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February 2024

From the Officers
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Progress & Leadership: 50 Years of the EWMC

Five decades ago this year, IBEW leaders and civil rights activists including Charles Horhn, Art Jones, George Scott, Gladys Greene and Mary Nell Whipps came together at the IBEW's 30th International Convention to demand more representation and a larger voice for Black members.

That gathering was the beginning of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus, which for 50 years has fought to ensure that the IBEW truly represents the full diversity of our two nations.

It has been a long fight, but as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

The first EWMC conference in 1989 had just 25 people in attendance. Last month, we were honored to attend its latest conference alongside nearly 700 members from across the United States and Canada.

As its membership has grown, the EWMC is no longer a voice in the wilderness.

Back in 1974, some in IBEW leadership saw the demand for diversity and inclusion as divisive.

There was resistance to efforts to make the IBEW more welcoming for nonwhite members.

However, the EWMC would teach future generations of IBEW leadership that diversity is not a cause of division but a necessary part of solidarity.

Because an IBEW that truly represents all the communities of North America is a union that our opponents can never divide.

That is why we have taken the EWMC's mission to heart and made it a priority for the entire IBEW through the IBEW Strong program.

Some critics believe that this is just political correctness. But for us and the entire leadership of the IBEW, diversity and inclusion is about building IBEW power.

The simple reality is this:

Half of the workforce is female, and more than a third is nonwhite.

That means most of North America's workforce is something other than white men.

If we are serious about not only organizing every electrical worker but ensuring a steady pipeline of talent into the trades and all our branches, then we need to make recruiting underrepresented workers a priority.

Because of the hundreds of billions of dollars in federal infrastructure investment, we are seeing massive growth in our industries, from construction and utilities to telecom and manufacturing. Our contractors and employers are counting on us to provide the best skilled electrical labor available.

We will not reach that goal unless we cast our net wide and send the message that every worker, regardless of color or gender, has a welcoming place in the IBEW.

But IBEW Strong's focus is not just recruiting women and racial minorities. It also turns them into the leaders of tomorrow.

Mentorship has been a core function of the EWMC since it began. We all know how hard it is to be new on the job, and it is often even more challenging for women and people of color. By helping new members overcome obstacles and encouraging them to be the best IBEW members they can be, we are investing in the leadership of tomorrow.

The EWMC has also been crucial to the IBEW's community outreach efforts. Its leaders have constantly reminded us of the importance of giving back to our neighbors, from cleaning up local parks and rewiring homes for folks who can't afford to make them safe to connecting young people with careers in the trades through pre-apprenticeship programs.

We have come a long way in 50 years. We still have a long way to go regarding diversity and inclusion and much more work to do, but the EWMC can be proud of its role in getting the IBEW to where it is today.

In 1974, EWMC activists were still on the outside, fighting to make the voices of minority members heard by the IBEW's leadership.

Today, the EWMC's goal of building a bigger, stronger and more diverse IBEW are our goals as your officers, and so many of our locals have embraced and championed this cause as well. You'll read more about all this in next month's Electrical Worker.

Diversity is no longer an option but a core tool for growing our membership in the years to come.

Regardless of our differences, we are all members of one Brotherhood, and everyone does better when we come together in solidarity.

We look forward to working with the brothers and sisters of the EWMC as we work together to build an ever brighter future for the IBEW.

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International President

Paul A. Noble

Paul A. Noble
International Secretary-Treasurer