The Electrical Worker online
June 2015

From the Officers
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Run, IBEW Members, Run

"If you're not at the table, you're on the menu." That kernel of wisdom seems closest to the hearts and minds of IBEW members who run for public office, including those profiled in this issue of The Electrical Worker.

It's not hard to understand why good folks veer away from politics, leaving unions and workers with too few members at the table where decisions are made.

That's why it's so important to listen to the voices and experiences of the public officials profiled in this issue of The Electrical Worker and dozens of others who have decided to enter the fray and run for office.

Yes, a poisonous polarization of politics at the federal level in Washington and Ottawa is driven by a small class of wealthy and, too often, greedy players who dominate decision-making. Major party candidates for national office frequently seem to live in another world from average people.

But back in the hometowns of the U.S. and Canada, politics is more personal. We want our garbage picked up and we don't want our public buildings erected by nonunion contractors from hundreds of miles away. We want recreational programs for our children and grandchildren.

Improving schools and public safety, treating workers with dignity — these priorities come instinctively to union members.

So, too, do some of the skills and values that make good leaders, like building consensus and staying focused on the tasks at hand. We can't construct buildings, maintain vital utilities or manufacture quality products if we're bickering with each other when there's work to be done.

The grassroots spirit of trade unionism is exactly what's missing in our politics at the federal, state and local levels. We can't fill every position, but union members in office, like those profiled in this issue, are making a difference larger than our numbers.

We must never give up our commitment to elect friends of labor to federal office. But a serious effort to win sustained, progressive leadership at the top needs to come from below.

I urge more members to make plans to run for public office. And I invite those who have already made that commitment to share their experiences and lessons learned.


Also: Hill: Taking Out the Trash Read Hill's Column

Salvatore J. Chilia

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer