The Electrical Worker online
September 2023

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IBEW Built, IBEW Made

For generations, "Made in America" was a source of national pride. And nothing beat a Made-in-America label with a union bug.

Many of you aren't old enough to remember those times, the heyday of U.S. manufacturing before the race to the bottom began in the 1970s.

Everywhere you looked, greedy corporations were shutting down factories and the family-sustaining union jobs they provided that supported tens of millions of Americans. Politicians in both parties helped them do it, passing the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade pacts that had devastating consequences. Not only did the wealthiest companies ship our work to the cheapest labor markets possible, but they also walked away with tax breaks on their skyrocketing profits.

But now, practically overnight, the outlook couldn't be more different. A modern manufacturing boom is happening right before our eyes.

As you'll read about in this edition of The Electrical Worker, makers of advanced technology like semiconductors and batteries for clean energy storage are investing hundreds of billions of dollars in new and expanded factories. That includes production lines for millions of electrical vehicle chargers that IBEW electricians will be installing and maintaining nationwide for decades.

Unlike 20, 30 and 40 years ago, these companies are building the factories right here in America.

That wouldn't be happening without President Joe Biden's agenda putting American workers first. The investments and tax incentives that he and partners in Congress fought for are luring employers to create jobs here.

More than 800,000 manufacturing jobs have been added already in Biden's first 2½ years. Massive building sites are employing tens of thousands of IBEW members, with no end in sight for job growth.

Major projects include new Siemens plants in Texas and California and a new assembly line for wind turbine maker Ingeteam in Wisconsin, as these IBEW employers dive into the EV charger market. In Syracuse, N.Y., Micron is building a $100 billion campus of semiconductor plants. Intel is making similar huge investments in Ohio and Arizona.

My message to manufacturers is simple: If you trust us to build your factory, trust us to work in it, too. Through these projects and many others, there will be career-long work for IBEW members. If, that is, we can fill those jobs.

I can't say it enough: It is up to every one of our locals to make sure that our organizing and apprenticeship programs are keeping up with the vast and increasing demand for IBEW labor.

I don't care if you're a business manager, rep, local staff or rank-and-filer. I'm asking every one of you to commit to bringing in new brothers and sisters.

If you know someone working in nonunion construction or someone considering a career in the trades, talk to them. Volunteer at job fairs or speak to high school students about the benefits of union membership when your work schedule permits it.

I've set a very aggressive growth goal: 1 million IBEW members within five years. I'm proud to say we've got 700,000 active members now, more than we've had since the '70s. Back then, the majority of our ranks were in manufacturing. I don't have to tell you that hasn't been the case in a while.

But now that America's mighty production potential is being unleashed, we are right there at the center of it. Let's organize the work and build a bigger, stronger IBEW for the next generation.


Also: Noble: Celebrate, Then Organize Read Noble's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International President