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September 2017

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Ken Woods

The IBEW is saddened to report that former First District Vice President Ken Woods died peacefully in his hometown of Guelph, Ontario, on July 6. He was 82.

After playing goaltender in Canadian junior hockey, Brother Woods was initiated into Kitchener, Ontario, Local 804 in 1956 as a journeyman wireman. He transferred his membership to Guelph Local 548 in 1960.

He immediately took over as recording secretary before being elected president and later business manager. He was appointed an international representative by then-First District Vice President William Ladyman in 1972, servicing utility and manufacturing members in Ontario. (Local 548 was amalgamated into Toronto Local 636 in 1977.)

Woods accepted an administrative position in the district office in 1975 and was named administrative assistant to then-First District Vice President Ken Rose in 1985. Rose retired two years later and then-International President J.J. Barry appointed Woods as his successor. He was elected to the position at the 1991 International Convention in St. Louis and re-elected at the 1996 convention in Philadelphia before retiring in 1997.

"I sat in many officers' meetings with him and he was the real deal when it came to concern for the workers," former Second District vice president and International Executive Council member Frank J. Carroll said. "We should have had him recorded so that not only the officers, but our Canadian brothers and sisters, could see firsthand how much he really cared about them."

Greg Woods said his father was the inspiration for him to enter the trades. The younger Woods has been a member of Local 804 for 30 years.

"He spent many hours and days learning everything he could about the IBEW and its bylaws," Woods said. "He became something of an expert in interpreting the union's constitution. He was devoted to his family and his Catholic faith.

"I chose to follow in my father's footsteps because I recognized how being a union member had empowered him personally and as a leader on a national stage. Our dad taught our entire family the importance of the union movement and was proud to do so."

Woods was instrumental in forming the IBEW's Ontario Utility Council and served as its first president and secretary-treasurer.

He also was nationally recognized because of his labor expertise. In 1990, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed him to the Economic Council of Canada, providing advice on ways to grow the Canadian economy.

Derek Woods, another son, said his father took pride in being selected by Mulroney, the leader of a conservative government that wasn't always viewed as friendly to labor.

"It was a very high level of recognition at that time," he said.

He also served on executive boards for the Canadian Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress. During an active retirement, he was an arbitrator in jurisdictional disputes at the Canadian office of the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department and a charter member of the Local 804 retirees club.

Derek Woods said his father had been in failing health for about two years, but 2016 was still a special year. He earned his 60-year pin for IBEW membership and celebrated his 60th anniversary with his wife Eileen, his high school sweetheart.

"My dad's two biggest achievements would be his marriage to my mom and his commitment to the IBEW," Derek said.

Derek said he remembers his father spending countless hours well into the night at his home office studying IBEW policy and labor law.

"He was the consummate self-made man," his son said. "He did not have a mentor. He had to figure things out himself."

Woods is survived by his wife; sons Derek, Greg and Kevin; daughter Colleen Davies; and eight grandchildren. The IBEW officers, members and staff extend their deepest sympathies to his family.


Ken Woods

Michael J. Kwashnik

Effective Aug. 1, International Representative Mike Kwashnik has been appointed director of the Council on Industrial Relations, Bylaws and Appeals Department, replacing Darrin Golden, who was promoted.

Brother Kwashnik grew up in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in the heart of union country, but joining the IBEW was never his plan. "My parents were middle-class people — my father managed a car lot and my mother was a nurse — and the schools pushed most students in the direction of college," he said. "So that's exactly what I did."

After graduating from King's College with a Bachelor of Science in business administration, Kwashnik landed a job with a nonunion construction firm doing estimating and running crews. But as crew sizes grew, he found it hard to find good people.

Meanwhile, his younger brother, David, had completed an electrical training program and gone to work as a nonunion electrician at a large local firm. But David saw the benefits of union membership and worked to organize that company into Wilkes-Barre Local 163.

"David started as a second-year in the apprenticeship program, and he started talking to me about everything the IBEW had to offer," Kwashnik said. "I didn't know much about unions, but I could see the IBEW had much more to offer me as a career path."

After completing his apprenticeship with Local 163, Kwashnik traveled for several years, chasing the booms, but after buying his first home, the bottom dropped out of the construction industry.

"A bunch of us ran out of unemployment and had to tap our annuity to make ends meet," he said. And that's when he began to get involved more actively with the local. "I wanted to do everything I could to prevent that kind of thing from happening to my brothers and sisters."

In 2004 he was elected treasurer of the local, and in 2006 he went on staff as a business agent. The next year he was appointed business manager, a job he held through several elections until 2015.

As business manager, Kwashnik flexed his political muscle, helping put allies into office and securing project labor agreements across the jurisdiction. He served as treasurer of the Luzerne County Democratic Party during that time. He was also a trailblazer in using alternative classifications to get work signatory contractors would have otherwise struggled to win. A 1.6-million-square-foot Lowe's distribution center in 2008 was one of the first projects in Pennsylvania to be built using new crew mixes.

"You have to be aggressive," he said, "especially with developers who bring in traveling nonunion workforces."

In 2015, then-International President Edwin D. Hill asked Kwashnik to move to Washington to take a job as an international representative in the Construction and Maintenance Department. There, he worked on the National Maintenance Agreement, General Presidents' Project Maintenance Agreement, National Construction Agreement and the Nuclear Mechanic Apprenticeship Program. He also built the IBEW's Davis-Bacon tracking program to ensure prevailing wages reported by locals were posted as required by the U.S. Department of Labor. His work has dramatically improved the department's compliance with the law, boosting wages for workers on government construction projects.

In his new role, Kwashnik will oversee the Council on Industrial Relations, a program for IBEW locals and signatory contractors to settle disputes. His department also processes all bylaws changes submitted by locals and any appeals to the international president or election disputes.

"It's a big job," Kwashnik said, "and Darrin [Golden] has been a tremendous help in this transition. He's just such a wealth of knowledge, and I'm lucky he's only moving down the hall to assist International Secretary-Treasurer [Kenneth W.] Cooper."

Kwashnik expects to settle into the new job quickly. "It's like when I became a business manager," he said. "You jump in with both feet and you get to work for the members of this great union."


Michael J. Kwashnik