Around 100 attendees from IBEW in Canada participated in the first workshop for IBEW Strong, a new initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in the union.

The IBEW in Canada recently held the first workshop of the union's new diversity and inclusion initiative.

As part of the First District's progress meeting in August, the two-hour workshop on the Lift Campaign included members from across Canada. The purpose of the session was to share best practices and elevate those ideas and programs that are having success in their efforts to address the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

"The goal was to identify the strengths of our locals and the programs currently in place that address the guiding principles of IBEW Strong. We were able to do that," said Education Department Director Amanda Pacheco. "Our task now is to work with locals who are doing great work and connect them with locals that are interested in piloting programs that address those principles."

The training was kicked off by First District International Vice President Tom Reid, who began by acknowledging the Indigenous Peoples who occupied the land before European settlers arrived.

"Sometimes Canadians think we don't have racism. That's wrong," Reid said, noting the issue of discrimination against Indigenous Peoples, as well as other historically marginalized groups.

"I was born a white man with privilege. When I walked in the door I was accepted," Reid said. "If we can't accept that white male privilege exists, we'll never get anywhere."

The training, which had around 100 attendees, was conducted over Zoom videoconference due to coronavirus restrictions. At various points, attendees were broken out into smaller groups to share what they believed were the IBEW's strengths and opportunities, as well as aspirations for their locals and how to get the best results. Participants also shared examples of how their locals are already creating opportunities for a stronger IBEW through diversity, equity, and inclusion.

"They say that diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance," said Tarn Goelling, director of Civic and Community Engagement.

While participants noted the first-class education that apprentices get, First District International Representative Cheryl Paron noted the importance of education — and access — in terms of getting into one.

"Education requirements are only fair if all Canadians have the same access to that education," Paron said.

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee came out of a unanimously passed resolution at the 39th International Convention in 2016. In 2018, the committee, which included a cross-section of leaders from all branches, districts and backgrounds, came up with a vision statement and five themes for IBEW Strong. Those themes are:

1.Organizing/Expanding Membership: Develop and expand outreach, recruitment and marketing programs to young people, nontraditional and historically marginalized communities.

2.Education and Training: Provide training and education programs that address the importance and need for inclusion to all IBEW members and leaders.

3.Building Member Activism and Engagement: Provide inclusive opportunities for members to learn and develop leadership skills and foster local union activism.

4.Leadership Advancement: Provide opportunities for all local union members to take on leadership roles.

5.Replicating Best Practices: Document, share, and replicate best practices for creating a stronger IBEW through outreach and inclusion programs.

Pacheco said that they were scheduled to have the training with all district progress meetings this year, but when COVID-19 hit and the meetings were canceled their plans changed.

"We are very appreciative of the First District taking the lead on this and allowing us to pilot this workshop, which focused on the fifth theme of replicating best practices," said Sherilyn Wright, executive assistant to the international president. "Our leaders are also looking for information on how to address the current issues taking place, and we are working on developing trainings and materials to help assist them in this mission." 

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