The Electrical Worker online
April 2020

index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to
Ed Mings

After 42 years of membership, Ed Mings, the IBEW's first Director for Outside Construction Membership Development, retired at the end of March.

Mings was born in Dekalb, Ill., 66 long miles west of the Chicagoland union stronghold.

"We were the boondocks. Unions fought for everything out there," he said.

After high school he went to work at Essex Wire, where he joined the IBEW for the first time. He left a year later for a position at Barber Green, a company that made paving equipment and curb machines and a brief stint in the Machinists' union.

But a neighbor who was a journeyman lineman and inspector at Commonwealth Edison, and also an IBEW member, mentioned to Mings that the contractors he worked with were having trouble finding workers. In the late '70s, Mings joined Rockford Local 196 and went to work as a groundman.

"As soon as they found out I wasn't afraid of heights, I didn't spend much time on the ground," he said. "I was dead-ending wire, pulling wire, stacking and bolting steel. Everything but working hot distribution. We couldn't get enough help then either."

Mings said he was blessed with a career marked by good teachers and mentors, but one in particular set a model for what it meant to be a good worker and union man, an early foreman of his named Tom Dunphy.

"He's probably where I got my attitude from," Mings said. "He was an old, mean journeyman, and thank God I had him."

In 1990, Mings and his family moved down state and he switched his card to Springfield Local 193. Six years later, he was appointed assistant business manager and hired on as an organizer.

At both locals, Mings served when asked, taking positions on organizing, political and new member committees as well as chairing the Sixth District journeyman lineman test committee.

In 2001, Mings moved back to his home local and took a job at a municipal power company that wasn't big enough to qualify as a utility. He was, he said, there for four days and four hours before the business manager asked him to come on staff as an organizer.

"I had to think about it because I know how much work, real work, it is to be an organizer," he said. "I said 'yes' because I thought I could help."

When he came on staff, Mings found a local being terribly mismanaged. The former assistant business manager had just been elected business manager. Within two months he had been removed, and Mings was asked to step in and stop the hemorrhaging.

"We were broke, and it didn't make sense because we had 300 travelers working," Mings said. "It took a few years, but hard work solves most problems and gradually things got better."

Mings was reelected twice, and before his third term ran out, he got a call from then-International President Edwin D. Hill asking him to come to the Construction Department to be the outside international representative.

"I didn't think I was on anyone's short list," Mings said. "Too many people thought we are doing all the work because all our guys were working, but it isn't so. And I pushed, too much maybe at times, for a lot of people. But I guess Ed and Jerry [Westerholm, then-director of the Construction Department] wanted that."

Mings said the best thing he did as international representative was the National Emergency Response Agreement, which set basic standards for outside members going out on emergency and storm repair work. Crucially, it established wage and benefit security before anyone got into a truck to head to disasters.

"Mutual aid used to handle all this, but it was falling apart," Mings said. "Having this in place is more important than ever because storms are getting more severe each year."

Mings also helped hammer out the National Outside Portability Agreement to make it easier for signatory contractors to get jobs, allowing them to bring a crew they know to get work started and then hand it over to local workers who come in and finish the job.

"I just want to be clear that there is no 'I' here; it's always, my whole career, been 'we,'" Mings said. "I don't like talking about 'I' so much."

In August of 2018, International President Lonnie R. Stephenson asked Mings to become the first director of outside organizing.

"I gave them three names so it wouldn't be me," Mings said. But again, he said "yes" because that's what you do, and he thought he could be useful.

At the time he took the position, Mings said his goal was to build on what the IBEW already had.

"We don't need a culture shift. There is no reason to recreate the wheel. We can use the round one we've already got and have had since [the IBEW's first president] Henry Miller," he said.

But, Mings said, too many locals weren't using the tools they had.

"There was no push and no help and a lot of them didn't know where to start," he said.

In the last year and half, Mings and Assistant to the President for Membership Development Ricky Oakland have built a structure that gives the push and the help ["Outside Organizing for the 21st Century," March 2020].

"It should be better, and it will be a lot easier going forward," Mings said.

Mings plans to have few plans in retirement, he said.

"The best vacation I had, my wife and I just got on our motorcycles and went. We ended up in Arkansas," he said. "That's the plan: no plan. No destination. No one telling me where to be or what to do."

Please join the officers in wishing Brother Mings a long, healthy retirement with open roads and time to enjoy them.


Ed Mings

James Foreman

James Foreman, who served as a Seventh District international representative for 15 years and was long active in Texas labor and politics, died Feb. 10 in Wills Point, Texas. He was 84.

Brother Foreman grew up in rural East Texas and was initiated into Dallas Local 59 in 1954, topping out three years later as a journeyman inside wireman. He served on several committees and as Local 59's vice president before being elected business manager in 1972, the first of four times he was elected to the position.

"I've had a lot of people tell me over the years there's no telling how much money he put out for other members who could not afford to pay their dues at the time," said Ricky Foreman, who followed his father into the brotherhood and is a member of Dallas-Forth Worth Local 20. "They told me things like, 'There went your new car when you were growing up because your dad was taking care of people's dues.'"

Foreman's service to labor went beyond the IBEW, too. He was a member of several statewide labor committees and served as president of the Texas State Association of Electrical Workers and on the executive board of the Dallas AFL-CIO.

In 1981, he was brought onto the district staff as an international representative. Then-Seventh District Vice President Ray Duke retired a few months later and was replaced by Orville Tate.

"James' local in Dallas was a mixed local that serviced several different branches, and that was one of the reasons he was hired," said Tate, who was still vice president when Foreman retired in 1996. "He was pretty ambidextrous. I had him servicing locals from several different branches, and he did an outstanding job."

Foreman's activity in the Democratic Party in Texas allowed the IBEW to develop important contacts in politics, especially when Democrats still held many of the statewide offices, Tate said. His friends included former Gov. Ann Richards, former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, former Texas attorney general and U.S. Rep. Jim Mattox and former U.S. Rep. Martin Frost.

Tate said Foreman also provided stellar leadership when the economy fell into a recession in 1987 and '88, slowing the Texas construction industry to a standstill.

"It was tough out there with a lot of wage cuts and contractors going nonunion," Tate said. "James was very good about going in and helping those locals. He went into some of the toughest negotiations in the district and kept a lot of the contractors without us getting killed in cutbacks."

Even in retirement, Brother Foreman stayed active in Democratic politics. He was the chairman of the Van Zandt County Democratic Party from 1997 to 2005 and was a delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, where Barack Obama received the party's nomination. Local 59 was amalgamated into Local 20 following his retirement.

Ricky Foreman said politics was a passion for his father until his death.

"I think he just saw how politics affected the average working person in a way most people don't," the younger Foreman said. "Labor laws and their impact on people, he was always interested in that."

Foreman is survived by his son and his wife of 65 years, Romilda Sue. He was preceded in death by James Russell Foreman, another son, who worked for the Texas Department of Labor.

Ricky Foreman said he likely missed out on some experiences in his youth with his father because he traveled so much, but he impressed upon his son the importance of fighting for the interests of working people.

"I don't think anyone could follow in his footsteps," said Ricky, who served as an assistant business manager for Local 20 from 2003 to 2015. "He was dedicated and did a lot of good for people."

The IBEW's officers and staff are grateful for Brother Foreman's service and extend their sympathies to his family and friends.


James Foreman

Victor K. Uno

Ninth District International Representative Victor K. Uno retired in March after a 42-year career of leadership, breaking down barriers and making the IBEW a more inclusive and welcoming union.

"Victor Uno is a consummate labor activist, a trade unionist who can stand equal with any in this brotherhood's long, proud history," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "He and others like him are no small part of why the IBEW is what it is today. We are not perfect, but each year, our membership is more representative of the communities we serve because of the battles fought by brothers and sisters like Victor."

Uno was born in Los Angeles in 1953, initiated into Dublin, Calif., Local 595 in 1977 and turned out in 1980. He worked in the field for more than 20 years before winning five elections for business manager. He also served as president of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus and was one of the founders of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (AFL-CIO) in 1992.

But his storied career had an unfortunate start. Uno, whose grandparents came to the U.S. from Japan in the early 1900s, was one of the first Japanese-American members of Local 595. When he went to his first general membership meeting in the mid-1970s, the door foreman tore up his dues receipt, refusing him entry.

"Are we letting Chinese in now?" someone asked when he was finally allowed into the meeting, through a side door.

"That was jarring," Uno said. "I was ashamed for the union I was getting into. I didn't speak about it for 25 years, in part because other minorities had a much harder time getting in, and faced worse hostilities on the jobsite."

Like many minorities breaking barriers in the '60s and '70s who joined the union following court-ordered desegregation consent decrees or agreements signed under threat of legal action, getting into the trades was an extension of the civil rights movement.

"There were incidents where women faced hostility and misogyny. Blacks faced prejudice and layoffs ahead of others. What happened with my dues receipt was small compared to what happened to some in the field," Uno said. "And I had a wife and child and another on the way, so quitting was not an option."

And, Uno said, he quickly found that there were also allies in that first meeting. Many at Local 595 offered a welcome and friendship, including then-Business Manager Tom Sweeney.

He gained a reputation as a skilled craftsman on countless jobs across the Bay Area, including 10 years at the Lawrence Berkeley National lab. While working at the facility's famed 88-inch cyclotron, which accelerated charged particles up to a third of the speed of light, Uno also served as the chief steward for all craft workers at the lab.

At the same time, he became a dedicated and reliable volunteer at the local. It all started, Uno said, shortly after turning out, when he asked at his local meeting if any work was going on around the upcoming election.

"The then-president, George Lockwood, said 'Good question … How would you like to be our registrar?'" Uno said. "I didn't know what a registrar did, but I was all-in to help. From that first ask, and going forward, I said 'yes' to whatever I was asked."

After a successful membership registration effort, Uno was asked to become a JATC instructor, and that led to getting a credential and teaching for 15 years in his local's JATC program. Then, he was asked to run for examining board in 1987, executive board in 1990, and in 1997 he served as president for two years before taking over as training director for the Alameda County Electrical JATC.

He ran in a contested election in 2002 for business manager on a progressive platform, supported by a broad base of the membership. "It was not about electing the first minority business manager," said Uno. "It was about having a vision for the future, running the local with honesty, integrity and trust." In a record turnout, he was elected with a 2-to-1 mandate.

The man who had once been barred entry to a local meeting was now responsible for running a local with over 2,000 members.

As business manager, Uno successfully negotiated numerous contracts, welcomed spouses and families to new events and activities, started a scholarship program for members' children and extended organizing and outreach into communities of color and the disadvantaged.

"Putting local hire and community benefits and partnerships into project labor agreements was huge for us," Uno said. "Labor-management cooperation efforts, education and training programs for the industry — members and contractors — elevated everyone."

Uno was re-elected four times and led Local 595 through the devastation of the Great Recession that started in 2008. In his final years as business manager, the 46,000-square-foot IBEW-NECA Zero Net Energy Center was built, a showcase for training members in energy efficiency, new building technology and controls and renewable energy.

"The ZNE Center is a statement of our values, our contribution to fighting climate change, and that we must be accountable for training our members for good, sustainable IBEW jobs for our future," Uno said. "It is an enduring achievement of Local 595."

Uno also served as president of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus in addition to his work helping to found the national Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance.

"Asian workers, our stories, are largely unknown. But there is a rich history of struggle in our many communities. There are the dark chapters of Chinese exclusion and Japanese internment, but also a legacy of fighting racism and organizing to build worker power in the workplace," Uno said. "I am so proud that APALA has trained hundreds of union organizers, helping to build our labor movement."

In 2014, he was appointed a Ninth District international representative by then-International President Edwin D. Hill, where he serviced Northern California locals.

Uno and his wife, Josephine Camacho — herself a former union organizer at SEIU and the former executive secretary-treasurer of the Alameda Labor Council — have been life-long activists in the Oakland area. Uno was appointed to two terms on Oakland's Board of Port Commissioners, served as its president for two terms, and oversaw the many union projects that improved the port's environmental and air quality standards as it transitioned to 100% electrification.

He also served many years on the board of Asian Health Services, a community clinic that now provides medical services to over 30,000 low income, mostly immigrant families. "Health care is a human right; no one should be denied," notes Uno.

In retirement, Uno plans to continue to be active and involved.

"This is a critical election year, and I will do whatever I can to be involved in local, state and even national elections to change the current resident of the White House," he said.

He will also be spending as much time as possible with his grandchildren, Kaia Kiku and Leo Nacho, who live just down the road.

As much as Brother Uno gained from a life in the IBEW, we as a brotherhood got more. Please join the officers in wishing him a long, joyful and healthy retirement.


Victor K. Uno