This special issue of The Electrical Worker has a singular focus.
We know that for many members, politics and the particulars that go into legislation and policymaking are the last thing they want to hear about.
Partisanship and division are at an all-time high, with the loudest and most extreme voices in the mainstream media and online getting the most attention.
So, it’s no surprise that some of you would rather tune out.
But while you might ignore politics, politics won’t ignore you. This is something we have both learned over the course of our long IBEW careers.
It is a lesson that generations of IBEW and other union members have learned ever since the dawn of North America’s labor movement.
Samuel Gompers, the first president of the American Federation of Labor, was known for his efforts to steer the labor movement away from partisan entanglements and political schemes. He fought to ensure labor’s total independence from any party or politician.
But he still understood that unions had an obligation to fight for their members on all levels. And that meant fighting for labor’s issues at all levels of government.
Gompers knew that unions couldn’t grow if the laws of the land worked against them. That is why the AFL started the first union scorecards, so members could see where each lawmaker stood on the issues that matter to labor. It’s a tool we still use today, and we encourage you to visitto see how your House member and senators deliver on our priorities.
At his time, the big issues were the eight-hour work day, child-labor laws and winning the right to strike. Today, key issues for labor include prevailing wages, pension protection, and expanding the right to organize and collectively bargain.
The issues may change, but our fundamental approach to politics remains the same. It’s not about partisanship for the IBEW. It’s about getting results that boost workers’ rights, create good union jobs and give workers a place at the national table.
When a politician signs a law that attaches some of the strongest pro-worker, pro-union regulations ever to all new federal infrastructure spending, as Joe Biden has, then it’s crucial we support him.
When politicians try to chip away at our benefits, attack our rights, and slash health and safety regulations — like when Texas lawmakers abolished mandatory water breaks for construction workers — it’s on us to beat those politicians at the polls.
It would be a dereliction of duty as IBEW leaders to do anything less.
That is why the IBEW has been active in politics since 1891 and why we continue to be. And we will continue to stand by our friends and work against those who try to harm our mission.
But that’s not all. We will also continue to fight to elect more IBEW members to higher office because no one knows our issues better than our members.
For example, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Local 2085 member Daniel Blaikie, elected to Canada’s Parliament in 2015, is working with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to help transition fossil fuel workers into good jobs in the clean energy sector.. (There is a if you are curious about running yourself.)
Let’s be clear. Politics is a messy business. But we have no option but to get involved because no one else will do it for us. Big corporations and anti-union lobbyists work day and night to make it harder for us to organize and grow. They are spending millions of dollars to eradicate unions altogether.
We are not about to let them have the field to themselves.
Every piece of anti-worker legislation, from right-to-work to restrictions on the right to organize and collectively bargain, is a direct attack on your wages, your benefits, and your future.
As always, your vote is your choice alone. We will never tell anyone how they should vote or what they should believe. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all have a home in the IBEW.
But we will always be straight with the facts and inform you where each politician stands on the issues that directly impact you, your job, and the IBEW. Our recommendations are purely based on our policy priorities.
That is what this Electrical Worker is about — giving you the information you need to make an informed decision come Election Day.
You owe it to yourselves and all your brothers and sisters to take the time to study it carefully. Become an educated union member. Then, regardless of whom you choose to support, make your informed voice heard by voting.
Not just because you are IBEW members but because you are citizens of two of the greatest democracies and nations in the world. So many have given so much to ensure that we enjoy the right to vote, so please exercise that right.
A strong labor movement is vital to maintaining a healthy democracy, and we are committed to enriching our democracies by continuing to build a stronger IBEW.
Our members live in nearly every community throughout North America. For more than 130 years, we have been active in all of them, fighting not just for us but for all working families.
That is what politics means to us. We will continue to focus on what it takes to keep our place at the table and make things better for all. Ultimately, this focus is your power.