The Electrical Worker online
April 2017

From the Officers
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Filling the Gap

As we report in this issue, construction is booming throughout most of North America. After the devastation of the 2008 recession, unemployment has now hit record lows. And for many locals, that means full employment.

While it's great to see so many IBEW brothers and sisters off the bench after years of sluggish growth, the truth is this: it is getting harder and harder to fill jobs.

And while that might not seem like such a bad problem to have, the reality is that the current construction boom has revealed a skilled worker shortage. And the IBEW is feeling the squeeze along with the rest of the industry.

If we don't have enough workers to man the billions of dollars of projects on the books, then we can't win the work in the first place. And if we aren't winning jobs, that means our market share — the percentage of all electrical work done by the IBEW — will go on the decline.

Smaller market share translates into less leverage for us to fight for strong contracts and drive up wages and standards in the construction industry.

So it is vital that we are using every opportunity and tool to organize new members and new contractors.

As important as boosting our apprenticeship programs is, it won't help us meet the gap in the immediate term. We can only do that by going out and organizing every nonunion electrician working in our communities.

Our Membership Development Department has made some big strides in the last few years in growing our ranks in construction. But to really seize the opportunity presented by the current strong market, everyone must put organizing front and center of all our activities.

And I'm not just talking to business managers. Every IBEW member has a role to play. If you hear about a new nonunion project going up, tell someone at your local. Talk about the benefits of joining the IBEW to any nonunion electrician you meet. Volunteer to help out with job fairs and organizing blitzes.

Now more than ever we need every member to step up and take responsibility for building the IBEW, from the bottom up.

Because the more members we recruit now means a stronger, more powerful IBEW in the future.


Also: Chilia: Fix Health Care, Don't Destroy It Read Chilia's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President