The Electrical Worker online
August 2019

From the Officers
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Persistence Pays

In my 33 years in the IBEW, I've had ups and downs, wins and losses. But when my time in the Brotherhood is done and I think of my proudest moments, near the top will be the day the 1,400 members of Baltimore Local 410 signed and ratified their first contract. I think Lonnie will agree with me on this one.

When we started the organizing drive four years ago, I was still Fourth District vice president. Baltimore is an important American city, one of the largest in my district. The four previous losses at BGE were painful, both for us and for the men and women who had worked so hard, only to fall short.

So, the decision to commit to the fifth drive was not an easy one for former International President Ed Hill, for me or for Special Assistant to the President for Membership Development Ricky Oakland. What convinced us was the passion and commitment of the men and women who wanted to be our brothers and sisters. When we told them they would have to take the lead organizing themselves, that we couldn't do it from outside, they didn't just accept; they insisted. I can't tell you how many times I heard, "This is our campaign."

And they proved it. Day after day, in the heat of summer and the cold of winter, they were outside worksites holding signs and answering questions or walking up the driveways of nearly every home in the unit. They were there to sign the cards, and they were there on election night, just like they promised.

And when negotiations for that first contract dragged past six months, they showed up again. They showed up at monthly local meetings, informal information sessions and wherever else they were called on. When the word went out that a show of solidarity was needed, they showed up in orange. When we needed them to make noise outside of a negotiating session, they made such a ruckus that company negotiators had to close the blinds.

It has been a four-year process since those leaders first approached us to arrive at this day. The membership had questions, but they never lost their resolve. Their reward is the protection of an agreement negotiated across a table with management. They got the respect that they earned, and no one can ever put them back where they were.

We may have had bigger election wins, but no one still working can remember them. I've definitely never been witness to a win for so many working families all at once.

So, let's celebrate this great moment for the members of Baltimore Local 410, and, tomorrow, go out there and make their story the first of many, the seed of the rebirth of the American working family.


Also: Stephenson: Replacing Stigma with Solidarity Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer