RENEW Conference Energizes Young Workers


September 23, 2013

More than 100 young IBEW members from across the United States and Canada will be in Washington, D.C., Sept. 27-29 for the first ever Reach out and Energize Next-gen Electrical Workers conference.


A union-wide effort, RENEW first came together at the 38th International Convention in 2011. Its mission: to inspire the next generation of IBEW workers to become active in their local union by focusing on issues important to younger workers.

RENEW committees have since spouted up in dozens of locals, introducing newer IBEW members to labor activism. Civic and Community Engagement Department International Representative Rateeluck "Tarn" Puvapiromquan, says that the conference is great opportunity to energize young IBEW activists.  

Since its founding, RENEW has provided young IBEW members a space to network and organize to advance the interests of younger workers in their locals and to help bridge the gap between generation in order to strengthen the union as a whole. Local groups have sponsored educational meetings, social outings and set up Facebook groups to facilitate communications.

“The event is run by young workers and directed to young workers,” she said.  “We want attendees to know that this is about collectively envisioning our future as IBEW members.”

Workers under 40 face a challenging economic climate that stands in sharp contrast to the experiences of the baby-boomer generation. 

As we wrote in the Electrical Worker:

The unemployment rate for workers under the age of 25 has improved to 16 percent since its peak just short of 20 percent in 2010. But the last time unemployment for young workers was this high was nearly 30 years ago, reports the Economic Policy Institute. Families are losing out.

The Pew Research Center reports that between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of households headed by adults under the age of 35 fell by 68 percent. The inflation-adjusted median income of Americans over age 35 rose by 8 percent between 2005 and 2010, but the income of younger Americans declined by 4 percent. The statistics underline the generational differences in the IBEW.

Workshops will cover everything from understanding parliamentary procedure and fighting workplace discrimination to help planning your career on-the-job and in the union.

The conference will also emphasize the importance of IBEW locals and RENEW activists getting involved in community service.

“Building the union and reaching out to new workers means we have to be an integral part of our local community,” Puvapiromquan said.

She says conference organizers want participants to take what they learn back to their locals in order to encourage more RENEW activism. Older members will be on hand to share their experiences an bridge the generation gap.

“The labor movement is at a tipping point, offering an incredible opportunity for young people to change the course of the labor movement, and in doing so determine their destinies and those of workers across North America,” said International President Edwin D. Hill.

You can follow the conference proceedings on Twitter @IBEWRENEW. Use hashtag #RENEW2013 to join the conversation.

You can also find out more on RENEW’s Facebook page.