Doing Good in Denver

Back in Person, EWMC Conference, Community Events Honor MLK Legacy

With an eye toward improving diversity and affecting positive change, a delegation of IBEW Local 11 members joined their brothers and sisters from across the nation in Denver for the first in-person Electrical Workers Minority Caucus (EWMC) leadership conference in three years.

The 33rd annual EWMC National Leadership Conference took place January 12-15 at the Hyatt Regency Denver Hotel, drawing more than 500 attendees including 35 Local 11 delegates. The theme of the conference – which was held in-person for the first time since the Covid pandemic – was Healing and Building Through Solidarity.

“It was nice to see everybody in person again,” said Lali Castillo, an organizer with Local 11’s Sound and Communication division who has attended past EWMC conferences. “There have been conferences during the ‘COVID years,’ but they were on Zoom, so it definitely made a big difference. I think everybody was excited about being together again.”

Much of the discussion during the conference focused on topics related to diversity, both within IBEW locals and in the field. In light of the devastating effects of the pandemic, the conference also had sessions discussing mental health within the building trades.

“They spoke about how the membership is very different in different states and about retention and outreach into the communities and how locals in different cities, states and communities try to stay involved,” said Castillo. “There are a lot of communities where people might never have heard of the unions.”

Local 11 delegates arrived early to lend a hand during the pre-conference Day of Giving, a series of EWMC community service projects around the Denver area. These ranged from electrical work, painting, gardening, and helping out at food banks, homeless shelters, churches, juvenile and senior facilities and schools. Since the conference took place during the weekend before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Day of Giving projects were selected to honor King’s legacy “by helping those in need who are unable to otherwise help themselves.”

From the community work to the conference itself, Local 11 journeyman wireman Donald Trotter found the entire experience inspiring. A member of the Local 11 EWMC since his days as an apprentice, Trotter was attending his first Minority Caucus conference.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Trotter. “I don’t even know where to begin.”

Trotter was particularly impressed by the remarks of EWMC President Emeritus and Founding Member Robbie J. Sparks, one of the early African American female IBEW members from Atlanta who helped lead the way for the women and minorities who came after her. Always a fighter for equal pay and conditions for all members, Sparks rose through the ranks from member to shop steward to business manager of Atlanta Local 2127 .

“I know that in the 1970s and 80s, the IBEW had a different face and was represented by different individuals,“ Trotter said. “When you listen to what Ms. Sparks was up against and you hear about the milestones she accomplished, it is so amazing and heartwarming.”

“And when you see Local 11 members of different backgrounds, different ethnicities and different walks of life come together and hold hands in solidarity with members from across the United States, it was just a wonderful feeling,” he added. “The whole conference made me want to step it up a whole lot more in helping out our local.”

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