The Electrical Worker online
July 2020

From the Officers
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We Need Leaders

Sisters and brothers, if 2020 has taught us anything, it's that effective leadership is as important now as it's been in any of our lifetimes.

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the best and the worst of us, and I'm proud that nearly every day I've heard of stories of IBEW members stepping up and leading in their communities, feeding first responders, the elderly and the hungry, and setting positive examples by protecting ourselves and those around us from the deadly effects of this virus.

I've also been heartened to see IBEW members and locals standing up and demanding change in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

It's easy to think that the labor movement is just about securing work, good wages and benefits and safety on the job. But that's only part of it.

The very first line of the IBEW's constitution states, "Our cause is the cause of human justice, human rights, human security." As union members, we believe that standing together is stronger than standing divided, and that extends to racial as well as economic justice.

It's no accident that racial and gender pay gaps are least pronounced in workplaces where there is union representation. Treating people fairly and with respect is at the heart of what we stand for, and I'm proud to see IBEW members leading the fight for change.

I'm also proud to see IBEW members demanding accountability from leaders at every level of government, from the White House down to mayors and county commissioners, insisting that working people have a seat at the table on crucial decisions about how and when to reopen communities safely.

The COVID-19 crisis has shown us the power of effective leadership and the devastating consequences of a lack of it. Across the world, we've seen leaders who've attacked the virus head-on, providing citizens with adequate testing, ample economic support and open communication.

And we've seen the opposite: government officials who failed to take the threat seriously, failed to understand that an economic collapse required swift and generous action for people on every rung of the income ladder and failed to communicate, using distractions and misinformation to downplay the threat and sow division.

I don't need to tell you which approach has produced better results.

As we move through summer, there's an important election on the horizon for those of us in the United States. It's shaping up to be a choice between unity and division; between leadership that seeks to heal versus a "me first" ideology that has led us down a dangerous path to where we find ourselves now.

I hope that over the next few months you'll join me in demanding more from our nations' leaders at every level. You'll be hearing more from your local unions on how you can pitch in between now and November, and we're counting on IBEW members to make the difference.

Crises like the ones we're facing show us what true leadership looks like, and they expose those who lack the ability to lead. Pay attention, sisters and brothers, and thank you for being leaders.


Also: Cooper: Now Is the Time to Organize Read Cooper's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President