The Electrical Worker online
August 2023

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Profiles in Power

From political offices to civic boards, union voices matter. The members featured on this page represent hundreds, if not thousands, of IBEW brothers and sisters serving their states, provinces, counties, cities and communities. They speak for workers on vital issues that affect them every day.

"Often we talk about politics like it's something separate from us," International President Kenneth W. Cooper said. "Nothing could be further from the truth. Politics is shorthand for what happens at every level of public service that makes our lives better or worse. The more of us who run for office or seek appointments, the more power we have to tip the balance for unions, workers and working families."

Sylvester Taylor
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion,
IBEW/NECA Electrical Connection, St. Louis Local 1

Member of the St. Louis County Fire Safety and Standards Commission, Vice president of the Hazelwood School Board, Former member of the Missouri House of Representatives

"When I was first asked to serve on the Fire Safety Commission, I wasn't sure I wanted to do it, but my business manager did what they call 'voluntelling' and I ended up serving anyway. But after that, there's been a bug in me like you wouldn't believe. I haven't been the same since.

I realized that it's all about being able to have a voice in your community. I'm union to the core, but I'm also a Black man. I make sure that jobs go 100% union and that the people on the jobs represent the community where they're working. So, if you want me in office, you have to be willing to help me with that.

The IBEW taught me that power only recognizes power. You can't paint your kitchen from the street. You've got to be in the room when contracts get decided. Once I was elected, we built three new firehouses with 30% minority participation — and it was union. Last fall, we passed a $138 million bond issue, and that means that all three high schools in my district will get new stadiums and the work will be done by the IBEW and other unions.

Sometimes I wonder how in the hell I got here, but it's all been pretty cool. I'm in a position to effect change. And with me in office, others can go and fight somewhere else. The best part of the IBEW is that it prepares you for situations like this. There's no road map for it. But when you have passion, people see it. I am steadfast in the belief that you have to have a heart of servitude. I hang my hat on that. To be a servant is pretty important."


Cory Applegate, Colorado Springs, Colo., Local 113
City Council member, Fountain, Colo.

"During my apprenticeship about 10 years ago, an older member told me that if you want to help your local the most, run for public office.

I took that to heart.

I live in Fountain, Colo., a city of 31,000 just south of Colorado Springs. My father, Richard, has been involved in politics since our family moved here in the mid-2000s.

I served two years on the local planning commission, an appointed position, before deciding in 2021 that I wanted to run for city council. I had reached a point where I wanted to take my activism a step further. Instead of walking and talking for a candidate, I wanted to be a candidate.

I put my heart and soul into it, and I was elected to represent Ward 3 with 65% of the vote. It was a great honor made even better because I get to serve alongside my father, an at-large representative. It is a nonpartisan position, and I've been able to concentrate on bread-and-butter issues that are important to working families.

What I've found is that people are always open to the best option. Fountain is a conservative town, and people lean that way on social issues. But when it comes to local issues, that's irrelevant. It usually comes back to how you manage the taxpayers' money.

Even people who aren't necessarily fans of organized labor are receptive when I show them the benefits of union construction. If you do what is right in the citizens' eyes, social politics don't enter into it that much.

I am a Republican. I'm also a union member, and I don't think corporate greed is going away anytime soon.

What I would tell my IBEW brothers and sisters considering a run for public office is this: If you truly have a heart for it, you'll enjoy it, even on the rough days. When you go into meetings and activities and people are yelling at you, you'll still enjoy it. You'll want to serve people.

I love it and am running to be the El Paso County commissioner during the next election."


Michael Martell, Albany, N.Y., Local 236
Running for Rotterdam, N.Y., City Council

"I don't much care for politics. It is all so 'us and them.' I and a large percentage of the population don't want it to be that way. It is creating a wedge, and there shouldn't be.

In my mind, a stop sign is a stop sign, and Democrats, Republicans and Conservative Party members all enjoy driving on a well-paved road.

So, if you asked me a year ago, I would have said I wouldn't run in a million years.

No one is more surprised than me that I am not only running, but I won my first race, the Conservative Party primary for a seat on the Rotterdam, N.Y., City Council.

Since 2021, I have been serving on the Schenectady County Industrial Development Agency. When businesses are considering relocating to the area, the IDA throws out the red carpet. The local has had a seat on the board for years, and I took it over when the previous member retired.

It's good work. Important work. Development agencies across the country are often welfare programs for rich people, luring businesses with tax breaks and getting little in return. A union voice in the room keeps the focus on benefiting the whole community and building a sustainable workforce.

In February, the county Democratic Party asked me to run, and I had to think about it.

I like a challenge, and more importantly, I don't think we can turn down opportunities to have our collective voice heard.

I'm now endorsed by the Conservative Party and Democratic Party. People who are fed up with partisanship will see me on the ballot twice in November. I hope that means they will see me for who I am: someone who looks for common ground.

I have gotten a lot of support from the local, the building trades and the international, but most of my primary was focused on Conservative Party members. Now I won't have a walk list. I'm doing every door, nights and weekends, burning the candle at both ends."


Cory McCray, Baltimore Local 24
Maryland state senator

"I was accepted into Local 24's apprenticeship program just after my 20th birthday. By the age of 25, I had earned enough money working as a journeyman wireman to purchase seven homes, which I used as rental properties.

Yet I knew many young folks faced obstacles that are sometimes arbitrarily put in their way. I realized how blessed I was, getting into the apprenticeship program and changing my trajectory.

I went on to be a regional organizer in the Fourth District, where I worked with now International President Kenny Cooper. I tell people all the time that if you think running for political office is tough, try winning a union election. We had to do everything right to win. You couldn't make mistakes, and obviously, you're going to make mistakes in anything you do.

But that experience gave me a skill set that I brought to politics. I served on the Baltimore City Board of Elections from 2011 to 2013. I was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2014 and the state Senate in 2018, where I continue to represent northeast Baltimore.

Throughout my career, I've been an advocate for working people. In the Senate, I sponsored legislation that raised Maryland's minimum wage to $15 per hour, which became law after the Legislature overrode the then-governor's veto.

I helped pass legislation lowering the threshold that required contractors to pay prevailing wage. Previously, they had to pay prevailing wage if 51% was funded by the state. Now it's 25%.

Holding political office also gives you a bully pulpit. You can't be afraid to use it.

I'm a member of the Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee. CollegeBound Foundation is a terrific organization that assists Baltimore public high school students and receives funding from the state. I noticed it sponsored tours to colleges and universities — but not to apprenticeship programs, something that changed my life.

I mentioned to foundation officials that they should do so — and they agreed. Those students now are being exposed to world-class apprentice programs, including at Local 24.

What I tell everyone, including IBEW members, if they're considering a run for office is: 'If not you, then who?' Teddy Roosevelt was the president who talked about the man in the arena, and how important it was to get in the arena.

I now serve as the Senate's deputy majority whip, and I continue to serve on Local 24's Executive Board. I have a responsibility to make sure my local union continues to thrive because I benefited from it."


Pamela Cline, Anchorage, Alaska, Local 1547
Alaska Workers Compensation Board member

"I joined the staff at the union office in Anchorage in 2012. Soon after, I was asked if I would consider putting my name in to be appointed to the Workers Compensation Board. I had previously never considered anything of that nature. I assumed I wasn't qualified, nor did I really know anything about the board or the process. It can be intimidating, especially when you've never testified before a legislative committee or been interviewed by the governor's office.

There are nine labor seats and nine industry seats on the board. Once I was appointed and began serving, I quickly realized the important role that we on the labor side played. As a board member, I am part of a team that is responsible for injured workers and the benefits they receive. The decisions made by the board have long-term effects on those injured workers. It is my goal to make sure that they have access to the health care they need and the benefits they deserve.

Serving on a board and participating in any political process for me was a big step. If I had not been asked, I wouldn't have done it. I now know the importance of it and will continue to do my part for injured workers in Alaska, union or not.

My position at the union office allows me to participate on the board, and it gives the IBEW a voice at the table when it comes to workers' rights. All of the labor participants play a key role in protecting that, and I'm glad I can be a part of it."


Daniel Bukiewicz, Milwaukee Local 494
Mayor of Oak Creek, Wis.

"Everything I needed to know to be a good mayor I learned in the IBEW. When you work for a contractor, you're the face of the union and the company. You learn how to see a project through. And you know that if you're behind a desk, you're not really working.

I've been mayor of Oak Creek since 2017. We are a fast-growing suburb just south of Milwaukee. I've been a member of Milwaukee Local 494 since 1987, and in about 2006, I looked at my town and you couldn't get a pizza delivered. Nothing was being built here. There were brownfields on the lakefront. Developers wouldn't work here. The city made it too difficult to build.

I began thinking, 'We need more.' The land is too valuable. We need a real tax base here.

When my alderman decided not to run again, I thought I could be the voice to get things going.

While I was alderman, I became a business representative in the local, and then in 2014 I was appointed president of the Milwaukee Building & Construction Trades Council.

I found I really liked being an alderman. When you get into these positions, you can reeducate the other electeds. Most people, Joe Average Guy, don't know our world. Few understand the value of highly trained building trades. But when millions of tax dollars are at stake, we want predictable outcomes when we build things, and that comes through trained tradespeople.

We have a good story to tell, and education became a huge part of that.

All politicians say they are for the working guy. Even the Republicans say that. The bottom line is you have to tell them why it is good to work with union workers and their training.

If you're not there, you can't do it.

Power is being in a position to make changes, to correct something that isn't right or to find a path forward for working people.

And then you get like-minded people on the important boards, and 15 years later you wind up running the city."


For pointers on how to run for office yourself, see 5 Steps for IBEW Members to Run for Office and contact the Government Affairs office at 202-728-6046.