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December 2023

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The Leather-Clad Solidarity of
the IBEW's Motorcycle Clubs

There are a lot of ways to foster solidarity in a union, and one of the most fun — and loudest — is with a motorcycle club.

"It's more about seeing your friends than anything else," said Chicago Local 134 member Dean Hinderman. "No matter where you're from or what your trade's specialty is, we're all just brothers and sisters when we go out riding."

While IBEW members have been riding together for decades, official motorcycle clubs and groups didn't come into being until 1995 when a few New York Local 3 members started one. Considered the "mother local of IBEW riding groups," it now counts almost 200 members among its ranks, said Stan Stade, a Local 3 retiree and the club's treasurer.

"It's unlike anything else in the entire union," said Stade, who handles the patches that locals get, usually with the time-honored lightning bolts and the local's state or number. "These clubs bring together brothers and sisters from all different backgrounds and expose them to all the aspects of this great organization. It's a true example of brotherhood."

Those early club days are thanks to former International President Edwin D. Hill, who by all accounts had a big influence on how they grew into what they are now, including having a hand in designing the original patch.

"Ed was a mainstay in the East Coast," Stade said. "It's good to see that there's a new regime who's picking up the ball."

Today there are more than 50 clubs in the U.S. and three in Canada, though each of those represent multiple locals from their respective provinces. East Coast rides that started with about 20 participants were getting close to 500 just before the pandemic.

The Midwest Solidarity Ride, held at the end of July, had 100 motorcycles this year, with about 140 participants from close to 20 locals, all riding together through the Ozarks despite 100-degree heat. Hosted jointly by St. Louis Local 1 and Kansas City, Mo., Local 53, the event was the second unionwide ride in the Midwest. The first took place in the IBEW's birthplace of St. Louis in 2022.

"It was such an amazing feeling to ride side-by-side with so many brothers and sisters all sharing the same passion for riding," said Local 1 Business Representative Chuck DeMoulin, who serves as treasurer of the local's motorcycle club. "Knowing that we were raising money to help others in need only made it all the more special."

A staple of just about every ride, whether local, national or international, is fundraising. This year's Midwest ride collected close to $9,000, which was split between the Ronald McDonald House in Kansas City, Mo., and The Women's Safe House, a domestic violence shelter in St. Louis.

Charity runs have long been a part of the IBEW riding community, said Edmonton, Alberta, Local 424 retiree Ray MacNeil, who also serves as the national president for riding groups in the First District.

"It used to be that bikers could tell you where all the bootleg liquor was. Now it's ice cream shops and charity fundraisers," said MacNeil, who received his 50-year pin in September.

MacNeil, who helped form the Alberta Crew, which has members from Local 424 and Local 1007 in Edmonton, took part in the first annual Canadian ride, held in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, just before the Midwest event this year. While it didn't attract as many members as its U.S. counterpart, MacNeil said there's no shortage of interest on his side of the border and he's working with locals across the country to set up charters of their own.

"It keeps me involved in the IBEW even though I'm retired," he said. "The union and the motorcycle rides are a big part of who I am. Besides, you never really retire from the IBEW. Not entirely."

Like MacNeil, Hinderman said he plans to keep up his involvement in the motorcycle rides even after he retires next year.

"They've reawakened a spirit in me," said Hinderman, who put 5,000 miles on his bike this summer. "These rides are some of the best things I've done in my 40 years in Local 134."

Local rides, between the bigger annual events, are an especially convenient way to keep that spirit alive all year long. Some locals have a ride almost every weekend, often attended by other locals. The only problem is squeezing them all in, said retired Local 3 Business Representative Jim Bua, who's been around since the beginning of Local 3's club and serves as an adviser.

"A lot of times, after working all day, you go home, you're tired, you don't always feel connected to the union. But on a run, it brings everybody together," he said. "It's a reminder that there are people like you who have the same hobbies. It's a great melting pot, just like the IBEW."

Hosting duties for next year's Midwest ride have been passed to Local 134 and the planning is already underway. Hinderman said they're working on a map that will list where all the riding clubs are and an app that will connect everyone and give them a quick and easy way to stay in touch in case anyone needs anything.

"It's all about safety," he said. "Your brothers are always watching out for you. You won't fall down without being caught."

Next year's Canadian ride will take its members to picturesque Banff in the Rocky Mountains.

"It's Ed Hill's vision coming through," MacNeil said. "We're spreading further and further throughout the U.S. and Canada. It goes back to what Henry Miller had in mind, too. I'd like to think that if he were around today, he'd ride a Harley."

The rides also serve as a de facto advertisement for the IBEW, and an impressive one at that, with members all riding together sporting their patches — union-made, of course.

"I always get this feeling of awe when I see motorcycles for as far as the eye can see," said Local 1 member Mike Crocker, who serves as his club's president. "It's pretty cool when you see people coming out of their houses and businesses to get a look at us and wave at all the motorcycles."

The bigger rides, like the Midwest Solidarity Ride, also come with off-the- bike opportunities for members to get to know one another. This year's ride included a stop for lunch at Redd's BBQ and Saloon, owned by a Local 53 member, and a banquet dinner with a raffle and prizes. Local 134 took home the award for having the most members, and MacNeil, who rode over 1,700 miles from Alberta, won the prize for having traveled the farthest. It's also something he did almost entirely in attire more commonly associated with the beach than a bike.

"I would say that about 4,000 miles out of my 5,107 this summer was in shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops," he said. "Even when it was it raining."

Hinderman noted that even when they were at a nice hotel with a pool, they opted for sticking close to their bikes.

"We're not really hang-out-by-the pool types," he said. "We're more hang-out-in-the-parking-lot guys."

Perhaps it's not surprising that a union and a motorcycle club gel so well together. They're both about solidarity and watching out for one another. And especially with a motorcycle ride, it can be a magnificent way to spend the day.

"It's a great experience. After a day of riding, you get to relax and have a meal with your friends, old and new, and sit around and tell stories," said Local 53 member Chad McGregor. "Not that all of them are true."





The IBEW's motorcycle clubs provide open-road solidarity for members across the U.S. and Canada. "We're spreading further and further," said Edmonton, Alberta, Local 424 retiree Ray MacNeil. "It goes back to what Henry Miller had in mind. I'd like to think that if he were around today, he'd ride a Harley."


Mike Crocker, St. Louis Local 1's riding club president, presents a check to the St. Louis Women's Safe House organization, one of two beneficiaries of this year's Midwest Solidarity Ride.