansas Association of Electrical Workers and the Northeast Kansas Building and Trades Council.

In his new position, which took effect June 1, Threadgold is responsible for managing vast financial and membership records, and for processing the per-capita dues payments from locals that make IBEW's work possible. He said his seven years as a trustee and financial secretary at Local 226 helped prepare him for the challenges ahead.

Threadgold added that he couldn't have gotten where he is without the great mentors he's had along the way. "The Brotherhood has taught me to focus on 'we' not 'me,'" he said.

A native Kansan who grew up playing baseball, hunting and fishing, Threadgold gained an early appreciation for unions from relatives in the painting and carpentry trades. While attending Emporia State University with the goal of being an elementary school teacher, he learned about the IBEW from a cousin who was a third-generation member.

"He was the first one to talk to me about IBEW. That's what perked my interest," he said. "I was wrestling with being a broke college student or working for a living. I chose to be an electrical apprentice."

He never looked back. "I felt fairly strongly about it being the right path early on, with the wages and benefits, and understanding the comprehensive reach of labor unions — the idea that we're stronger together than we are as individuals."

Please join us in wishing Brother Threadgold the best as he takes on his new responsibilities.


Brian Threadgold

Timothy D. Bowden

After 38 years in the IBEW, Seventh District Regional Organizing Coordinator Timothy D. Bowden retired, effective May 1.

Bowden was appointed an International Representative in 1997 by then-International President J.J. Barry to be part of his commitment to put organizing back into the heart of the Brotherhood. For more than 20 years, Bowden has been at the heart of that project in the Seventh District and a trusted adviser to a generation of organizers.

Brother Bowden was born in Phoenix and raised into a family of IBEW luminaries. His father, Clyde Bowden, was business manager of Phoenix Local 387 for more than 30 years and chairman of the International Executive Council for 14 years until his retirement in 2001. Bowden's uncle, Dee Bowden, was a career member of Phoenix Local 640.

After three years in the Navy, Bowden was initiated into his father's local in 1981 when he took a job at Arizona Public Service. In 1983, he joined the apprenticeship program, jointly run by Local 387 and APS.

Bowden joined the executive board in 1987 and served for five years. That same year, he joined Local 387's negotiating committee, a position he held for nearly a decade. In 1992, he was appointed secretary-treasurer of the Arizona state electrical association and was a delegate to the central labor council, positions he held until 1997. He also served on the board of directors of the Irrigation District of Sun Valley Farms.

Brother Bowden came on staff at Local 387 in 1994 when he was appointed a business representative, stepping down when he was made assistant business manager in 1996.

"Everyone on staff was an organizer," Bowden said. "The business manager — my father — didn't want to use lawyers, so we had to learn how to do everything. Every year you went to classes at George Meany Center for Labor Studies: arbitration, negotiation. It was intense."

That skill set caught the eye of Barry, who brought him to the district office in 1997 to be a professional and industrial organizer in some of the most anti-union parts of the U.S.

"If you organize in the Seventh District you have to have tough skin. You are going to get your nuts kicked in. Regularly," Bowden said. "So, you need a real heart for people and their issues and problems. When you see people, they are scared to death, but they need help. You need to connect with that and capitalize on it: I am here for you."

Bowden brought the same heart and toughness to his job managing the Seventh District's organizers, said Lead Organizer Craig Parkman.

"It is so hard to explain Tim because he didn't have to tell you where he was on anything: you knew. He was all action. He would say this about the Brotherhood: 'It is something you feel,'" Parkman said.

Parkman said Bowden was the kind of boss who was there when you needed but would let you do your job your way.

"If you asked for advice, rather than tell you what you need to do, he would tell you a story," Parkman said. "He was very proud of his dad and was really good about using his own experience or the history of his father. 'Be careful about that, because I remember one time…,' he'd say."

Bowden is retiring, but he won't stop working. He and his wife Kymie run a ranch with registered Red Angus.

"There's always something to do on the ranch. And we will travel some," he said. "When I first started, you flew out on a Monday and flew back on a Friday, 220 days out of town a year. I have about a gazillion Hilton points. I'm going to start using them for someplace fun."

Please join the officers in thanking Brother Bowden for his faithful service to the IBEW. We wish him and his family a long and fulfilling retirement.


Timothy D. Bowden

Tom Davis

Seventh District International Representative Tom Davis, who spent most of his career organizing across the Southwest and helped start the Business Development Department, retired effective May 1.

Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, Davis was the son of a GTE telephone installer and Communications Workers of America member. Davis himself already had been a member of three unions before a four-year stint in the Coast Guard, where he worked as welder while stationed in Galveston, Texas. He was discharged in 1981 with the rank of petty officer third class.

"I just automatically thought being in a union was the way things went," Davis said. "Toledo is such a strong union town. Everyone on my block was in a union. When you heard about someone getting into an apprenticeship, especially in the building trades, you were always kind of envious."

While in Galveston, Brother Davis met his future wife, Christine, and moved to her hometown of Albuquerque, N.M. The couple married and Davis' father-in-law, a member of Albuquerque Local 611, suggested he apply for an apprenticeship.

Davis did just that, eventually topping out as a journeyman inside wireman in 1987. He immediately got involved in local union affairs, serving as chairman of the legislative and community volunteer committees before being hired as an organizer in 1991.

"We were very fortunate in that we had a lot of work in the year or two after I became an organizer," he said. "We took advantage of that. If you can organize the work, you organize contractors and that growth means more market share. Better market share means more bargaining strength. It's pretty simple."

He impressed enough in that role to be hired as a Seventh District organizer in 1994 before being promoted to international representative in 1997, staying on the district staff to lead organizing efforts.

Davis said he was always grateful his superiors allowed him to implement programs he and others used to spur membership growth at Local 611 at construction locals throughout the Seventh District.

He also marveled as improved technology provided organizers with better information to do their jobs — particularly the IBEW's Organizing Accountability Reporting System (OARS), which stores information on signatory and non-signatory contractors across the nation, and Project Tracker.

In 2012, he was one of three international representatives charged with forming the Business Development Department, which Davis called essential to organizing and has produced substantial results.

"He was probably one of the best picks we could have made for that spot because of his years of experience in organizing, his institutional knowledge and the people he crossed paths with," Business Development Director Ray Kasmark said. "I always thought of him as a cross between MacGyver and James Bond. He was that figure who was very capable of pulling off anything assigned to him. He knew right where to go to get it done and which buttons to push."

Davis said he and Christine plan to travel more internationally and build their dream home in Albuquerque. They also plan to spend more time with their two daughters and granddaughter.

As his career progressed, Davis appreciated the fact that his home state of New Mexico did not have a right-to-work law. Every other state in the Seventh District — Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma and Kansas — has one. That made the job more challenging, but no less gratifying.

"To be able to see how you helped change people's lives, that was a great feeling," Davis said. "I like to think I'm not a big ego guy, or crazy about money, but I do like the feeling that at the end of the day, I got something done and got something accomplished. Organizing offers an endless amount of possibilities to do that."

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


Tom Davis

Rick Ellis

Richard A. "Rick" Ellis, an international representative in the Membership Development Department, retired on June 1 after 40 years of loyal membership in, and service to, his beloved union.

A native of Chattanooga, Tenn., Ellis is a proud third-generation unionist. His father and grandfather, who worked for railroads, had served as organizers and shop stewards as members of the International Association of Machinists.

Ellis was 19 years old when he was initiated into Chattanooga Local 846. (Local 846 amalgamated in 1992 with Chattanooga Local 175, a utility and outside construction local with jurisdiction over several counties in northwestern Georgia.)

"My uncle was a 55-year member of the IBEW," Ellis said. "He's the one who told me that if I was going to be in the electrical industry, I should be a lineman."

Following the successful completion of his apprenticeship, Ellis found steady work as a traveling lineman for construction companies throughout the southeastern United States.

"But I always stayed active with my local," he said. "I attended union meetings and tried to be involved as much as I could."

He strengthened his involvement with the IBEW in 1983 when he began the first of two terms on Local 846's executive board. That same year, Ellis started an eight-year run of service on the local's examining board. He also worked on several of Local 175's committees, including negotiations, health and safety, and grievances.

Ellis also has served on the board of the Tennessee State Association of Electrical Workers and as a vice president for the Tennessee state chapter of the AFL-CIO, and he spent some time on the board of the Line Construction Benefit Fund (LINECO), the specialized insurance plan for IBEW's outside-working members.

In 1998, Ellis became Local 175's business manager, a position he held until 2001. That year, then-International President J.J. Barry appointed Ellis to the International Office as an international representative in what was then called the Organizing Department.

"They asked me if I wanted to come to Washington," he said. "I told them, 'I'm about working people, and I'll do what I can to continue to fight for working people's rights.'"

Two years later, as the Brotherhood was facing a period of sustained membership declines, then-International President Edwin D. Hill overhauled the IBEW's operations to bolster its organizing campaigns. To help facilitate that restructuring effort, Hill appointed Ellis to be director of organizing specific to the outside line contracting industry.

Ellis counts among his biggest accomplishments his work for what became the I.O.'s Membership Development Department.

"That's when I think we made a lot of gains," Ellis said. "We were able to bring on a lot of nonunion outside contractors and to develop fair relationships with them."

A graduate of Chattanooga's Tyner High School (now known as Tyner Academy of Math, Science, and Technology), Ellis extended his education by attending classes at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He also took courses at the George Meany Center for Labor Studies (later known as the National Labor College) in suburban Washington as well as at the Southeastern Line Constructors Apprenticeship and Training (SELCAT), where he later served as an instructor and officer.

Ellis noted that Tennessee and Georgia in particular have gained a reputation for being negative toward unions over the past few decades.

"Union members in the South have to be strong to put up with the challenges," he said. "We have to really stick together. Coming up through the ranks of a union family taught me a lot about what being in a union is all about."

A few years ago, Ellis returned to work in the field when he was appointed to be a political coordinator for IBEW's Tenth District, which serves Tennessee, Arkansas, and the Carolinas. Since 2012, he has been on special assignment, working as a regional lead organizer on the professional and industrial side.

Now that Ellis is retired, he is hoping to shift his focus somewhat.

"Since I've traveled so much in my 40-year career, being at home will be nice," he said.

He hopes to spend more time on his farm with Carol, his wife of 38 years, as well as their two daughters and three grandchildren.

The IBEW's officers, staff and members wish Brother Ellis a long, happy, and productive retirement.


Rick Ellis