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December 2018

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Robert Corraro

Second District International Representative Robert Corraro retired on July 1 following more than 50 years of membership in the IBEW.

"My first job was as a summer helper in 1965 for Delta Electric, when I was in high school," Corraro said.

He was initiated four years later as a member of New Haven, Conn., Local 90, which was looking for apprentices. "My uncle was in the local at the time, and I did know a few people in the union. Growing up in New Haven, everyone was in a union." His mother, father and two brothers were all union members.

Corraro quickly became active in Local 90, an inside local with nearly 600 members. After serving on several social committees early on, in 1974 he became a member of the local's examining board. He later was on the executive board; he also served for a time as Local 90's vice president, and, for many years, as its press secretary. He even managed and played on the local's softball team for over 30 years.

In 1995, he was appointed an organizer by then-Business Manager Ken King. "Working with Ken was great," Corraro said. "He was as solid a unionist you could find."

Soon, Corraro uncovered another of his many talents. "During my years as organizer, I was always big into compliance," he said. "So, while some unions will hire third-party compliance agencies, I started doing my own compliance for Local 90, and I had over 70 percent of our members active in organizing and compliance activities."

He became really good at it. "Over eight-plus years, I filed around 2,500 complaints against law-violating contractors, with a 98-percent success rate," Corraro said. "Some contractors were arrested — one served 12 years in federal prison — and many lost their ability to be contractors in Connecticut."

Having worked as a general foreman and superintendent helped him spot violations, he said.

"The more I got involved, the more I found employees who had been cheated," he said — cheated out of benefits and pay, and too often placed in harm's way on the job.

Corraro recalled that his largest case was against a contractor cited for more than 1,100 violations. "The company was hit with $1.1 million in fines," he said. "The state revoked their license and forced them to make restitution to their employees.

"Cleaning up the industry and leveling the playing field was always what mattered to me," Corraro said, adding that it was also a great way to establish credibility with nonunion electricians. "When they received restitution for $10,000 to $100,000, you made a friend for life and a valuable IBEW recruiter," he said.

He admitted that he probably made a few powerful enemies along the way, although he never truly feared for his safety. "I was cautious as I could be, but I received no serious threats," he said. "But just in case, my business manager made sure I had a remote start for my car," he said, laughing.

Eventually, Corraro was able to convince Connecticut's chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association and the state's inside locals to let him establish and modestly staff a labor-management cooperation committee — the CLMCC — capable of serving those locals.

In 2003, then-International President Edwin D. Hill appointed Corraro as an international representative for the Second District, which covers Connecticut as well as Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Hill assigned him to be the district's organizing coordinator, a role that brought Corraro a new set of challenges.

"I worked on a bottom-up campaign that was — at the time — the largest inside organizing campaign in the Second District," Corraro said — about 165 workers at a utility company's electrical contractor subsidiary. "After 13 months, they couldn't deal with our pressure anymore, and they agreed to meet and do a card check." Later, he said, the subsidiary bought two of its largest competitors and merged their workers into the existing collective-bargaining agreement.

"I worked with a good group at the international office," he said, noting then-Special Assistant to the International President for Membership Development Cecil "Buddy" Satterfield, who retired in 2010, and Satterfield's replacement, International Representative Kirk Groenendaal. "In addition, I will always be thankful for the opportunity to work with retired Second District Vice President Frank Carroll and retired International Representative Richard Panagrossi, who assisted in many ways.

"Organizing is the lifeblood of the IBEW and works best with membership involvement and utilizing all your tools," Corraro said.

Corraro also was appointed by Gov. John Rowland as the IBEW's representative on Connecticut's State Apprenticeship Council, serving in that role for nearly 20 years. He also served as chairman of Local 90's political committee.

Although he is officially enjoying the retirement he deserves, Corraro said he still speaks regularly with local and district organizers. "I haven't gotten into a retirement groove yet," he said. "Just because July 1 came around, my work didn't come to an end. My classification may have changed from active to retired, but I'm still IBEW, and I'm going to be there for my brothers and sisters."

Retirement has afforded Corraro the chance to spend more time with his wife of 49 years, Jean, as well as with their three adult children and eight grandchildren.

The officers, staff and the entire membership wish Brother Corraro a long and happy retirement.


Robert Corraro

John Faria

Second District International Representative John Faria retired on Dec. 1, wrapping up a 50-year IBEW career that started after his father moved to North America and his son took a fortuitous trip to Rhode Island as a teenager.

Brother Faria was born in the Azores, a group of islands in the North Atlantic that are officially part of Portugal, but have largely autonomous control. His father moved to Toronto, looking for a better life for the family, which included young John and five siblings.

The elder Faria got a job working for the railroads in Canada and John joined him in Toronto in 1962 at the age of 14.

"It wasn't easy, you know, getting on that plane by myself," Faria said. "But you make the adjustment and you make the best of it."

Fast forward to 1964. Faria met his future wife, Tima, while visiting an aunt in Rhode Island. The two stayed in touch and married in 1969, and John moved to the Ocean State. [The Farias will celebrate their 50th anniversary next year.] The couple settled in East Providence and John got a job at an American Insulated Wire facility, where employees were represented by Pawtucket, R.I., Local 1203.

Local 1203 was on strike against the company in January 1978 and Faria led a group of younger members who regularly walked the picket line and urged leadership to push for a better deal during acrimonious negotiations. The business manager noticed and offered to resign and turn the job over to Faria, thinking that would encourage him and others to quickly reach an agreement.

Faria took the job and an agreement was reached. But he found he enjoyed the work and served as business manager for 18 years, being re-elected five times. [Local 1203, which was primarily a manufacturing local, dissolved in 2009.]

"I enjoyed the job not only because you were helping people in grievances and negotiations, but also by helping them individually," he said. "My situation was kind of unique. Our location was near the facility and we did everything we could to set up programs to help members with their personal problems. Dealing with people and helping them improve their lives, I really enjoyed that."

After 18 years, however, Faria was ready for a new challenge and accepted an offer from then-International President J.J. "Jack" Barry in 1996 to become an international representative. He was primarily in charge of servicing non-construction locals in the Second District, which includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Faria stayed in that position until his retirement. Other highlights from his career included serving as a sergeant-at-arms during the 1982 International Convention in Los Angeles and as a member of the law committee at the 1991 convention in St. Louis.

He's also been active in the greater labor movement. Faria currently sits on the Rhode Island AFL-CIO's executive committee and has been chairman of the East Providence Democratic Party for the last 12 years.

"He's the King of East Providence," Cranston, R.I., Local 2323 Business Manager Steven Murphy said. "He's been a champion of workers' rights and working families for as long as I've known him. No one will fight longer or harder."

Murphy said Local 2323 members especially appreciated Faria during two strikes against Verizon. When he wasn't performing his international representative duties, he was with workers on the picket lines, often having food delivered. Murphy noted the East Providence City Council adopted a resolution supporting the striking workers, something that few other cities impacted by the strike did.

That was due to Faria's influence, he said.

"If you wrote down all the qualities you want in a man, he has them all," Murphy said. "That's why you want him around."

Faria said he viewed his work in local politics as a necessity in protecting the IBEW's hard-won gains.

"We have to be in the political arena," he said. "It's part of the job."

In retirement, Faria will keep his home in Rhode Island, but he and Tima will spend winters at their condominium in Fort Myers, Fla., where Faria plans to play plenty of golf. The couple has two children and two grandchildren.

"I've had a great run," he said. "A guy like me, I'm certainly humbled and blessed to work for the IBEW. It's the best organization in the world."

The officers, members and staff thank Brother Faria for his decades of loyal service and wish him and his family a happy retirement.


John Faria

Fernando Huerta

Seventh District International Representative Fernando Huerta retired on Nov. 2, capping a 42-year career with the IBEW.

"Fernando is a class act and a true brother," said International Representative Joel Bell, who has known Huerta since the mid-1990s.

Brother Huerta was initiated into El Paso, Texas, Local 960 in January 1976 when he worked for the El Paso Electric Company in the meter and relay department. In 1984, he was elected vice president of Local 960 and then president in 1987. He then served as business manager from 1989 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1997.

Huerta also served on the El Paso United Way committee, Texas State Electrical Workers Association, Rio Grande Workers Alliance and the El Paso Central Labor Council.

On Nov. 1, 1997, the first-generation IBEW member was appointed international representative in the Professional and Industrial Organizing Department, a position he held for 10 years. He then worked as a service representative until his retirement.

"I loved helping nonunion workers gain a voice at work," Huerta said. "I loved getting those [National Labor Relations Board] wins."

One win in particular stands out for Huerta. Workers at TXU, a nonunion utility in Texas, were fighting a move by the company to subcontract more work, which would have reduced benefits like holidays, sick days, overtime and vacation days. Huerta was part of an IBEW team that devised a plan to not only stop the subcontracting plans, but also to organize the workers into the IBEW.

Huerta and his team successfully fought TXU's union-busting efforts and won the election for representation, 254 - 218.

"The company hired professional union-busters, but we were able to overcome their lies," Huerta said. "The employees realized that the IBEW was the right choice."

Huerta is highly respected for his organizing skills, as well as his IBEW knowledge, said Ninth District International Representative Kelly Foster, who met him at a railroad conference in 2007. He also earned a reputation as someone you could count on for help.

"He never said no," Foster said. "It didn't matter what the job was, he'd jump right in. You never had to ask twice."

Kelly said it was not unusual for Huerta to be found at a registration table when asked by a sister during the IBEW Women's Conference, or at the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus' day of service.

"It was an honor, and it still is, to be his sister," Foster said. "He'll be missed."

Huerta's duties included servicing railroad locals in the Seventh District, which operate under the Railway Labor Act. It's similar to, but also different from, the National Labor Relations Act, which covers other IBEW locals, so Huerta worked with his system councils — 2, 7 and 16 — to get up to speed.

"I want to thank the general chairmen and their assistants for helping me service our railroad locals," Huerta said. "The railroad membership are strong union sisters and brothers."

Now that he's in retirement, Huerta says he's enjoying spending the holidays with his family. After that, he plans to build a new home on lakefront property and do some fishing.

"The very fact that the IBEW provides us all with a voice at work and the opportunity to negotiate our working conditions has been a blessing," Huerta said. "What I will take with me is the opportunity the IBEW has given me and the solidarity working women and men can produce when we all stand together."

On behalf of the members, staff and officers, we wish Brother Huerta all the best in his retirement.


Fernando Huerta

John "Jack" Kearney

The officers regret to announce the death of retired First District International Representative Jack Kearney on Oct. 8. He was 84.

Kearney was one of the founders of Ottawa Local 2228 in 1967. Until that year aviation electronics technologists who maintained ground-based radar and communications systems like Kearney and other public workers in Canada did not have the right to collectively bargain. When the Canadian government passed a law allowing public sector workers to organize, they expected most workers to simply roll into the existing associations, loosely-organized employee groups with little power and less credibility.

"The government liked the associations and thought the workers would just take what they were given. They were in for quite a surprise," said former Local 2228 Business Manager Gary Myers. "The workers called it 'collective begging' and called the First District instead."

Former First District International Representative Jim Wolfgang was given the assignment to organize the far-flung bargaining unit, which included workers from one end of the country to the other and even a handful of electronics specialists working in embassies and airfields around the world. Kearney was his man on the inside.

"He was a very honorable, capable person. And he came across that way. Not overpowering, but very methodical, and more than anything, that was the source of his strength," Wolfgang said. "And he seemed to know everyone."

Kearney wasn't a table-pounder or a rousing speaker, said former Local 2228 Business Manager Des Davidge, but the workers he was organizing wouldn't have responded to that anyway.

"Jack's coolness was a real help. There were real problems — overtime, how they were paid for emergency calls — but those guys weren't the type to wave their placards. You weren't getting them out on the streets," he said. "Jack could walk into a meeting of any of them, of any union in Canada, and be accepted. They would have trusted him."

Davidge said Kearney was supposed to quit and become the full-time organizer but his wife Carole Anne got sick and he had to stay in his job and close to home. Kearney became the financial secretary before there was a business manager or even a local. Davidge took the job instead. So, for two years, while Davidge and Wolfgang crisscrossed the country, Kearney worked the phones and his connections in Ottawa.

"The government did not want an international union. Neither did the labour board. So Jack had these political fights all while calling people every day from Vancouver to Halifax," Davidge said. "I could call him anytime and he was always ready to help."

In a final act of resistance, the government only put the name of the association on the ballot. The IBEW wasn't even named. A "no" vote was a "yes" for the IBEW. More than 85 percent voted no, overwhelmingly saying yes to the Brotherhood.

Kearney and Davidge made a deal that both would run for business manager and whoever finished second would become assistant business manager. Davidge won and Kearney happily took the assistant role in addition to his duties as financial secretary. The result was what Davidge called "the best contract any public-service unit negotiated with Ottawa."

"Jack was perfect as a lobbyist. He was the same person when he was talking to a first-year tech as he was with cabinet ministers," Myers said. "I was always grubby, but he always was straight and presentable. He never raised his voice and he was very logical, almost mathematical in his thinking. People just found it hard to argue against him because he knew more than they did, and he wouldn't yell at you."

Kearney worked at Local 2228 for four years before he was appointed a First District international representative in 1971, servicing Local 2228, the shipyards in British Columbia and Nova Scotia and utilities in between. He stayed in the position until he retired in 1991.

He was asked to serve in many consequential positions in the labor movement, including on the Central Labour Council Energy Committee; Canadian Federation of Labour Organizing Task Force; Education in Canada Committee; Federal Government Major Projects Task Force; Dock Yards Liaison Committee; and the Atomic Energy Allied Council Negotiating Committee.

"The key to Jack's success was he never gave the impression of being personally ambitious. He was there to help," Wolfgang said. "That meant he could be in a room full of ambitious people, and when it came time to find a leader, they would always turn to him."

The officers and staff express our most heartfelt condolences on Brother Kearney's death to his five children, seven grandchildren and his many friends.


John "Jack" Kearney