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

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Tuesday, 9/12/06, the second day

Arose early, went down for the free continental breakfast in the eating area. Waffle, didn’t turn out to good but I didn’t want to starve at the convention.

We started promptly at 9 AM, with another invocation, then got down to business right away. A few more guest speakers.

One of them was Lou Dobbs of CNN business fame. And he agreed to take questions from the audience. Good speaker, and outside the mainstream of ordinary business reporters. He admitted that he originally supported NAFTA but has since come to regret his mistake. He blamed both the Democrats and Republicans for failing to come up with meaningful labor and environmental protections, which they promised to negotiate. His insight was warmly received.

Another speaker, E. Milner Irvin is the President of the NECA – the National Electrical Contractors Association. As you can imagine, he was received politely but didn’t get a standing ovation. He’s a third-generation owner of an electrical contracting company based in the south. He was interesting, and tried to bring out problems that were facing the construction industry – problems that are going to impact members of the IBEW. He pointed out the need to address the problems head-on, that minor skirting around the edges wasn’t going to cut it. I had to give him credit, kinda like walking into the lion's den.

We heard from Ed Sullivan of the AFL-CIO Building and Trades Department. He said the AFL-CIO didn't favor gun control, because they knew many of our members hunted and fished. Rousing Applause! He told about the AFL-CIO stance on drug testing. Silence.

Another guest speaker was Matthew Caufield, retired Marine Corp Major General talking about the H2H, or Helmits to Hardhats program. Returning military are courted and given entrance into the IBEW to make the transition back to civilian life easier. He told us of the many testimonials. So far it seems as if this is only an IBEW program. He got pretty emotional about it, which is unusual for a former marine. This is a very important, and worthwhile program. Many of the participants in the program said they missed the closeness of military companionship - but found it again in the Brotherhood and compared the brotherhood to the military.

After lunch (which we ate in the supplied mess hall, sort of cafeteria style but it was sustenance) we heard from the Law Committee, chaired by Bro’ Mike Fitzgerald of Chicago’s Local 134.

The big issue: an increase in the per-capita: three bucks a month, spread over the next five years. Surprisingly, not much debate. Only one speaker from Canada pointing out that their local had the need for resources that this per-capita was going to take away from. I suspect there might have been planted some supportive comments, they were too well prepared and presented. On the other hand, at one point Bro’ Hill asked specifically for those in opposition to come forward and be heard so he actively sought to encourage debate.

A minor hiccup, and this technical error occurs at our local union meetings sometimes. Someone rose on a point-of-order and called for the question. Bro’ Hill immediately called for a vote on the question. Later, someone in the hall called him on it: the first vote should be on the question of limiting debate, and if affirmed then vote on the question. It’s a parliamentary question so ensure that debate isn’t stifled. Anyway, Bro’ Hill checked with the parliamentarian, acknowledged his error. We then voted to end the debate, and voted again to affirm the change in the constitution.

How do you have 2,138 delegates have a chance to speak, and be heard? Perry good system: there were about 15 kiosks around the hall. Anybody could step up to one, swiped their ID card. The kiosk was equipped with a microphone and a camera. Bro’ Hill would identify each speaker for the group. Nobody was shut out of speaking up.

The second change was to allow the International President to set the wages for the organizers to be hired as a part of this campaign. Per-diem hires? It was pointed out that these organizers are especially trained, know that this is part of their job. They come in, organize a place, and then move on to the next job where an organizing campaign is needed.

There were more law committee recommendations. I suppose we’re going to have to go through them tomorrow. Somebody motioned we skip and the “Whearas-es” and go directly to the meat of the matter, since we all have the recommendations in printed form in from of us anyway, and should have read them before this all came up. I think we’re going to do that.

The last speaker was Jack Moore, International Secretary Emeritus. Good speaker, and kind of a colorful guy. He was one of the labor dignitaries who escorted Harry Truman to the podium at the Democratic convention in the 40’s, just to give you some idea! He hasn’t lost it, he’sill as sharp as we was in the old days.

I took a couple of pictures in the hall. Hard to do, with the cheap camera and the hall is essentially pretty dark. I shut off the flash, so the foreground wouldn’t wash out. Not to bad. One picture from the back of the hall, and another picture of the stage area. TV monitors all over the place, so everybody could see everything and an excellent sound system too so you could understand every word. In fact, Bro’ Hill at one point walk around in the audience explaining how this organizing was going to work, and you could hear him very plainly and their wasn’t any feedback either!

Tonight, some kind of musical entertainment thing over in the Flats area of Cleveland (that’s a neighborhood) sponsored by the 4th District. Again, if I can edit this tomorrow I’ll include it, or maybe start out the next day with it

I edited this - let me tell you the Fourth District knows how to throw a party. It seemed like a genuine bacchanalian affair. There was food and music everywhere. Three floors of it, and an outside area as well. At the Powerhouse in the Nautica Entertainment center. You didn't just eat, drink, and enjoy - you absorbed the energy just by walking around. Of course part of it comes from feeling like you know everybody. Which you do, since you're all in the same union.

I ate a mussel. First time. Like chewing a rubber band. Tiny little thing in this big shell. I'm not sure I appreciate mussels. But they had everything from shrimp to roast beef and everything in between. Open bar. Several venues for entertainment and food at practically ev ery one: Howl at the Moon Saloon, Powerhouse Pub, Improv, Dance Club, Windows City View, the Dock Patio, the Plain Dealer Pavillion. Acts like the Dueling Piano Players, Armstrong Bearcat Band Blues, Charlie Wiener, comedian, Disco Inferno, a Steel Drum Band, and a Beatles ensemble. When they say "Cleveland Rocks!" they really mean it.

Naturally, pictures aren't going to cut it but here the entrance area, the music stage, a part of the crowd and only one of the food tables.

You really had to be there to appreciate this extraveganza!


Anonymous Jon Kuhnash Local 540 said...

Thanks for putting this up Bob.

9:17 PM  
Anonymous Mary Bohentin said...

Thanks a lot, Bob. Great notes.

5:28 PM  

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