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June 2021

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A Victory for Solidarity

Sisters and brothers, last month I wrote to you about the meaning of brotherhood and our responsibility to look out for our fellow IBEW members.

Today, I want to talk about our role in the greater labor movement.

We talk a lot about solidarity, about sticking with our fellow union members when they're in a fight. Usually, that means not crossing picket lines, buying union-made products or refusing to buy products made by companies mistreating their workers.

But we recently stood together with our brothers and sisters from other unions and achieved a major victory for working people all across the U.S.

I was proud to serve the last few years as chairman of the AFL-CIO's Retirement Security Working Group, which was focused on saving the multi-employer pension system in the U.S.

Through no fault of their own, some of our closest allies in the labor movement had pension funds that were in deep trouble. As their industries declined, there wasn't enough money coming in to make sure their retirees could have the retirements they'd worked their whole lives for.

Now, some on the right tried to paint this as unions failing to protect their members. But let me tell you what it really was: government failing to take care of its citizens by helping billionaires and CEOs get richer while retirees got stuck with nothing.

Well, I'm pleased to tell you that the very first thing President Biden and a Democratic House and Senate did in power was to come through for those retirees. We'd been pushing Mitch McConnell and President Trump for years to take care of these working men and women through a bill called the Butch Lewis Act. Because the consequences of doing nothing threatened all of our hard-earned pensions, even the healthy ones here at the IBEW.

Those pleas were ignored for far too long while those retirees faced huge benefit cuts.

But because unions stuck together, never let up and worked so hard to put allies into office last November, we came out on top with the swipe of President Biden's pen on March 11.

That's solidarity, brothers and sisters. Not only did we make sure those retirees, who had stayed up nights worrying for years, got what they'd rightfully earned, but we eliminated the single greatest threat to all of our multi-employer pensions had those plans gone bankrupt.

Over the next few months, we have more fights — getting the PRO Act and President Biden's infrastructure package through the 50-50 Senate, for starters — and we need you to stand with us and with the broader labor community.

Together, we can achieve huge things. Just ask those retirees who are breathing a little easier today.


Also: Stephenson: Investing in Us Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer