The Electrical Worker online
January 2020

From the Officers
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2020: A Year to Build on Successes

A resolution is only as good as your follow through, so as we announce our goals for 2020, it's worth looking back on the resolutions we made a year ago.

Last January, we asked you to redouble your commitment to organizing and the Code of Excellence, and for the sixth year in a row our membership has grown. The Code of Excellence is bringing in new contractors, new contracts and more work. We are larger and more financially secure than we have been since before the devastating recession a decade ago.

We also asked you to be ready to step up and call your representatives to protect our rights, wages and benefits from political attacks. And you answered that call.

When your union needed you, you showed up. In state and provincial capitals and in Washington, D.C., and Ottawa, there are hundreds and thousands of special interests clamoring to be heard. Many of them have more money than we do.

When we act together, for one another, our small voices become great, and all the money and power in the world has to sit up and listen.

And this year, in many places they tried their hardest to get us on our knees. We faced an unrelenting assault on the rights of working people to respect and safety on the job and a dignified retirement after our working days are over.

And you showed up.

At the beginning of the year we fought off a plan that promised to rescue a handful of at-risk pensions but by gutting the rest.

In the middle of the year, we called on you again to save the crown jewel of the construction industry, our unequalled apprenticeship system that turns out the best trained, most productive and best paid electrical workers in the country.

Tens of thousands of you wrote in about what those apprenticeships meant to you. We highlighted just a handful for our Thanksgiving issue.

So, before we look ahead to our resolutions for the new year, you should take pride in all we accomplished in the one just past.

And now, we go again.

As November ended, Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee put forward a plan that doubled down on the abject pension reform we killed last year and somehow found a way to make it worse.

As you know, there are a handful of multiemployer pension plans that are in trouble. Unlike the banks, they did nothing wrong, but without immediate congressional action — the bipartisan Butch Lewis Act is sitting there for them to pass — those few plans could take down the pension insurance program called the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

But Grassley and Alexander's plan — again — doesn't save the ship; it tosses the passengers overboard. Not only that, it taxes your pension benefits by up to 10% more. You already paid income taxes on your pension once. Now they're back for more.

Their plan then jacks up expenses for healthy pension plans like ours by nearly 500%, up to $2 billion a year.

The most cynical part of this plan is that it doesn't even save the pension system. It keeps the wounded plans alive but doesn't heal them, and it weakens every other plan at the same time by saddling us, and us alone, with the bill.

Not a single banker gave up a single dollar to right the economy they nearly sank back in 2008. They stuck us with the bill then too.

We need you to call your senators today and tell them to kill the Grassley-Alexander attack on the multiemployer pension system. Call 844-551-6921 to talk to your senators right away.

But remember, as we look to the year ahead, we are stronger than we were last year. There are more of us than there were last year. We have more practice fighting together than we did last year.

And this is an election year where the Supreme Court, worker safety, labor rights and the labor movement itself hang in the balance for at least a generation.

I hope your resolution is to fight even harder for yourself and your family. Our resolution is to do everything we can to support you to speak even more powerfully.

The holidays are over. We hope you enjoyed some welcome rest with your family and friends. It's time to get back to work.

Edwin D. Hill

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer