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April 2021

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A Hope-Filled Start

By the time you read this column President Joe Biden will have completed just over two months in office. And I'm happy to report he's following through on the promises he made to working men and women during his campaign.

Last month, we told you about some of the incredible hiring decisions he's made, including Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Los Angeles Local 11's own Jennifer Kropke, whom he hired to make sure good union jobs are a top priority at the Department of Energy.

As I'm writing this, President Biden is preparing to sign a bill that will pump $1.9 trillion into the nation's struggling economy, including direct payments to many Americans and a lifeline for struggling cities and states, many of which employ our IBEW sisters and brothers.

In February, I was invited to the Oval Office with some of my counterparts from other unions, and I have to tell you, I'm more hopeful than I've been about the future of our country and the labor movement than I've been in a long time.

You see, Joe Biden gets it. Like us, he came from a working-class family. He watched his father make hard choices to put food on the family's table, and he grew up knowing the value of hard work and sacrifice. He learned early on about the power of unions to lift up people who would stand no chance if they had to stand alone against corporate power and greed. And during the campaign, he promised to be "the most pro-union president you've ever seen."

As we sat there in the White House and he laid out his agenda for a long-awaited infrastructure package, I felt that promise powerfully. Because when Joe Biden says that the work of revitalizing America's roads, rails and bridges, ports and airports will be done union, he means it. When he says IBEW members will be the ones to prepare our energy grid for the next 100 years, he's not just shooting off at the mouth.

When a member of his Cabinet looks a dozen automakers in the eyes and tells them that their next-generation factories and charging networks will be built by union hands, I'm filled with hope. Because I've never seen that before. Not from Republican presidents. Not from Democratic presidents.

The jobs President Biden is talking about are the kind that can take a wireman from first-year apprentice to retirement. The manufacturing jobs he plans to create with his "Buy American" and supply chain executive orders are the sort that will provide for a middle-class life and a secure retirement.

That doesn't mean every decision will go our way, not by a long shot. But Joe Biden cares about working men and women to his core, and he believes in the power of unions just as strongly. And that's a heck of a reason to feel hopeful.


Also: Cooper: Pensions Prove Who Our Friends Are Read Cooper's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President