|I’ve traveled all over North America in the past 12 months, and I’ve met a lot of people who were eager to put 2017 in the rearview mirror.
But before we bury it, there were plenty of wins we can build on and valuable lessons that will make this Brotherhood stronger.
First, we welcomed 60,000 new members to the IBEW. That makes four years running that our Brotherhood has grown. A-membership is at an all-time high.
There were spectacular successes: 1,400 workers at Baltimore Gas & Electric, 400 freelance sports production workers in New England and more than 2,000 DirecTV workers all joined our ranks.
But as big as these victories were, together they were only about 6 percent of our total growth. Most of our wins were the result of a humbler persistence spread across the continent, 10 to 30 workers at a time.
We’re also delivering for new members after they join. Just one example: in 2016 we won one of the largest organizing victories in the South when workers at Electrolux’s Nashville, Tenn., plant voted to organize. In 2017, we signed their first contract. I can’t overstate how this contract will change their lives or the seismic shock it sends to workers across a part of the country where unions have long struggled.
The IBEW is built on the idea that our members do best when our employers are successful, and we have a partnership built on trust and respect. So I am proud to have renewed contracts and relationships this year with some of our oldest partners, including CBS, Exelon and Florida Power & Light, to name just a few. We even recently recorded a commercial with AEP CEO Nick Akins lauding the benefits of working with the IBEW and using the Code of Excellence.
But some of the best news I get each year is hearing how our members lift their communities. Sometimes the scale is huge, like the tens of thousands of utility members that pulled Houston, Miami and the Caribbean back into the light after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Other times, though we may touch fewer lives, the gratitude is just as deep, like when a handful of St. Louis Local 1 members stepped up and saved Little League for dozens of young players.
Even in the world of politics, where news for union members and working families has been grim, we still had some successes. We beat back right-to-work legislation in New Hampshire. Dozens of IBEW members around the U.S. and Canada were elected to office. We saved project labor agreements for government-funded infrastructure in many states, counties and cities. And in Illinois and New York we helped pass legislation that kept carbon-free, reliable nuclear energy plants operating, saving thousands of IBEW jobs.
Even with all these successes, no reasonable person would look around and think we were in the clear. We gained 60,000 members, but lost tens of thousands to layoffs, outsourcing, right-to-work and retirements.
This year, we have seen that persistence pays off, that we can win victories big and modest and we should be unstoppable going after both. 2018 will bring more challenges, and with the mid-term elections in November, even more opportunities to improve the lot of working families. It’s good to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. But it’s a new year now, and we have work to do.
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