The Electrical Worker online
May 2020

From the Officers
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Solidarity Amid Crisis

The foundation of a strong union is solidarity — the ability of our union sisters and brothers to stand together as one to overcome all the challenges in our way.

And the true test of solidarity doesn't come when times are good. The real test occurs when times are tough, and times don't come any tougher than they are right now.

The rise of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has led to an unprecedented health crisis facing the entire planet, risking millions of lives and putting us all at risk.

As we write this column in early April, we have no idea how long or how devastating the effects of the coronavirus will be on North America. Our prayers are that they will be limited.

But even now, it's clear that COVID-19 is wreaking havoc, not just with people's lives and health, but with the economy as well.

This virus has already ended the longest bull market in history, sending stocks plummeting and leading to a massive surge in layoffs as businesses shut down in keeping with government orders.

Like nearly every other crisis, from natural disasters to economic crashes, working people have been on the front lines.

Whether it's medical personnel treating a tidal wave of patients in need, service workers who lost jobs and paychecks with little or no warning or government employees rushing to tackle further spread of the virus, working people are taking the risks and feeling the pain of the coronavirus epidemic.

In the IBEW, our members are running the plants and repairing the lines that keep power flowing. We're building and maintaining hospitals and critical infrastructure. Our members are hard at work on manufacturing lines and maintaining the phone and internet systems to keep people connected to work and family. We're broadcasting important information about this pandemic to our neighbors and communities and maintaining the rail infrastructure that moves critical goods and resources to the places that need them. Working people are the heroes of this crisis.

Thank you to each of you for everything you've done to help our two nations navigate this crisis.

Some of you had no choice but to keep working despite the risks to you and your families. Some of you have had to stay at home, following the government guidelines. And we know that some of you are dealing with the real pain of unemployment.

Economically, this is the biggest challenge we've faced since the 2008 recession, and we still don't know how severe the damage will be or how long it will last.

But the IBEW has faced similar crises in the past and pulled through. As a union we are more prepared than ever before to make it through this new crisis.

Thanks to our strong Membership Development program, we have the growing numbers to ensure that we'll remain strong even in a weak economy. And because of that growth, plus wise and prudent investments on our part, our benefits programs are stronger than ever and will be there to help members in need.

Our commitment to the Code of Excellence and strong labor-management partnerships mean that we're working productively with our employers to navigate these troubled times. Since the very beginning of this pandemic, we have worked with many of our employers to ensure that IBEW members don't bear the brunt of this economic crisis, and there are a number of companies that have involved us in big decisions in the last month.

Our priority, of course, is the safety of you and your families. That's why we signed an emergency agreement with the National Electrical Contractors Association to help all our construction members work safely and avoid unnecessary risks.

IBEW locals across the U.S. and Canada canceled in-person meetings and gave members the option of paying dues and resolving other union business online or over the phone.

And we continue to encourage every member to follow CDC and Canadian government guidelines when it comes to social distancing and workplace safety.

A social and economic crisis of this magnitude requires a strong response by elected officials at all levels of government, and the IBEW has been instrumental in lobbying for legislation that prioritizes the needs of working people and small businesses, demanding more paid sick leave, easier access to unemployment benefits and direct financial assistance to those most in need. We're still pushing for more assistance in both the U.S. and Canada.

Like everything we do in the IBEW, it's you, our members, that make it possible. Only by sticking together and standing by every single one of our brothers and sisters can we as a union continue to move forward.

These are uncertain times. But there is one thing we can be certain of. And that's the power of IBEW solidarity. So, please, brothers and sisters, take care of yourselves, take care of your families, and take care of each other.

We will get through this. And in the end, we can feel confident that by staying true to our values as union members, the IBEW will come out even stronger than before.

Edwin D. Hill

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer