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October 2019

From the Officers
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Power in Numbers

Last month, we celebrated the 125th official Labor Day in both the U.S. and Canada.

It was a day set aside to honor workers and the labor movement, and for many years it did just that. Politicians on the left and the right — even CEOs and Wall Street types — knew that North America's workers powered the mightiest economic engine the world had ever seen.

At some point, our political and business leaders lost sight of that, and they convinced a majority of Americans and a significant portion of Canadians that labor unions were the enemy. Unions hampered economic progress, they said.

What they really meant was that unions were the only thing standing between corporate special interests and billions more in profits, built on the backs of working people struggling to make a living. But they didn't mention that part, and a good number of people believed them.

But that tide is turning. In a recent Gallup poll, approval of labor unions in America was at a near 50-year high — 64% compared to 48% just a decade ago.

Now, why do you think that is?

Workers today are working harder than ever for a shrinking piece of the action. More and more are being misclassified as "independent contractors" so corporations can avoid paying benefits, and the billionaire class is spending like crazy to sideline unions from standing up to their hold on power.

In this issue, you'll read that workers' share of total economic output is at historic lows. Meanwhile, CEO pay has grown at a rate 78 times that of regular workers over the last 40 years.

Interestingly, the decrease in workers' share of the economy tracks pretty closely with the decline of organized labor. I, for one, am glad people are starting to notice.

At the end of August, we held our annual Membership Development Conference in Chicago, and I'm proud to report that our "A" membership is at an all-time high. We've scored some huge organizing victories recently at utilities and among public employees. The IBEW is strong — we've had six straight years of growth — and the changing public opinion toward labor is a big part of that.

Each of you has a role to play in that, too. When you display your union membership with pride, when you embrace the Code of Excellence and let your IBEW-pride shine through in the quality work you do, you're making it easier for the next generation of workers. When you tell young people about how the IBEW has improved your life or when you volunteer in your communities, you're showing the world what we in the labor movement stand for.

Keep it up. You're making a difference.

And for our sisters and brothers in Canada, there's one more way this month you can make a difference for working people in your nation. You'll read more in these pages, but I hope you'll take the upcoming federal elections on Oct. 21 very seriously. There's a lot at stake.

Thank you all for everything you do to help this union grow, thrive and continue to be a powerful voice for working families.


Also: Cooper: A Fair Economy Needs Unions Read Cooper's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President