The Electrical Worker online
January 2016

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Making History in 2016

125 years ago, 10 men — mainly linemen — gathered together in St. Louis. Their purpose: to found the first ever union of workers in the newly-emerging electrical industry.

There were those at the time who said it wouldn't work, who said that you could never organize electricians.

But more than a century later, our founders' vision of a brotherhood of electrical workers is now a reality for hundreds of thousands of working people — from Texas to the Yukon.

Our logo, first adopted back in 1891, can be seen on hardhats and pickup trucks on construction sites across two nations. Our members can be found everywhere — from call centers and TV studios to nuclear power plants and wind farms.

IBEW members serve in elected office — from the county level to Congress.

Those 10 men made history back in 1891. And in 2016, we will continue on their path.

While the tools and technology are different, the roadmap to success blazed by our founders remains the same.

This includes a total commitment to our craft and excellence on the job. That's exactly what the Code of Excellence is about and is why we will continue to promote it amongst all our branches and in all of our workplaces.

It means that organizing must be every member's job. 2015 was a good year on that front, but we have to redouble our efforts in order to replace the retiring baby-boom generation and grow our market share.

There are thousands of working people who are hungry for the good things we have. But unless our best ambassadors — our own members — are reaching out and talking with those workers about how the IBEW can change their workplace for the better, they will be lost to us.

One founding principle that is front and center this year is political action. When the IBEW was formed, there were no minimum wage or safety laws, nor were there any legal protections for collective bargaining.

We helped changed that, but increasingly, those gains are under threat from radicalized far-right politicians, who want to turn back the clock to 1891.

If we want to stop right-to-work, if we want to protect our basic rights to join and form a union, every member has to get involved in our grassroots political program. And not just after Labor Day, but now.

This September, we are going back to St. Louis for our 39th International Convention.

We're returning to our founding city not just to honor our history, but to make it. Whether you will be there or not, we all have a role to play in writing the next chapter of the IBEW's story.


Also: Chilia: Giving It All We've Got Read Chilia's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President