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September 2017

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The Role of Politics

I am an 88-year-old great-grandfather, and while I may not be the smartest guy in the world, I do have one thing in my favor: experience.

I served four years in the U.S. Navy, spent 30 years working with the tools, obtained my electrical masters license then spent seven years as an electrical contractor. I took on a second career before retiring as a vice president of a bank for 11 years. So I have been fortunate to see all sides of the issues I would like to comment on.

I was dismayed by President Stephenson's editorial, "The Trump Record," [in the July issue of the Electrical Worker, which drew distinctions between President Trump's campaign trail rhetoric and the reality of his anti-worker policy proposals and safety rollbacks after six months in office].

As individuals, we can support any point of view we choose. However, an organization as large as the IBEW should be apolitical. We have members of every political persuasion. The IBEW president and the organization should not officially support or endorse or finance political candidates or parties.

Whether you or I support or object to President Trump's actions or words should not be an issue of the Electrical Worker. Our job should not be to join the fray in a political war or in a state vote on right-to-work laws, again a voting booth issue.

As an electrical contractor, I kept my customers not by advertising the cheapest price in town, but by the quality of our work and service. And that's the high road the IBEW needs to travel and leave the dog fighting to the professional politicians.

Howard Gelbman, Local 349 retiree

[Editor's Note: The good things we are able to enjoy as IBEW members — competitive wages, strong health and retirement benefits or respect on the job — depend in part on the decisions made by our elected officials — from the local level all the way to the White House.

We are not, and never have been, a partisan organization. But fights around things like upholding prevailing wage laws, stopping right-to-work or protecting health and safety regulations that keep us safe at work aren't partisan issues. They are life or death for our members and this union. And it would be irresponsible for any IBEW officer to stay neutral.

Your vote has been and will always be your personal decision. But as an organization that services our membership, we have a responsibility to look at where each politician stands on the issues that matter to us as IBEW members and to inform you on them.]

Stick with the Union

I was born in 1930, the 10th child of 12 siblings, eight boys and four girls. In 1936 my dad was working in the Works Progress Administration. There was a phosphate mine near our home in Alafia, Fla., and the employees were on strike because of unsafe working conditions and for better pay. There was an electrician who told my dad he was engaged to get married soon. My dad told him to stick with the union. He got killed the following week.

When Hoover was president, there were no jobs and no food; it was the beginning of the Depression. We were glad when President Roosevelt came into office. When I was 9, I helped pass out fliers at a rally. Most of my brothers and sisters could not get an education because they had to work to support our family. I went through the ninth grade and finished schooling to get my GED.

I still wanted to become an electrician. I was able to work on a permit for Barry Electric until I was able to get my "A" card. I took night classes for fiber optics, electrical switches, security systems, electrical motor controls and cable splicing. I firmly believe in union work.

Albert S. Johnson, Local 134 retiree
Lakeland, Fla.


Albert S. Johnson

IBEW_Facebook  From Facebook: Every month the IBEW Facebook page receives thousands of comments from our dynamic and engaged community of members and friends.

Keep Organizing

I was happy to read the article on about IBEW members rebuilding power lines in upstate New York. There you go folks! Another 2,000 jobs for line workers. The IBEW needs people to fill these calls. We have a massive electrician/line worker shortage in this nation, and every year we are falling behind in manpower. We need people to organize and spread the good word.

Michael Lee Rakes, Local 466 member
Charleston, W.Va.