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May 2019

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Why We Can't Ignore Politics

How does your state define "journeyman"? Could energy deregulation put your job at risk? What about contractors hiring electricians who fall far short of IBEW standards for training and proficiency?

If you've ever wondered why your union gets involved in politics, those probably aren't the issues that jump to mind. But that's just what they are — political.

Since state legislatures convened their 2019 sessions in January, your IBEW brothers and sisters have been busy in state capitol buildings making sure that our voices are heard — often on bills that seem obscure but are crucial to the ability to provide for our families and be safe at work.

As we make the rounds of legislative offices and hearing rooms, we have the ear of more lawmakers these days. That's because record numbers of you, along with our friends in the labor movement, campaigned and voted for pro-worker candidates last November.

We're seeing results already, as you'll read in "With More Allies in State Capitols, A Sunnier Forecast for Unions & Workers" of this issue. In Virginia, we protected the journeyman-apprentice ratio on jobsites. There's progress in New Hampshire to revive prevailing wage after 34 years. Expectations are high for a state budget that funds long-delayed road and building projects in Illinois. And unions in New Mexico are celebrating a huge right-to-work victory.

Those battles aren't unique. Year in and year out, in red states and blue states — and in provincial capitals for our Canadian sisters and brothers — we show up to fight, armed not just with facts and figures but with the real-world experience and personal testimony of our brothers and sisters.

Because when it comes right down to it, politics is personal. The things we fight for — and against — have profound effects on our lives, whether they're little-known bills that can kill or create jobs for our members or the marquee issues of health care, retirement security and others that affect all working people.

I know the discord and division in national politics makes all of us want to throw up our hands at times. But in our own communities, states and provinces, our voices carry weight. We can see with our own eyes the difference our involvement makes.

Look what happened in Nevada when hundreds of IBEW members spent a week last October going door to door to fight an energy deregulation scheme that would have destroyed jobs and harmed consumers. While backers spent millions on misleading ads, IBEW members brought the facts to voters' doorsteps and patiently answered all their questions.

I'm proud to tell you that our efforts crushed the ballot measure. You can read more about it and the award won by the locals leading the charge in "Locals That Battled Energy Deregulation Scheme Share First-Ever Edwin D. Hill Award" of this issue.

The fact is, politics matters. It matters to our jobs. It matters to our health care. It matters to our pensions.

As the saying goes, you can ignore politics, but politics won't ignore you.


Also: Stephenson: You're Our Best Organizer Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer