The Electrical Worker online
November 2018

From the Officers
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Strength Through Organizing

For the folks bent on destroying unions, it was supposed to be a banner summer.

They celebrated like lottery winners at the end of June, certain that the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Janus v. AFSCME would cut the legs out from under public-sector unions. In August, after months of another union-busting campaign bankrolled by billionaires, they eagerly awaited the results of Missouri's right-to-work referendum.

They lost in a landslide, shut down by voters across the political spectrum who weren't about to be fooled by outside agitators into giving up their rights at work.

The same thing is happening in the public sector, where more and more employees are choosing their unions and hard-fought contracts over opponents' lies and pressure tactics.

Despite all the punches being thrown at unions and all the dollars being spent to do it, we're still standing. In fact, we're getting stronger.

As you'll read in this issue, the IBEW has played a leading role pushing back against Janus, which lets public workers stop paying fair-share fees to cover their unions' costs for basic representation. The goal, just like right-to work in the private sector, is to create so many free-riders that unions can't afford to stay in business.

You'll find IBEW public-sector members everywhere, from city and county offices to law enforcement, water and sewer districts, transit and more. In northern California, Local 1245 began training member-organizers at its public-sector workplaces more than a year before the Supreme Court ruled on Janus.

The result? The vast majority of dues-payers have signed cards pledging to stick with the IBEW, and many former fee-payers have joined as full members.

Defying the tactics of anti-union activists, Local 1245 and other IBEW locals have gained more members than they've lost since Janus. I couldn't be prouder of them. Teachers' unions, SEIU and other public-sector unions have reported similar results, even as members are bombarded with deceptive ads, email, glossy flyers and unwanted visitors at their doors urging them to abandon their unions.

That's great news, but let's not kid ourselves. We can't ever take our eyes off the ball. Janus and right-to-work remain very real threats to our future, and to the hopes of tens of millions of Americans who've never had the chance to join a union.

Polls consistently show that a majority of them would join if given the opportunity. They see union members earning more, enjoying better benefits and looking forward to secure retirements, among the many other values of Brotherhood.

Those are the facts, no matter the phony claims of our opponents or the roadblocks politicians put in our way.

The first objective the IBEW Constitution spells out is: "To organize all workers in the entire electrical industry in the United States and Canada."

We live and breathe that principle. We're organizing in spite of Janus. We're organizing in spite of right-to-work laws — like our huge win this year in Georgia, where 700 workers at Atlanta Gas Light chose the IBEW to represent them as they seek their first contract.

We're organizing in spite of the well-funded attacks from every direction, and we're never going to stop.


Also: Cooper: Coming Together Read Cooper's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President