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March 2020

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Susie Barber

Susie Barber, a retired Sixth District international representative and early member of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus, died in December after a long illness. She was 76.

Barber's IBEW career began in 1969 when she went to work at a Western Electric plant, rising to chief steward and executive board member for Local 1942, now Downers Grove, Ill., Local 21.

"She was larger than life," said Royetta Sanford, retired director of human services at the International Office, who worked with Barber on the EWMC and the Women's Conference. "Susie had the ability to communicate effectively with any and everybody; it didn't matter their race or ethnicity, whether they were women or men, young or old. People were drawn to her."

EWMC President Emeritus Robbie Sparks knew Barber as a "union sister, activist, organizer and friend" for more than three decades. They had the opportunity to work together in the early 1990s when Barber was assigned temporarily to the Fifth District for a union drive at Scientific Atlanta.

"Susie's mantra was 'Don't meet me there, beat me there,'" Sparks said, "It was a hard-fought campaign and although we were unsuccessful, we developed a lifelong friendship."

Barber joined the international staff in 1980, working on organizing campaigns in manufacturing, telecom and other fields. Though assigned to the Midwest's Sixth District, she also worked at times in Atlanta, where she was involved with the annual march honoring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Whether union business or civil rights, "Susie was always looking to help folks," said EWMC President Keith Edwards, retired business manager of Portland, Ore., Local 48. "She always tried to make sure she was mentoring younger folks, not so much in a formal way, but to talk with them about where they were at and share information with them."

Russell Ponder, retired vice president of Chicago Local 134 and past EWMC vice president, described Barber's "indominable spirit." "You always felt good being around her. She was always upbeat, she had that vibe. It was a privilege to be in her company."

Barber was instrumental in organizing the Caucus's first education conference, held in Atlanta in 1991. She, Sparks, Sanford and two other international representatives put in their own money to sponsor the event, which became the EWMC's annual conference. Previously, members had met only every four years at IBEW conventions since the Black Caucus, as it was known originally, was established in 1974.

Friends said Barber's creativity and reliability helped the EWMC grow and thrive. "She always thought outside the box and she could always be counted on when things got tough," Sanford said.

Barber, who was born in Tennessee and grew up in the suburbs southwest of Chicago, was active in the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and other organizations throughout her IBEW career.

She continued to serve workers and her Illinois community after retiring in 2004. Those roles included chairing the Joliet Housing Authority and being the first black woman elected to the Joliet City Council, where Sanford said she brought her "union sensibilities."

"When she was running for the council seat, she was way ahead of the game because she had her union organizing skills, her community skills, and she drew on all of those. It's no surprise that she won that seat."

Sparks, Sanford, and Edwards visited Barber last July in a Chicago-area nursing home. "As soon as we got there, we started talking about old times. She perked up and started laughing and talking. It was a wonderful experience for all of us," Sanford said.

Barber's survivors include her son, Shadon Barber, a past member of Downers Grove Local 15, and numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband of 38 years, Donald, an auditor for the Laborers union.

The IBEW joins Sister Barber's family and friends in mourning her loss, and will always be grateful for her generosity of spirit and tireless work on behalf of our union and the EWMC.


Susie Barber

Richard 'Dick' Deering

Second District International Representative Richard "Dick" Deering retired on Feb. 1, capping the career of one of Maine's most respected labor leaders.

"He's your typical guy from Maine," said retired Second District International Vice President Frank Carroll, who recommended to then-International President Edwin D. Hill in 2014 that Deering be added to the district staff. "They are laid back and have good values. He's one of those people. He's a trustworthy, hard-working guy."

Brother Deering's father served in the Marine Corps and Dick was born at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, but the family moved back to Maine just two weeks later. The younger Deering grew particularly close to his grandfather, Sam Day, an electrician and member of Portland Local 567.

"He took me under his wing on a lot of occasions," Deering said. "He was a foreman and when he visited jobsites, I went with him. When he went out of town for something like checking on a bridge, he took me with him."

After two years of community college, Deering began his apprenticeship and became a Local 567 member in 1976, topping out as a journeyman inside wireman three years later.

"I saw very early in my apprenticeship the importance of attending union meetings," he said. "I had a say in what was going on."

That caught the eye of some of the leaders running the union.

"I was very fortunate," he said. "I had the opportunity to be mentored by the most capable, solid IBEW members at the time. They were able to share, and I was the sponge. Later, I always felt an obligation to mentor young people and share what I had learned."

By the early 1980s, Deering was a member of Local 567's examining board and later served one term as president beginning in 1990. He returned to the field in 1993, served three years as a business agent beginning in 1996, and decided in 1999 to return to the tools again while also serving as a JATC instructor.

"I was very confident in my responsibilities as a general foreman for a large employer," he said. "But a lot of people approached me and asked me to run [for business manager], and I saw a lot of things that were important and needed to be addressed."

Deering was appointed business manager in 2008 at a time when Local 567 needed strong leadership. Like much of the country, Maine's construction industry collapsed during the economic crisis. He cut travel and expenses for the local office staff — all while not eliminating any staffers — and took the politically unpopular step of promoting alternative job classifications into the union.

The addition of those construction wiremen allowed signatory contractors to successfully bid on jobs they might have previously bypassed. [Workers in CE/CW alternative classifications have not completed apprenticeship training but have performed lower-level work at jobsites, usually nonunion ones, and their wages are lower.] The move helped those contractors survive, and many are thriving today — along with Local 567.

"There were a lot of dark days during the recession, to be honest with you," Deering said. "But we survived and came out in one piece."

In 2014, having been re-elected twice without opposition, Deering moved to the Second District office. He finished his career servicing 15 locals throughout Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire in a variety of branches, including construction, government, broadcasting, utility, railroads and manufacturing — the latter of which includes paper mills, which are vital to the state's economy.

Carroll said Deering was respected by management because of his low-key, thoughtful presence and he took its concerns seriously while also being able to argue forcefully for members.

"There was no running your mouth with him," Carroll said. "He was a calming presence who always found a way to get things turned around."

Added current Second District Vice President Michael P. Monahan: "If you know Dick, you can believe everything he tells you. He is right to the point in an easy calming way."

Carroll retired in 2015 and Deering finished his career under Monahan, who worked with Deering for many years when Monahan was serving as business manager of Boston Local 103.

"He's just a steady hand, and that's exactly what you want from a business manager or an international rep," Monahan said. "The guy just handles everything in a professional manner. He's never had a situation he couldn't handle. Having Dick on staff made my job a lot easier. I think the world of the guy. He's just a decent, decent human being."

In retirement, Deering and wife Debbie plan to spend more time with four adult children and three grandchildren. Two children live in Maine, another in Michigan and another across the Canadian border in New Brunswick. The couple plans to keep their home near Portland.

"I was blessed with those three grandchildren later in life and I absolutely adore spending time with them and their families," he said.

The officers and staff thank Brother Deering for his many years of service and wish him a happy retirement.


Richard 'Dick' Deering

Donna Myron

Donna Myron, a retired Sixth District international representative whose many achievements included helming the union's first-ever women's conference at the district level, died Jan. 16. She was 74.

Myron was initiated into then-Chicago Local 1427 in 1966 while working in a clerical unit at ComEd. She quickly became involved in lobbying and organizing committees and served as a steward, recording secretary and executive board member. Her local is now part of Downers Grove, Ill., Local 15.

She joined the international staff in 1986 and managed a wide range of assignments in organizing, bargaining, arbitrations and more, while also helping lead efforts to empower women and minorities inside the IBEW and the larger union community.

"She was a mentor and a role model for a lot of young female representatives in the labor movement," said retired Sixth District Vice President Pat Curley. "You'd see young women who were just getting involved always gravitating toward her, questioning her about how she got involved and what they should they do."

Recognizing Myron as a rising star in her local, then-Sixth District Vice President James P. Conway tapped her in 1984 to organize a conference for the district's many women in utility clerical units, telecom and manufacturing.

The conference encouraged women to get more involved in their union and included workshops on discrimination, pay equity, job safety and advancing workers' issues through political action.

Until her retirement, Myron helped plan all subsequent women's conferences in her district, as well as the union's international women's conferences in 1997, 2001 and 2004. She was also active in the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus and the Coalition of Labor Union Women.

Meanwhile, she thrived with a heavy workload as an international representative, Curley said. "Any assignment she had, she went into it wholeheartedly. She wasn't afraid to tackle things that were new."

Myron had a hand in many of the district's organizing victories, he said. One that made her particularly proud was the campaign to affiliate the Independent Communication Telephone Workers Union, bringing more than 2,000 members into the IBEW in 1987.

In a story when she retired in 2005, she marveled at how much had changed during her four decades in the union. "We are seeing more and more women with bigger roles at the IBEW, more women reps and more women involved on the construction side and on the local level," she said.

Myron's survivors include four sisters and many nieces and nephews. The IBEW sends sincere condolences to her friends and family, and gratitude for decades of service that touched many lives.


Donna Myron