Business Manager’s Message — February 2023

Organizing is Our Lifeblood, Diversity is Our Strength, and Work is in the Pipeline

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

In the wise words of Martin Luther King, Jr., we must all overcome hate to create a better world for ourselves and our children. February may be Black History Month, where we celebrate the accomplishments of so many of our Black leaders, but overcoming hatred is a year-round endeavor.

I’m writing this column from the annual Business Managers and Organizers conference in Las Vegas. I’m here with 22 of our Local 11 staff members because organizing is that important. Why do we preach that organizing is the lifeblood of our union? Because the more union density we have in our sector of the construction industry the more leverage we have at the bargaining table. 

As members you all know the value of union membership. Now we just have to let our non-union brothers and sisters in on the secret of the difference a union card will make in their lives. We are in workshops and general sessions here, sharing problems and solutions about organizing best practices and other issues with IBEW members from around the country. Of course, as one of the biggest and most progressive locals in the country, IBEW 11 leads the way in many of these areas: diversity, organizing contractors and new members, safety and more. That’s why we win so many awards. And in the spirit of giving back, it is our job to help our smaller IBEW locals around the country learn from us.

Work Picture

I also want to talk to some of our younger and newer members about the current work picture. As someone who has been through five work downturns in my career, I promise you: things will get better – soon. But my mentors who had seen a thing or two in their years in the industry told me to save, because tough times were coming. So, I saved up six months of salary, and it came in handy. In fact, I still have my old ’68 F100 Ford truck from those days. I know you worry when work is slow, but I want to assure you there is light at the end of the tunnel. Some of the slowdown is seasonal – winter is a slow time of year in our industry. And some of it is simply the slow mechanisms of government. 

You’ve all read the headlines and our reports to you each month about the huge infrastructure projects that are getting funded in Washington, DC and all the clean energy projects coming out of Sacramento. I promise you, there is much work in the pipeline that will keep us busy for decades. The $1 trillion infrastructure bill President Biden passed last year is in addition to the hospitals, stadiums and other local projects that are currently in the works. We just have to be patient right now. 

Here are a few tips to help you get through these tough times.

Look at all of your union benefits. Apply for Unemployment. Don’t forget to apply for the supplemental unemployment as well – that’s an extra $50/week for apprentices, and $100/week for journeymen. And in the most recent negotiations, we got an extra $200/week for full-time day school students who are out of work. Remember, side-hustles are okay too, as long as they’re not non-union electrical work. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your agents with any questions. That’s why we’re here.

I also wanted to mention that there have been some changes in dispatch. We now have a permanent, full-time security guard to make sure everyone at dispatch is safe. I ask you to extend every courtesy and be respectful of our guard and of each other at dispatch.

One final note: I want to welcome all our new legislators in Sacramento. A few staff members joined me earlier this month in Sacramento for a State Building Trades sponsored ‘meet and greet’ with many of the newly elected officers to get to know them and, more importantly, for them to get to know us and our issues. We will be talking to them about our issues and concerns for many years to come.

Stay safe, stay dry.

In solidarity,

Joël Barton
IBEW 11 Business Manager

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