The Electrical Worker online
March 2020

From the Officers
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Why We Chose Joe Biden

Endorsing a candidate for president before the end of the primary process wasn't a decision we took lightly. But the urgency of the issues at stake in 2020 compelled us and the rest of your IBEW officers to take a stand.

Those issues — energy jobs and health care, especially — were the reason we're backing Joe Biden.

Over the last three years, we polled thousands of our members, from first step apprentices and newly organized call center workers to elected local leaders and retirees with decades of hard work behind them.

We listened, and we know not all of you will agree with this choice. But, at the heart of every decision we make at the IBEW is the duty we have to preserve and protect IBEW members and their jobs.

Thankfully, because we belong to a union, our American Dream of good jobs, safe workplaces, decent wages and benefits and the promise of a dignified retirement is still alive.

But it is at risk.

More than 85% of IBEW members work in the energy industry, and the most important and urgent issue to our vast and diverse membership is a realistic approach to energy decarbonization that preserves our jobs. Getting that right informed our decision.

Joe Biden has been a presence at IBEW meetings and conferences for decades. He has listened to and shared our concerns. His plan to rebuild American infrastructure is shaped by an open dialogue with the very IBEW members who will build and maintain the energy grid of the future. His policies are based in realistic, science-driven approaches that will protect jobs and working families.

Vice President Biden stood out among the candidates in his willingness to listen, learn and follow through on the kinds of energy policy that will protect our members' livelihoods. That's why we chose to speak up when we did.

Now, let us be clear, on the issues of working people's rights on the job, safety, health care and freedom to collectively bargain, any of the leading Democratic candidates would be an improvement on the current administration.

Over the last three years, we have watched President Trump's policies and actions in office. We know some of our members strongly support him, but we have to be extremely frank: the Trump administration has been disastrous for our members and for the rights of working people. Corporate power has never been more ascendant. Job sites are more dangerous. Organizing and collective bargaining are harder.

Every working man and woman in this country faces relentless opposition from this administration and the judges he has appointed. Our rights as union members are under attack because right-wing judges in the courts and the National Labor Relations Board are overturning years of pro-labor laws that threaten the rights of our members daily. While Trump followed through on his promise to deliver another tax break to millionaires and billionaires, he failed to expend any effort on the bipartisan infrastructure bill that would have put tens of thousands of us to work.

Worse, his wholesale denial of climate change is not only foolish, it is cowardly. In its failure to look a problem square in the eye, put on gloves and get to work, it runs against the very ideals that we as working Americans hold dear.

Meanwhile, the IBEW has trained more workers for the green economy than any other organization in the world, and we are uniquely positioned to lead the transition to a carbon-free economy.

But we cannot let the pressing need for climate action lure us into fantasy. Unrealistic policies that ignore nuclear power and carbon-capture or grid reliability and resilience fail our basic responsibility to the future and the present.

This is where Vice President Biden separates himself.

On health care, Joe Biden's plan would ensure that Americans who want a viable government-run plan can get the quality care they desperately need. But he also recognizes that many of us who fought and bargained year-after-year for the kind of health benefits that are the envy of the working world want to keep those plans.

On retirement security, Joe Biden will fight for and sign the Butch Lewis Act and turn back Republican efforts to tax our pension plans into bankruptcy.

We want to thank Sen. Bernie Sanders, in particular, who came to our Political and Legislative Conference last year, answered our questions and truly listened to our members' hopes and struggles. He showed up. There is no doubt that both he and Vice President Biden are with us on important labor issues such as the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which passed the House last month. Where they differ lies at the heart of the IBEW — preserving the energy jobs that put food on IBEW members' tables.

In the end, we hope our endorsement of Joe Biden sends a clear message to every candidate: we need a president whose policies will support working class jobs and unite Americans around a vision that lifts all of us up, not just the ultra-wealthy.

It's clear that candidate is not Donald Trump. As leaders in the energy industry, we hope each of the Democratic candidates takes a long look at why we chose to endorse Vice President Biden and seeks our input on energy policy going forward.

Edwin D. Hill

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer