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January 2022

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The Year of the Worker

Happy New Year, sisters and brothers.

As we close the books on another year and look to 2022, I couldn't be more enthusiastic about the direction the IBEW and the labor movement as a whole are heading.

After weathering the worst of COVID-19's first year, the last eight months of 2021 saw unprecedented growth in IBEW membership amid a national wave of workers standing up and demanding to be valued appropriately by their employers.

Lonnie and I are proud of the way IBEW membership roared back from its 2020 ebb, but we weren't surprised. Because as long as workers want careers that will provide for themselves and their families, the IBEW will always have a strong appeal.

But the appeal of a union extends far beyond just the IBEW.

Last fall, we were proud to stand with workers from Nabisco, John Deere, Kellogg's and many more who, like our own sisters and brothers, worked tirelessly during the worst of the pandemic to keep North America's economy going. When their sacrifices went unrecognized, they stood up for themselves and exercised their right to strike to win the concessions they'd earned.

Some called it "Striketober," but it was so much more than a catchy name. With more than 100,000 workers either on strike or preparing for one, it was the single largest wave of union action this century.

There are lots of opinions about why so many workers chose to rise up when they did, but I think it had a lot to do with the pandemic. The term "essential workers" got thrown around a lot in the early days of March and April 2020. But what I believe working people realized is that we're all a lot more essential than we may have realized before. And we're tired of being treated as expendable.

It's why I believe unions are in a position to organize like we've never organized before. Just look at the latest polling on unions. Two in three Americans approve of labor unions, the highest it's been in more than 50 years. Among young people and people of color, three in four support unions, and nearly 50% say they'd join a union tomorrow if they had the chance.

Still, just fewer than 11% of Americans and 30% of Canadians belong to a union. For some, that's disappointing, but I see opportunity.

This year is the year when labor stops playing defense and starts going on the offense. Let's keep our momentum growing and continue to organize and stand in solidarity with workers who are fighting to organize or battling for fair wages and better working conditions.

Let's make 2022 the year of the worker.


Also: Stephenson: Building Paths to the Middle Class Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer