The Electrical Worker online
March 2017

From the Officers
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Growing from the GroundĀ Up

After years of trying, and four votes that didn't go their way, as of Jan. 12, the men and women of Baltimore Gas & Electric have something they've never had on the job before: a voice.

This victory proves to me that the best days of organized labor are still in front of us, because our message is getting out. We all want more than a job. We want work that lets us live with dignity, with purpose and the resources to take care of our families. We want work rules that respect us now and retirement plans that respect us later. And the only way to guarantee you get dignity and respect is by joining together.

Baltimore Local 410 will be the first local I will charter as international president. I traveled to Baltimore several times to talk with the BGE workers and to stand in the lines of organizers outside BGE service centers. Those were some of the best times I have had as president because it is the purest expression of the labor movement there is. Side by side, standing up for ourselves and our union and inviting other workers to do the same.

I asked the men and women I met, "Why keep coming back after all those painful losses?" and one reason I heard again and again was that they had met IBEW members when there was a big storm and they came from other, organized utilities, or when the BGE workers went on the road to get the lights back on somewhere else. They told me they heard about the wage and benefit differences, but the BGE workers also said they heard the pride in being a member of the IBEW.

They also heard about a relationship between a union and an employer that was far different from the one painted by the union-busters BGE had brought in during previous campaigns. They heard that, when companies want the best for their workers, the IBEW can be the best partner in the world and everybody can do better. Exelon's experience working with IBEW-represented workers has been positive for the company and its bottom line. It's also been a boon for our members.

We succeed when we grow from the ground up. It was the connections our members made with BGE workers on those emergency calls that made this campaign successful. Nonunion workers, like those at BGE, pay attention.

When we bring the Code of Excellence to a new employer and they see the value of having the best trained and most productive electrical workers in the country, it changes the minds of managers about what a union is. Inside the company and out.

We can all take pride in this win. Doing your job well and speaking up about your union is where our next victories will come from.


Also: Chilia: The Right-to-Work Con Read Chilia's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President