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May 2020

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Jerry Westerholm

When Jerry Westerholm was finishing high school, he didn't know what he wanted to do when he grew up, but he knew he didn't want to milk cows anymore like his father and grandfather before him.

After a 40-year career in the IBEW, the last five as special assistant to the international president for construction, maintenance and business development, Westerholm retired at the end of March. Over the last two decades, he had a hand in nearly every major policy innovation in the IBEW's construction branch and the confidence and attention of the union's senior leadership.

And he never did milk another cow.

After telling his father that he didn't want to work on the farm, Westerholm said his dad suggested he become either a veterinarian or an electrician. Daunted by the potential of years of vet school, Westerholm chose electrician.

In the late 1970s, the only path into Minneapolis Local 292's apprenticeship went through the Dunwoody Institute, the nation's oldest private trade school. Westerholm enrolled and after classes wrapped up at 2:30, he and some of the other students went to work at a union panel shop until 8 p.m. More than 30 years later, Westerholm's oldest son Greg followed him, first to Dunwoody, then to the same panel shop and then into Local 292. His younger son, Tony, works at the International Office in Washington.

In his second year at Dunwoody, Westerholm went to work for a nonunion contractor. He didn't come from a family in the trades, let alone a union family, and he says he didn't really think too much about working nonunion at the time. But the contractor told him he should really join Local 292. So, he did in 1979, and nearly 20 years later, when Westerholm was business manager of Local 292, he signed that contractor to an IBEW agreement.

Soon after topping out of his apprenticeship, Westerholm began to rise in the local.

Starting with attending local meetings and helping out with the picnics, he soon joined the COPE and the examining board, and also served on the Executive Board. In 1989 he was hired as a business representative covering the city of Minneapolis, downtown, the parks and the University of Minnesota.

He was elected vice president of the state AFL-CIO in 1996, a position he held until his move to Washington, D.C., 14 years later.

In 1997, Westerholm was appointed Local 292 business manager and elected to the position the following year.

He assisted grassroots efforts in support of Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and the late Sen. Paul Wellstone and helped elect county commissioners and school board members who supported union labor.

Even though Local 292 had a small municipal workforce, Westerholm was selected to serve as co-chair of the labor side of the city's Labor Management Committee. The other chair was the city's chief of police, and Westerholm recalled that relationship fondly.

When Westerholm took over as business manager, Local 292 had 3,500 members. When he came to the International Office, it had 5,000. Timing was good — the local had a lot of work, including the record-setting Mall of America and a boom in commercial construction downtown. But it wasn't just that.

"We had an abundance of work, but we were very aggressive organizers," Westerholm said. "We advertised on the radio that we would give a $100 gift certificate to a local sporting goods chain for any licensed electrician to meet with one of our organizers, no strings attached."

He also helped negotiate a project labor agreement covering all work performed for the Minneapolis school district, a pact that is still in effect.

But being a business manager, Westerholm said, was the hardest job he ever had.

"It's the most stressful job in the entire IBEW. And I told that to [former International President Ed] Hill," Westerholm said. "Ed said, 'What about my job?' and I told him it was nowhere near as hard. He didn't like that much, but it's true."

One of the hardest parts of the job, he said, was showing the membership the value of the job you were doing. Even though he always ran unopposed, he never felt like what he was doing was clear to the members.

Don't confuse that with needing thanks. If you have met Westerholm, you know he is not the kind of man who loses sleep worrying about being liked.

"My son once said to me, 'Whether they like you or hate you, they fear you' and that's fair," he said. "But if we want to grow this union, we have to make bold moves. We always have, and it's still true. People who maybe underestimate what we're up against may not like that."

After 11 years in Local 292's office as a business representative and four years as business manager, Westerholm was appointed an international representative in the Construction and Maintenance Department and was assigned to help administer national agreements and process disputes over craft jurisdiction.

In 2007, then-Director Mark Ayers was elected president of the Building and Construction Trades, and he recommended Westerholm as his replacement. When Hill appointed Westerholm, he became responsible for the growth and future of the largest branch of the IBEW.

In 2015, Hill again turned to Westerholm to build the new Business Development Department. The plan had been to set up a completely new department outside of Construction and Maintenance, but Westerholm pitched keeping it all together as it grew.

The idea of focusing on business development was not new, he said. Lots of business managers did it, including Westerholm during his time at Local 292. But doing it at the international level, reaching out to the largest customers with the biggest projects in a coordinated nationwide effort, was different enough that Westerholm wanted to keep everyone moving in the same direction.

Hill agreed and Westerholm was appointed to a new position, special assistant to the international president for construction, maintenance and business development.

And now that Business Development has been running on its own for several years, the special assistant position retires with him.

"It's amazing how many business managers and business representatives are doing development work, but when I began a great number didn't know how to talk to customers," he said. "Now we have business development international representatives in every district and Director Ray Kasmark in Washington. In Ray and [Construction and Maintenance Department Director] Mike [Richard] we have steady hands."

For the last several years, Westerholm and retired Director of Outside Organizing Ed Mings have organized the IBEW's annual charity motorcycle ride, which brings hundreds of members out for a weekend every summer. He and Mings plan on mapping out this summer's ride — if it is unaffected by the global COVID-19 epidemic — but after that he said he plans on handing off the baton.

"I'll still come. Riding my motorcycle is one of my favorite things in the world. I'm just done organizing the thing," he said.

His only other plan right now is to spend as much time as possible motorcycling and hunting. Westerholm has been on the board of directors of the Union Sportsmen's Alliance and is proud to be Member No. 17 of the hunting and public service organization.

"I've known Lonnie for decades and Kenny and I are old hunting buddies. I want to thank them for the confidence they and Ed and J.J. Barry had in me," Westerholm said. "I have that confidence in my brothers and sisters out there. Organizing will solve nearly any problem we have."

The officers thank Brother Westerholm for his life's work building a stronger, smarter IBEW and wish him a long, healthy retirement.


Jerry Westerholm

Mike Emig

Retired Legislative Affairs Director Mike Emig died at his home in Laytonsville, Md., on Feb. 7 after a brief battle with cancer. He was 86.

"When you got my dad something, you better make sure it was made in the USA," said Mike Emig Jr., a journeyman inside wireman who followed his father into the brotherhood and New Orleans Local 130. "If you bought him something and it wasn't made in America, he wouldn't wear it. Everything he used was union-made stuff."

A native of Louisiana, Brother Emig joined Local 130 in 1952 and later topped out as an inside wireman. He worked on major projects in New Orleans and throughout the country as a traveler, but that didn't stop him from being active in his local union.

Emig served on the executive committee and as assistant business manager before being elected business manager in 1972, defeating an incumbent in the process.

The younger Emig said his father always was interested in politics but working as a traveler taught him the importance of building relationships. He spent time in New York and got to know several Local 3 officials, including meeting legendary Business Manager Harry Van Arsdale.

When New York's construction industry was struggling in the 1970s, the elder Emig made sure Local 3 members found work in New Orleans after Local 130 reached full employment, his son said.

"He was always socially conscious," Mike Jr., said. "That was his draw into politics."

In 1976, Elaine Emig — Mike Sr.'s wife and Mike Jr.'s mother — passed away due to cancer. The elder Emig accepted a position as administrative assistant to the Fifth District vice president and the family moved to Birmingham, Ala., so he could spend more time at home with Mike Jr., and his five siblings.

"He knew that he would be home every night," his son said. "My youngest sister was 10 at the time. The days of hitting the road were over."

Emig stayed in that position until moving to the International Office in 1985, first as director of the Council on Industrial Relations before taking on the legislative affairs position in 1987.

"He was very dedicated to what he was doing," said Robert Bieritz, who was the executive assistant to then-International President J.J. "Jack" Barry at the time and remained friends with Emig until his death. "That's a very difficult job, in my opinion, and Mike really handled it well.

"I know he was very well thought of on [Capitol] Hill. He got to know quite a few congressmen and senators. He was a heck of a nice guy and that was because he had a gift of communicating well with everybody."

Emig's son said that was evident in the way his father could get people with opposite views on most issues to find common ground on items important to the labor movement.

"He knew how to make connections and that was really his gift as far as politics," Emig Jr., said. "He always said, 'You can't get anything done if you can't get people to the table. We can disagree with each other when this is over, but right now, we need each other.'"

Emig retired in 1998. He is survived by his six children, 12 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and his second wife, Maureen, a retired International Office employee.

During his time in New Orleans, he was active in several local and statewide labor and political organizations, including serving as president of the Louisiana State Conference of Electrical Workers. While in Washington, he was president of the National Democratic Club.

Frank Emig, an older brother, also was a Local 130 member and served 22 years as the AFL-CIO's community services director, a role in which he was credited with drawing up policies to help the labor movement better deal with the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Frank Emig died in 1988 at the age of 62.

The officers and staff extend their condolences to Brother Emig's family during this difficult time.


Mike Emig

Douglas E. Wiegand

Retired international representative Douglas E. Wiegand died on Feb. 26 at his home in Avoca, Iowa. He was 80.

Wiegand was born on May 2, 1939, in Petersburg, Neb., but soon afterward his family pulled up stakes and moved to Avoca in southwestern Iowa. After graduating from Avoca High School, Wiegand briefly worked as a milk truck driver.

In 1959, he married his wife, Patricia, and the couple moved east across the state to Cedar Rapids, where Wiegand took a job at what is now known as Collins Aerospace. Back then it was Collins Radio Corporation and there Wiegand worked on the critical radio equipment that was specifically designed to support NASA's Apollo program, the multi-year effort to send humans to the moon and bring them back safely.

In 1960, Wiegand was initiated into Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Local 1362, which represents Collins' workers to this day.

Brother Wiegand quickly became active with his local and his adopted community. For Local 1362, he served on its job evaluation, education and strike committees, and from 1967 to 1970, he was assistant business manager. Wiegand also was a delegate to the Cedar Rapids Labor Assembly, and in his spare time he served as a board member of his local Citizens Committee on Alcoholism.

Wiegand proudly represented his local as a delegate to the IBEW's 29th international convention in Seattle in 1970, and later that year, then-IBEW International President Charles Pillard appointed him to the start of a long run as an international representative in Washington, D.C., where he started in the Research and Education Department.

The ever-curious Wiegand took classes on labor law, union leadership and other related topics at the Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, the universities of Iowa and Wisconsin and the George Meany Center for Labor Studies. Throughout the 1970s and well into the 1980s, he put that learning to good use by representing the IBEW in a variety of forums, such as the AFL-CIO's Industrial Engineering Institute in 1970.

He also was assigned by Pillard to serve stints as a grievance and arbitration instructor for Electrical Manufacturing System Council 2, which represented IBEW members working for Gould Electronics, and Council 3, which covered electrical workers at Western Electric and AT&T. And Wiegand was known to lecture from time to time on methods for controlling the costs of arbitration at several IBEW national telephone conferences, broadcasting and recording conferences and district progress meetings across the United States and Canada.

"He was a good guy," said Dale Dunlop, former executive assistant to International Secretary-Treasurer Jack Moore, who worked with Wiegand at the International Office. "I remember he did a lot of work in time study," he said, helping workers improve manufacturing techniques and set realistic and reachable production standards. Wiegand held an applicator certificate from the Methods-Time Measurement Association, and that led him to teach a number of MTM seminars at various IBEW conferences.

In 1983, the year before AT&T's Justice Department-mandated breakup, Wiegand sat on the IBEW/AT&T Occupational Job Evaluation Committee; three years later, he led a bargaining workshop for the AT&T workers in System Council EM-3. That same year, Pillard also appointed him to serve on the IBEW Founders' Scholarships Committee.

Pillard's successor, J.J. Barry, put Wiegand's wealth of knowledge to full use by moving him over to the Telecommunications Department in 1987. Two years later, IBEW stewards could catch Wiegand playing a role in a steward training video, or they could see him in person conducting construction-specific steward training or continuing to lecture on grievances and arbitration.

Brother Wiegand was known for pitching in wherever help was needed, whether it was raising money for the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department's Dollars Against Diabetes campaign or staffing the merchandise store at the IBEW's 100th anniversary International Convention in St. Louis.

In 1992, Barry appointed Wiegand to a one-year stint as director of special projects before moving him over to serve in the union's Purchasing and Inventory Control Department. Wiegand retired in 1994 and moved his family back to a simpler life in Avoca.

Dunlop recalled that Wiegand was an avid fisherman, and he pursued that passion in retirement, splitting his time between his grandchildren and fishing and hunting.

The officers and staff of the IBEW send heartfelt sympathies to Brother Wiegand's wife, Pat, and to his three children and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


Douglas E. Wiegand