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March 2023

From the Officers
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We Won't Back Down

As many of you know, I've set a goal of 1 million members for our Brotherhood in the next five years. That would make us larger than we've ever been and about one-third larger than we are today.

How are we going to do that? First, we're going to organize more than ever before: by sharing the story of being a union worker to the nonunion workers and educating employers on the value that being a part of the best-trained, most-qualified electrical union in the world brings to their lives and their businesses. We're just going to do it a lot more aggressively.

But we know not everyone sees the world the way we do. Some employers and contractors are never going to shake the tired old idea that unions are a problem to be fixed or gotten rid of. And in those instances, I have news for them: The IBEW is not going to back down from a fight when the livelihoods of hard-working people are on the line.

I'm talking about fights like the one Vancouver, B.C., Local 213 got into with the telecom giant Ledcor a half-decade ago. They took on not just a multibillion-dollar company in a low-union-density industry, but the entire Canadian labor code. After years of struggle, they won a precedent-setting ruling from the nation's labor board that spelled out in no uncertain terms that Ledcor was in the wrong.

Too many companies think they can cross every line and break every right our predecessors in the labor movement fought to get, of course with the approval of some union-busting lawyers.

Ledcor was given the choice to follow the law and make a profit or break the law and make a little more, and it didn't hesitate to break the law and then fight us for nearly 2,000 days to keep its fist closed.

I'm not saying it's easy. I know that Local 213 Business Manager Jim Lofty, his staff, and the men and women in the First District had some difficult nights and some genuine worry that this fight was too big for them to wage.

But they didn't have to do it alone. When their need was greatest, the IBEW, the building trades, and dozens of unions and locals across Canada came through with $300,000 to keep the fight going.

No one else but the IBEW could have taken this to the very end, exhausted every avenue and then beaten them at their game. We could not have done it alone, but the labor movement turned to us to pick up the spear.

And now the First District is looking at the realistic possibility of national anti-scab legislation.

Labor unions' popularity has grown in the last decade as working people see how vulnerable they are, but the union movement needs to do more to capitalize on this sentiment.

If we are going to represent nonunion workers' trust, we have to work hard for all hard-working families.

We have to prove to them that their fights are our fights, and can be won.


Also: Noble: Keeping Our Promise Read Noble's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International President