The Electrical Worker online
June 2023

From the Officers
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No Greater Friend

In the long history of the IBEW, there have been many U.S. presidents. Few of them have been our friends, however. Some refused our friendship outright, opening the Oval Office to corporate bosses instead. Some even sent the military after unions, turning American guns on working Americans.

Grover Cleveland was one of these. He ordered soldiers to bring down the 1894 Pullman railroad strike, just when IBEW founder Henry Miller was starting to organize. This was the first time the federal government intervened to break a strike. (It wouldn't be the last.)

Other presidents were less straightforward about their opposition to us. They promised their partnership, only to later close the door on our goals. We have seen presidents election after election promise bright futures to working people but fail to deliver when it counted. In fact, nearly every president, Democrat and Republican, has offered little to the working Americans who voted for them, outside of empty promises and half-hearted hopes.

But why bring up ancient history now? Why look to the past?

Because that history still lives today.

It's in the hollowed-out towns and left-behind factories we still see. It's clear when we look at the jobs shipped across oceans, the banks bailed out and the anti-worker policies as recent as 2018 — when President Donald Trump issued executive orders that limited collective bargaining rights and supported programs that forgave employers that violated wage laws. His boards even made it harder for janitors to picket where they worked, while making it easier for employers to search their workers' cars.

Trump may have shouted at rallies about how important working people were to him, but you don't have to look far to find his real friends: union-busting bankers and big business execs who grew up just like him.

But President Joe Biden has been the exception to this history. His father was a car sales manager who also cleaned boilers for a heating company. President Biden remembers bill collectors from the electric company knocking on his front door when he was a kid. Perhaps this is why President Biden stands out as the president who has done more than just vow to help working people. He has delivered real on-the-ground results that blue-collar people can see and feel in their lives.

These results didn't happen by accident. They were crafted by a president who invited the IBEW into his decision-making. Literally. In 2019, when he was still a candidate, Biden asked International President Lonnie Stephenson what the White House could do for the IBEW. He asked for an actual list.

We didn't hold back.

The long list we gave him spelled out how to rebuild this nation by focusing on working people. We asked for policies that would provide dignity and opportunity for all Americans. We asked him to secure prevailing wage, protect collective bargaining, uphold apprenticeship requirements and save the pensions working people deserve.

There's no other way to put it: President Biden checked every item off that list.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, worth $1.2 trillion, including project labor agreement language in more than $100 billion worth of federal agency grant programs.

The Inflation Reduction Act, growing the middle class with standards and incentives that ensure that more Americans have access to registered apprenticeships and high-quality union jobs, as well as tens of billions of dollars in grants and tax credits to help companies build out or expand facilities, reshore manufacturing jobs, and make new products for the clean economy.

The CHIPS and Science Act, bringing home modern manufacturing, like the production of semiconductors used in everything from cars to smartphones, with PLA preferences that attract developers to unions and give IBEW institutional leverage by advantaging companies that use PLAs.

Executive orders that increased the federal contractor minimum wage and overturned Trump-era orders that gutted federal unions and undermined IBEW apprenticeship programs.

Nominations of no fewer than 19 pro-union leaders to key roles and appointments, including two IBEW members!

And finally, the Butch Lewis Act, which not only kept pensions alive but kept them on track.

We got everything we asked for without pushback or compromise. No half-measures, no backpedaling, no bending to Congress or big business. No switching sides or straddling lines. The proof is in the pro-union policy, and there's no shortage of it when it comes to President Biden. This is how to be a real friend to labor and working people. This is what matters.

It's not that we don't appreciate how he says our name in nearly every speech. That's nice to hear. It's also a true honor that he and Vice President Kamala Harris show up to our training halls and jobsites. But as flattering as these gestures are, it's commitment on the House and Senate floors that counts. Plenty of presidents have given us photo ops and pretty pledges. It's legislation and policy that make presidents true friends.

Now it's time to hold up our end of this historic friendship. It's time to commit to vote for President Biden.

Of course, pro-union, pro-worker policies are not the only reasons we head to the ballot booth. There's a laundry list of important issues we care about that fall outside of union concerns. Some may line up with President Biden's agenda, some may not.

Despite this, the IBEW believes there are a few questions worth asking, regardless of where you fall when it comes to social issues. They are the questions that drive the IBEW every day: Will you be safe in the workplace? Will you earn what you are worth? Will your retirement be protected? Will working Americans like you have opportunities and keep their rights? Will they have a president who returns their votes with friendship? Who returns their list of demands with not an item overlooked?

The proof is in the policy, and the policies make it plain. Joe Biden has been a true friend to working people when and how it counts. He deserves your vote because working people need a friend in the White House. It's time to vote for President Biden. It's time to get started on our next list.



Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International President

Paul A. Noble

Paul A. Noble
International Secretary-Treasurer