In June’s Electrical
we checked in on progress at the Henry Miller Museum in St. Louis,
the former boardinghouse where Henry Miller and nine other delegates founded
the National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in 1891.
Locals and individuals from across the U.S. and Canada have generously donated to the Electrical Workers Historical Society, so far raising nearly $2 million of the $6 million it’s expected to cost to restore and maintain the building.
But one local and its retirees are taking a unique and creative approach to raising money for the project, and they hope their effort will inspire others to do the same.
It all started when the former business managers for Muskegon, Mich., Local 275 (and Grand Rapids Local 107, which was amalgamated into the former in 1996) got together for their regular monthly breakfast in March. Local 275 had already donated $10,000 to the museum project, but former business manager and retired International Representative Jim Rudicil wanted to do more.
“There’s just so much history in the IBEW,” Rudicil said, “and it seemed to the group of us like the retirees should be a part of preserving that too.” So the six of them pledged $2,500 and challenged their fellow retired brothers and sisters to match it, planning to purchase an inscribed 24-by-24 inch paver to be placed in Founders Park adjoining the museum.
The group approached Business Manager Sean Egan with their plan, and days later a letter went out to the local’s retirees. Checks started coming in almost immediately, Egan said, raising more than $700 in a week. A second letter in May finished the job, collecting another $2,500 for the cause.
“That second letter really did the trick,” Rudicil said. “We told the retirees, ‘Let’s spend some of these business managers’ money,’ and in it came.” In the end, the effort will send more than their $5,000 goal to the Henry Miller Museum, and a stone marker will commemorate the effort, reading “Generously contributed by the retirees of IBEW Local 275.”
“We’re really proud of our retirees for answering the call and our former business managers for taking the initiative on this,” Egan said. “Preserving this important part of the IBEW’s history is something all of us should have a stake in.”
For his part, Rudicil hopes Local 275’s retirees can spur similar efforts in locals all over the U.S. and Canada. “The whole intent was to set an example,” he said. “We’re planning a letter to retired international representatives next.”
In St. Louis, where electrical work is being completed and drywall being hung at the Miller museum, the money can’t come soon enough.
“We’re so grateful for the support of all of our members and locals,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson, who is also chairman the Electrical Workers Historical Society. “Every little bit helps to make sure our great union’s history is here for generations to come, and creative approaches like this one set a marker for others to aim for.
“Rebuilding this boardinghouse where the IBEW came into existence should be a real point of pride for all of us,” Stephenson said, “and we’re excited to open the doors in September.”