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December 2019

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Harry Bexley

Harry Bexley, a renowned Georgia labor leader who served 21 years on the International Executive Council and 33 years as business manager of Atlanta Local 613, died Oct. 8. He was 97.

Bexley's influence is still felt today, from the pension and health and welfare funds he established for his members — and pushed to improve at the international level — to fighting for workers' compensation benefits in Georgia; masterfully horse-trading to buy the land that became Local 613's headquarters and home to major labor events in Atlanta; organizing large manufacturers; and developing an apprenticeship program that is the gold-standard for the area's building trades.

He could be fierce if he had to, but it wasn't his defining quality, said his son-in-law Lonnie Plott, who also served as Local 613's business manager and on the IEC.

"He was a very kind gentlemen, very soft spoken with lots of wisdom," Plott said. "Throughout his life, people would call and ask for his input."

Bexley grew up on a farm in Georgia, the grandson of a man who was discharged from Civil War combat to make shoes for Confederate soldiers.

While working as a pipe welder at a Savannah shipyard, Bexley was drafted into the Army Air Corps to serve in Europe during World War II. On a ship home in 1945, a fellow soldier talked about becoming a union electrician like his father.

"He said, 'You ought to come try it.' So when I got back here, I did," Bexley told an interviewer in 2007 for an oral history project at Georgia State University. "I went down and applied for an apprenticeship. And I was sent on a job at 50 cents an hour."

He decided to go to law school, too, training simultaneously to be a journeyman and a labor attorney. In 1948, he finished his apprenticeship and passed the bar.

A year earlier, Congress had passed the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act, and Bexley soon found himself fighting its assaults on workers' rights as legal counsel for his local and the Georgia AFL-CIO.

He began his tenure as Local 613's business manager in 1955, first appointed and then elected. Members returned him to office for three decades until he retired in 1988.

At the 29th International Convention in 1970, Bexley was elected to represent the Fourth District on the IEC. He retired during his fifth term in 1991.

Bexley served on numerous boards and commissions, including presiding over the associations of Georgia State Electrical Workers and the Southeastern Building Trades. He was a sought-after speaker dedicated to "encouraging and enlightening the public on the labor movement, its aims, purposes and accomplishments," a colleague recalled at his retirement.

Inside the IBEW, Bexley was a protégé of the legendary New York City Local 3 Business Manager Harry Van Arsdale. He teamed with him to improve the union's pension benefits, largely by persuading contractors to contribute more. "That was quite a chore to do," he said. "I enjoyed going all over the country, though, selling it. And I did."

He was passionate about safety and workers' compensation. "He always said never to accept anything on face value," Plott said of Bexley's views on an employer's version of a job injury or illness.

Two of Bexley's proudest achievements, he said in the Georgia State interview, were being admitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court and his role in the evolution of Local 613's apprentice training.

"I always contended that the apprenticeship program was the most important factor of the whole setup of the IBEW," but it was tough to get contractors on board, Bexley said. "They were a drag on the system because they didn't want to see their employees having more knowledge about the industry than they had. But we finally convinced them, and they started financing the school, and they finally saw where it was paying off great dividends of having highly trained people."

The interviewer told him that people in labor circles often talked about "the foresight of Harry Bexley" on everything from workers' financial security to the land deal for Local 613's offices to his insistence "on high standards that has allowed the IBEW to be as competitive as perhaps the top building trades union in Georgia."

Bexley responded, "Well, you know, I don't feel like I've done enough. That's my feeling. Maybe I failed in a lot of areas I should have done more."

Bexley is survived by his wife of 71 years, Harriett; their daughter, Sandra, who is married to Plott; sons Stan and Ken; four grandchildren and a great grandson.

On behalf of officers, members and staff, the IBEW honors Brother Bexley's tremendous legacy and sends our deepest sympathy to his family.


Harry Bexley

Anthony Salamone

The IBEW regrets to report the Oct. 2 death of retired Administrative Assistant to the International President Anthony Salamone.

Brother Salamone was born June 13, 1926 in Norristown, Pa. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he was initiated into Philadelphia Local 1448 in 1952 when he went to work at one of RCA's factories.

Almost immediately, Brother Salamone took on leadership positions, serving as an organizer starting in 1953. Within 18 months of his initiation, he was serving on the executive board. It was the beginning of a meteoric rise to the very heights of the brotherhood in a 50-year career serving his brothers and sisters.

After a brief stint as financial secretary, Salamone was elevated to business manager for a single term from 1955 to 1958 before he was appointed an international representative by then-International President Gordon Freeman in 1959.

For 10 years, Salamone serviced the many RCA manufacturing and service locals from the International Office, when then-International President Charles Pillard made him director of the RCA Operations, Sound, Public Address and Intercommunications Systems Department.

Brother Salamone was the chief negotiator for the national agreements with RCA from 1969 to 1975. He organized the technicians at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, as well as the technicians on the White Alice Communications system in Alaska and the on the Distant Early Warning Line in Canada and Alaska.

In 1975, Pillard split his job between the Manufacturing, Broadcasting and Recording and Construction and Maintenance departments and appointed Salamone to be his assistant. Pillard again promoted Salamone in 1981 to be his primary advisor as Administrative Assistant to the International President.

At the same time, Salamone took on a series of new leadership roles, including secretary of the IBEW/RCA Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, member of the NEBF National Employees Benefit Board and vice president of the IBEW Electrical Workers Benefit Association.

Salamone often spoke for the IBEW before Congress about trade and telecommunications policy, notably in 1982. The telecommunications industry was still finding its way after "deregulation" threw open the market to competition, including from foreign manufacturers with little to no labor standards in their home countries. Salamone spoke in the name of the hundreds of thousands of IBEW members in telecom and telecom manufacturing facing uncertain futures.

"We need a comprehensive bill that will guarantee employee benefits and rights and in addition provide for an equitable transition to an unregulated industry with sufficient resources to make our employers economically stable," he told the Congress.

Sadly, Salamone's desire to protect workers from the predations of unrestricted corporations is still not reflected in our nation's laws.

In 1980, he served with the U.S. Government Labor Task Force, traveling to Asia to negotiate marketing agreements for color television manufacturing between the U.S. and Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

In 1987, Salamone retired from the IBEW to take up leadership of the National Electric Benefit Fund, IBEW/NECA District Ten and the NECA Equity Retirement Plan. He served as secretary-treasurer for 15 years, finally retiring completely in 2002.

Upon his retirement, the NEBF board lauded Salamone's stewardship of the NEBF, which saw "phenomenal growth of a fund that has become one of the foremost of its kind in the world."

"Retirement can be a burdensome process, and the pension is only part of it. Sal's goal was to streamline it as much as possible, and he made great strides," said NEBF Executive Secretary-Treasurer Larry Bradley. "He knew what people went through to get those pensions and he brought that into every conversation."

On behalf of the IBEW's members and staff, the officers offer our deepest sympathies to Brother Salamone's four children Daniel, Joanne, Harry and Dennis, his four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


Anthony Salamone

John "Keith" Craig

After nearly four decades of work with the IBEW and the Tennessee Valley Authority, one of the union's largest employers and partners, Tenth District International Representative John "Keith" Craig retired effective Aug. 1.

"I was pretty much with TVA my whole career," said the Humboldt, Tenn., native, noting that he had briefly attended Jackson State Community College before taking a job in 1980 with the TVA, the massive federally owned electrical utility chartered by Congress in 1933.

Craig was hired into the TVA's Student Generating Plant Operator training program and was initiated into the IBEW in 1980 as a member of New Johnsonville, Tenn., Local 1749. After successful competition of the training program, he qualified as an assistant unit operator, and he was certified as a control room operator in 1985.

Craig quickly took an active leadership role within his local, serving stints on its health and safety, wage data and grievance committees before joining the local's executive board in 1990. Three years later, Craig was elected recording secretary, and in 1996 the local's members elected him business manager and president.

In 2003, Craig was appointed by then-International President Edwin D. Hill to serve as an international representative for the Tenth District, which serves members in Craig's home state as well as in Arkansas, North Carolina and South Carolina. And because of Craig's work at the TVA, he was assigned to be the IBEW's representative at the agency.

"You'd be hard pressed to find anybody who knew more than Keith about how the TVA runs," said Tenth District International Vice President Brent Hall, who was serving as an international representative in the district office when Craig was appointed.

"When I came to work at the TVA, we had a general agreement with them that was first negotiated in 1940," Craig said. "It was a good deal, a good agreement, and over all the changes over the years, we tried to maintain the same core agreement and positions and treat people the right way."

Craig said that the IBEW's relationship with the TVA, which covers five states and three IBEW districts, involved other crafts and trades unions, and that the 13 IBEW locals covered under this agreement operated much like one of the union's system councils. "The IBEW was always the biggest union, though," he said. "We always led the overall direction of the council."

Craig was the IBEW representative on the Agency Level Health and Safety Committee, which was the oversight body for TVA's safety program, and in 2012, he was elected to be the first labor representative to chair this committee.

Hall said that Craig was highly respected at the TVA, serving IBEW members particularly well during negotiations at the agency's annual wage conference. "He was good when things got contentious," Hall said. "He could break the ice, but they knew he meant business."

During Craig's Tenth District tenure, IBEW members gained a significant amount of work refurbishing the agency's Browns Ferry and Watts Bar nuclear plants. With Craig's guidance, the IBEW and the TVA in 2018 formalized a Code of Excellence partnership designed to strengthen the ties between the agency's unions and management. Craig personally conducted training sessions on the Code for the agency's union-represented workers.

"At the TVA, one of the advantages was that we were intertwined with all of their job training programs," Craig said. "We jointly selected [with management] anybody they hired. For the most part, it's a pretty tight-knit group."

Craig also was detail-oriented, Hall said: "Walk in his office and nothing was out of place.

"Keith was the kind of guy who was really quiet, really calculated in how he made his moves," Hall said, adding that his "very dry, subtle" sense of humor often crept into his reports, something he'll miss.

Most people did not know until Craig announced his retirement that their union brother had also been a top college golf prospect, Hall said.

"My dad was a little more serious about golf than I was," Craig said with a laugh. "I pretty much hung it up after high school."

Retirement has helped get him back on the links, however, as has living near his former boss: retired Tenth District International Vice President Robert Klein, also an avid golfer.

"I'm back in a maintenance mode now, doing a little golfing, working on a few to-do lists," Craig said. He also bought a four-seat Cessna 182 a few years ago, which he keeps at a small airfield north of Chattanooga. In his free time, when he's not golfing with Klein, Craig said he takes the plane out for some sightseeing and spends more time with his wife, Debra, and their two children, Jayson and Brittany.

The officers, staff and members of the IBEW wish Brother Craig a long and happy retirement.


John "Keith" Craig