The Electrical Worker online
April 2019

From the Officers
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An IBEW for Everyone

At the last International Convention, delegates debated and approved a Diversity and Full Inclusion resolution committing, among other things, to creating and promoting a plan to continue the transformation of the IBEW, in rank and leadership, into a trade union that delivers the talent of the entire continent.

In this month's column, I want to update you on what we've done to deliver on that commitment.

Most importantly, as mandated in the resolution, last year I created a permanent Committee on Diversity and Inclusion that is now developing a strategic plan and a training program aimed at swelling our ranks with brothers and sisters from every background.

Once we have that plan and program in place, we will be investing the time and resources we need to move it forward. Already, we've held diversity and inclusion workshops at our annual officers' meeting and last month gathered leaders from our RENEW/NextGen, Electrical Workers Minority Caucus and Women's committees in Washington to start a dialogue on diversity that will help shape our future efforts.

When I first joined the IBEW, pretty much everyone in my local looked like me. And when I went to jobsites, nearly everyone in nearly every trade looked like me too. This wasn't just my local. It was just as true when I was traveling. It got so it was easy to assume this was normal and not a problem.

Now, just to be clear, I am not saying there is anything wrong with people that look like me. But today's young workforce is more diverse than ever before, and if we want to grow, we must make sure the IBEW represents the true diversity of North America.

Our construction and utility branches are facing a skilled worker shortage. In many parts of our industry, there is already too much work for the members we have. Someone is going to do this work, and our nonunion competition is happy to hire anyone as long as it costs less.

There is a simple truth that every true trade unionist knows: the more united we are across our differences, the stronger we are across the bargaining table.

There were skeptics when we committed to bring back organizing. There was no shortage of the fearful when we created alternative classifications. There were even doubters when we introduced the Code of Excellence. In every case, we as a Brotherhood made it happen with sweat and resources, and in every case, the IBEW is stronger for it.

If we aren't actively organizing and recruiting members from every part of our great and diverse nations — including historically underrepresented communities — then we aren't leaving future generations a union as strong as the one we were given.

The IBEW is not an exclusive club; it is a genuine trade union with the singular goal of organizing every worker in the electrical industry. I am proud to be delivering on that promise.


Also: Cooper: Protecting Your Pension Read Cooper's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President