The Electrical Worker online
October 2018

From the Officers
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It's Your Right; Use It

It is almost cliché to say that every election is the election of a lifetime. But next month's U.S. midterm elections could go down among the most consequential of our lifetimes.

The future of working America is at stake. For the last eight years and more, well-funded politicians, special corporate interests and ultra-right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers, have made it their mission to undo every victory won by the labor movement in the 20th century.

From chipping away at health and safety laws to trampling on our fundamental freedom as workers, anti-worker politicians have enjoyed almost unimpeded success in carrying out their radical agenda.

Just look at the record. Since 2012, five more states went right-to-work. Public-sector workers in many states have lost their right to collectively bargain completely. And in one of the most sweeping attacks on workers' rights in decades, the Supreme Court, in the Janus v. AFSCME case, tore up years of established precedent when it comes to public-sector labor relations, effectively turning the entire public sector into a big right-to-work zone.

The current administration has filled the federal courts with known opponents of organized labor and turned the National Labor Relations Board and Labor Department into an enemy, not a friend, of workers' rights.

And when unions come under attack, it is not only members who suffer, but every working person. A new study from University of Illinois Professor Tom Van Heuvelan found that if union density was still what it was before it took a dramatic downturn after the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980, the average nonunion worker's wages would be 3 to 7 percent more than they are now.

For too long, our opponents have been calling the shots. But a big change is coming to America. In special election after special election, pro-worker candidates are winning races no one thought possible. And in early August, working people in Missouri rejected a cynical power grab by union-busting politicians and overwhelmingly defeated right-to-work at the ballot box. This was the first time voters overturned a previously passed right-to-work law in our history.

Voters are fed up with politicians talking about record profits on Wall Street while Main Street still suffers. They have had it with lawmakers more attentive to the interests of their wealthy donors than to them. Voters are making it clear that they want a political and economic system that works for everyone, not just the top 1 percent.

Things are not looking good for the incumbent party, and nearly every political forecaster is predicting a big wave election that could flip power on both a national and local scale.

2018 is our opportunity to clean house — both on Capitol Hill and in statehouses and governors' mansions across the nation.

But change does not just happen. We have to make it happen.

And that is why it is more important than ever that every IBEW member gets educated on the issues that matter to us and is ready to make their voice heard this November. Because our vote can make the difference.

Real grassroots political power does not come from big donation checks, but from boots on the ground in every community across this nation.

If you care about the future of the IBEW, then we need to make sure that every lawmaker from both parties knows we are a force to be reckoned with, and that takes every one of us to make it happen.

As we have said many times before, this is not about political party. It is not about Republican or Democrat. It is about who is on our side.

If you vote for right-to-work, to repeal prevailing wage laws or to give away billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy, while threatening to cut Social Security and Medicare, then it is clear that you are not on our side. And we are going to work overtime to help you find a new job. It doesn't matter what letter you have next to your name.

IBEW members have played a vital role in many elections so far, from helping to elect pro-labor Conor Lamb to Congress in Pennsylvania to beating back right-to-work in Missouri this summer.

We are asking you to continue to do your duty as good trade unionists and exercise your God-given freedom to vote.

Too many men and women have lost their lives to guarantee us this right for us to sit home on Election Day.

A change is coming this fall, and we must be part of it.

Edwin D. Hill

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer