IBEW 37th Convention

One union members report on the 37th Convention of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). This is unoffical and unsanctioned.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Thursday, 9/14/06 the Fourth Day

Notice: this was the penultimate day of the convention, hence I’m writing this from my sparse notes. Tonight, I need to pack because tomorrow is the last day. Pack, as in including the computer. So I won’t be able to update this day (from the published notes) nor publish the last day, Friday, until I return home from Chicago.

One speaker we heard from was Michael Morris of American Electrical Power, one of our employers. (Again, somebody with a different set of priorities than ours.) American Electric Power owns and operates power generation equipment and distribution lines. (Disclaimer: I know very little about this, sorry.) Anyway, he spoke of the plans the and the power generation plans. They include coal, gas, and nuclear and said that many people would oppose this. He stressed that we can’t conserve our way out of the energy crunch. He said alternative energy was useful, but couldn’t supply the anticipated growth.

He told one story: AEP gave their customers coupons good for a substantial discount on energy-efficient refrigerators. They had calculated how much to discount and how much impact this would have on the reduction of energy use – and it was a substantial reduction. However, it backfired. Energy consumption actually rose! Why? Everybody who bought the refrigerators put the old one out in the garage for beer and the overflow and now were powering two refrigerators in their home instead of one.

Then we heard from Peter Tighe, a labor leader from Australia, facing many of the same problems we are – the offshoring of labor and the outsourcing of manufacturing. Like the USA, there has been an ongoing problem with this and we face the same problems. Someone in the audience suggested we amalgamate with them. We are, after all, the INTERNATIONAL Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and we have locals in Canada. Maybe not a bad idea.

At the conclusion, he presented two Australian “Outback” hats to Bro’ Hill and Bro’ Jon. They both tried them on. Bro’ Ed said he thought he looked like Jed Klampett (of the Beverly Hillbillies) but I thought he looked a little bit like Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Arc.

Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labor Congress praised our commitment to organize and reminded us we have to be, and stay, organized internally as well in order to be effective.

One company that’s been around since the founding of the IBEW is Klein Tools. Still made in the USA, still preferred by electricians everywhere. Mathias Klein III, CEO of Klein Tools told us about the company and it how it was formed. Rarely is a company founded and last for more than two or three generations. Mr. Klein is the SIXTH generation to run the company! And an American company too.

Most of the day, though, was spent considering various resolutions from the Law Committee, the Resolutions Committee, and the Appeals Committee. If you think this type of convention is a “rubber stamp” for the decisions of the officers and the executive council of the International office in Washington you couldn’t be more wrong. This is a very democratic process, and very open, and any of the member delegates could speak up at any time.

First, the process: As I explained earlier, the hall was set up with various kiosks complete with a swipe-pad, a monitor, microphone and camera. ANY delegate could walk up to the kiosk, swipe their card which would identify them and their local. Select one four four buttons: Support, Oppose, Question and Point-of-Order, then wait to be recognized.

And there was opposition. One of the recommendations involved how delegates would be paid expenses future conventions. This got voted down. One proposal went to how nominations for delegates to other conventions would be chosen. This was followed by a spirited discussion and almost got voted down.

Here’s the procedure: First, the President asks for an Aye/Nay vote. If the result is inconclusive, the President asks for a ‘show of hands” of the delegates stand for a count. The Sergeants-at-Arms would conduct a count. If that wasn’t conclusive we would all march to the voting area, swipe our cards, and record our votes.

Rousseau, who was never a fan of representative democracy would have approved of this procedure. It’s very open, very democratic. If anybody thinks this is a dog-and-pony show and only happens to ratify what the officers have decided in advance, they are dead wrong.

The next convention is in five years. If you’re an IBEW member you should really consider running for Delegate to the National Convention.

Another resolution was offered to change the numbering of the Constitution to the Arabic numbers from the Roman Numerals used now. This was to simplify the document and make it easier to read. Guess what? This got voted down! I guess we have a lot of traditionalists in the IBEW. I thought this would be a routine vote, but it wasn’t.

One item of business troubled me. It was in the Appeals Committee report. It involved charges at the local level against officers. It involved (according to the factual statements) several members (17) all getting sick simultaneously together as the same time, on the job and going home. I will admit this is quite a coincidence. They were accused of causing a work stoppage.

There is a procedure for appeals in our Constitution. You can make a final appeal all the way up to the convention floor! These guys did, but their appeal was denied.

This bothers me. Yes, I agree the union cannot sanction a wildcat work stoppage during an agreement. But I don’t see how anybody can judge the degree of sickness of another individual. Saying “I’m sick” ought to fall under the First Amendments right to free speech. Even if 16 other guys are sick at the same time.

I didn’t speak up. Perhaps I should have rather than writing what I think in a blog. The convention floor was the proper place to have made known my feelings, but I didn’t. My bad.

I did, however, raise my voice on the convention floor. I wrote it out the night before, fidgeted and stalled during the morning session trying to work up the nerve to walk up to the kiosk and swipe my card. Madeleine and Jim neither supported nor discouraged me. I was actively discouraged from opening my big mouth by Bro’ Ro Wratchko, former Business Manager of Local 1220 and now some kindofa wheel in the International Office in Washington, DC. He didn’t want me to “rock the boat.”

But sometimes I get sofa king upset with what’s been happening in my industry and how my brothers and sisters in the TV racket are getting screwed I felt I had an obligation to speak up.

Herewith are my comments, at least as far as I wrote them. I don’t think (I hope!) I didn’t ad-lib too much. I really was very nervous about addressing my remarks to the International President and to the 2000+ delegates:

-----------Begin quote of text ----------------------------------------------------

Yesterday we heard about a television show on the Outdoor Life Network.

The day before that we heard about the need, and opportunities to organize.

In the old days, BC, “Before Cable” every one of the television networks was organized. Every major television station’s employees worked under a collective bargaining agreement.

Today, with the explosion of cable there are many new networks, some large and some small and very few if any of them operating with a union contract.

Today, with the cost of electronic equipment so cheap anybody can buy a couple of TV cameras and call themselves producers, production companies, contractors.

This has fractured and decimated our television industry. Competition has forced us to go along with practices such as at-will employees and members working part time and the erosion of our once jealously guarded jurisdiction.

Never mind the economic impact this has had on our members; we can always make that up when we get strong again. And we will get strong again. We will get strong again if we organize and bargain so that all the employers are leveled out and don’t compete on the basis of disparate pay and terms and conditions of employment that exist today in our industry.

There are American jobs, and American made products. America leads the world in exporting entertainment. It’s very difficult if not impossible to take the work of producing a sporting event, a news occurrence, a soap opera episode, or an entertainment extravaganza and export that to Bangaladesh or China.

When we get our organizing program up and running this is one industry ready to be organized. We, the members of Local 1220, and I will presume to speak for all of the other locals that represent broadcast employees, want to help and are willing to do whatever it takes to take back this industry, an industry once dominated by union workers.

It’s in our own best interests to do this.

Thank you for listening.

-----------End Quoted Text------------------------------------

I did receive a round of applause after this, and got a couple of thumbs-up after my little speech, so I don’t think I was too far out of line.

Bro’ President Ed Hill thanks me for my remarks and then he went on to say that he ENJOYED READING THIS BLOG!!!!

Which ought to be a lesson to anybody posting something on the internet: be careful of what you say. Be prepared to stand behind what you say. Sign your own name, which may help you to be more careful.

I got my shorts so twisted up today that I forgot to take any pictures!


Blogger Charlie Laskonis said...

Brother Bob:

Did have an opportunity to speak with Brother Hill? He is very accessible. He attend many of the events. You simply walk up to him and talk to him.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Bob Kastigar said...

No, I didn't, Bro' Charlie. Our paths never crossed. His comment about reading this blog just about sent me hiding under a rock!

I did get to meet Bro' Ed Wood and the list-mom, Al Shur tho. Besides you.

6:33 AM  

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