September 2011

From the Officers
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Fraternity and Challenge in Vancouver

The 38th IBEW Convention opens in Vancouver at a historic moment of global economic crisis and upheaval. Thousands of our members have already faced months and even years of unemployment. An intensified political debate is raging over how working families will survive the immediate turmoil. But the debate goes further—to the question of how our workers in the U.S. and in our host nation will achieve the kind of stability and security that is essential to maintain our democracies.

The values and ideals of the IBEW are under assault, not just in the chambers of Congress or Parliament, but in our states and provinces and our popular media and culture. Our corporate adversaries openly proclaim that economic recovery depends upon weakening the hand of organized workers to hold employers accountable for decent pay, working conditions and respect on the job.

Prior conventions, too, have spanned periods of boom and bust and political polarization. Six conventions were held in the midst of economic recessions and panics and eight, including our founding convention in 1891, within a few months of other downturns.

This month, our delegates come together once again carrying the frustrations, the pain and the hopes of their brothers and sisters who are out of work. In fact, many of our delegates are themselves unemployed.

We are confident that our delegates—democratically-elected by their peers and fully aware of the complex challenges facing their members and our union—will approach their responsibilities with the seriousness that our times demand and make a full report to their co-workers upon their return home.

Delegates will critically review our union's laws and constitution to ensure that they are modern and relevant guides to carrying out the mission of our Brotherhood.

They will consider and debate resolutions on a wide range of issues that will help identify our priorities and set our strategies for the next five years in organizing, political and legislative matters, internal affairs and developing relationships with our labor and community allies.

Official proceedings are only one aspect of an IBEW convention.

In September 1929, one month before the events that cascaded into the crash of the U.S. stock market, the 20th IBEW Convention convened in Miami. The IBEW Journal stated: "The occasion has far more important results than the visible accomplishments will indicate. Corridor conversations will develop new ideas, will exchange new methods, and will generate that fraternal spirit which is so essential to the continued, smooth running of a democratic organization. It will not be forgotten that a union is more than an economic instrument, it is a fellowship."

We wholeheartedly agree with our predecessors. We have scaled back some of the social events of this year's convention for financial considerations. But fellowship will be alive and thriving in the beautiful city of Vancouver.

Amid handshakes, hugs and the high-fives, dedicated union activists will proudly trade not just the pins of their local unions, but their experiences in the struggle for economic and social justice across North America.

"Brotherhood Beyond Borders," our convention's theme, is more than a slogan. It is a call to renew and strengthen the unity that has shaped the IBEW into one of the most effective and powerful labor organizations in the world.

Renewing IBEW's unity means mentoring and nurturing our next generation of leaders. We have made a special attempt to bring young IBEW members to Vancouver as delegates and guests. Our Brotherhood needs their vitality and passion for fair play and economic justice. No less, our veteran members need to pass on their legacy—the lessons learned through years of representation and advocacy on behalf their members.

No doubt, our adversaries will ridicule our work in Vancouver and our mission to better the economic circumstances of our members and spread our bonds of solidarity.

Our adversaries will never understand or appreciate the real history of workers in the U.S. and Canada. It is a history that flows with all of the force of the Columbia River, the natural wonder that our brothers and sisters on both sides of the border boldly harness so skillfully for power to sustain our citizens and our economies. It is a history that was gloriously personified in the past year as members of IBEW locals in the U.S. and Canada met at the border to stand up for the rights of workers in Wisconsin and other states who are facing attacks on their rights to bargain collectively with their employers.

History flows forward. On to Vancouver.

Edwin D. Hill
International President

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer