Wednesday, January 23, 2008

IBEW Local 1212, A Time For Change

I've been thinking a lot lately about our shop and our union and how we can best serve our members.

Here are some general thoughts.

In a business, the leaders create strategies that are implemented by managers to get the
workers to make a product to sell to the customers at a profit for the shareholders.

In a fraternal organization, such as a union, the workers are also the customers and the shareholders.

The members are the customers and shareholders. They elect Stewards to serve them by handling the day to day issues in the workplace.

The members elect Executive Board Members that serve to develop systems and policies to facilitate the membership's wishes.

Paid staff, such as Business Managers, Agents, etc, serve by implementing policies, negotiating, and providing the support required by the stewards to meet the needs of the membership.

Appointed Assistants help the paid staff by extending their reach and serve as a force multiplier because the Business Managers can't be everywhere at once.

Webster defines the word "Steward" as " a servant that manages property or activities for the benefit of others."

"Leadership is about going somewhere. Without a clear vision, leadership doesn't matter. A clear vision gives an organization heart. Without it work will have no meaning" Quotes from Ken
book, "Full Steam Ahead".

We need to create a vision, expressed in a mission statement, that will not only help us achieve the changes required to make our shop strong, but will serve to bring the vision to life in the
hearts of our members.

So, all that being said here are some questions.

1)What is our mission statement?

A) Mission: What do we do?

B) Purpose: Why are we doing this?

C) Values: How do we do it?

CNN's website uses their values on the "employment opportunities" page to define the kind of staff they are looking for:

"We want employees who, above all else, have a passion for delivering the news in fast, accurate, and compelling ways to the global public we serve. We are looking for CNN's future: people
with fresh ideas, innovative viewpoints, a willingness to work hard, with a commitment to the highest standards of journalism."

CNN's values jump off the page; fast, accurate, innovative, hard work, and the highest standards of journalism.

Here is a quote that expresses the IBEW's vision and values.

"I am not satisfied that we all understand just how vital organizing is or what position it holds on our union's list of priorities. So let me repeat it one more time: organizing is the number one priority of this Brotherhood. Nothing trumps it. Nothing surpasses it. Every activity of this Brotherhood will be measured by how well it supports our organizing efforts." IBEW International President Edward Hill continues; "The key question for the future of the union is: How will we put those no-nonsense ideals into action?"

"There's a lot we're going to do differently, but the keys are coordination, cooperation and communication," says Cecil "Buddy" Satterfield who will be in thick of things as the recently
appointed Special Assistant to the International President for Membership Development.

"As anybody who has tried to organize new members knows, we face a lot of obstacles--the law, unprecedented employer resistance, and apathy and fear on the part of the workers themselves," Satterfield says, the passion rising up in Satterfield when he talks about how
workers today have been fed lies for too many years about the labor movement and how the laws governing organizing in the United States have eroded so badly that most workers are ignorant of their rights.

"These external problems are bad enough. But, as Ed Hill and Jerry O'Connor have emphasized, they're only part of the picture. We have got to remove the internal obstacles that we ourselves have created that are preventing us from really making organizing the top priority in the IBEW--not just talk."

"Those internally generated obstacles include a lack of coordination or even rivalry among different branches of the Brotherhood, an adherence to inflexible ways of doing business that
have hindered newly organized workers and contractors--especially in the construction industry--from enjoying the full benefits of membership in the IBEW, and a lack of coordination that has caused organizers to duplicate efforts and reinvent campaigns from scratch when valuable information and precedents were available".

"In restructuring the IBEW's organizing operations, President Hill's goal is to strengthen and energize the existing structure of the union to support increased organizing."

"What does this mean for the locals? Each local should expect a visit from an International Representative or organizer to talk about potential targets in their jurisdiction or how the local can assist in other campaigns that may be ongoing in an area or among the different locations of the same employer."

"Our goal is to energize our rank and file members so that they support and participate in the organizing mission. Our members have tremendous pride in our Brotherhood, and they are the best ambassadors we have when it comes to convincing nonunion workers--who might be their friends or neighbors or even relatives--to become part of the IBEW. Some members have told me that they never helped in the past because they were never asked.

We're going to ask."

President Hill says that "restructuring for its own sake won't help the IBEW meet its goals. This isn't about rearranging the furniture," he says. "This is about a whole new way of doing business so that we make sure we stay in business and keep the IBEW a strong and growing force for good in all the industries we represent."

Can you discover the IBEW's purpose and values from reading the above?

Do the IBEW's values and purpose coincide and support those of our shop?

What do we value?

What do our members value?

What is our purpose?

What is our Mission?

I look forward to your response. Take your time. The choices we make now, will direct the future of our working lives.



1 comment:

Ragnar Danneskjöld said...

Good luck on finding answers to your questions--you won't from Today's labor leaders.

That said, having a statement does nothing unless the people to whom it is directed live by it. You are an idealist (which, by the way, should be construed as a compliment in this context), searching for valid answers to essential questions.

As a former union activist, the questions you raise now, I raised more than 15 years ago and the answer back was a resounding silence--both literally and figuratively--over and over again, until I left.

In my case, the further I dug, the more apparent it became that Today's union movement has corrupted itself (not just in the criminal sense, but in the moral and ethical sense as well).

When you have any cause lives by the credo 'the ends justify the means' the cause will be corrupted--and labor has.

If you are willing to sacrifice individual rights to serve the collective, you are no better than a mindless thug; but that is what labor's credo demands today.

For any union to claim that the honest living that another man makes is the union's work destroys the concept of individual rights--and that's what the trades have laid claim on--work that does not belong to them, nor are they deserved of or entitled to any longer.

Inside unions, for those who question, challenge, or attempt to assert their individual rights, they are more often met with derision and put down with the full force and iron thumb of Today's labor bosses whose alleged role is to serve the worker.

(Investigate, for example, what the labor bosses [including the IBEW and CWA] have done to Harry Kelber over the years...and this to a man who has devoted his life--and most of the 20th century--to labor, and still, for some reason, believes in it.)

Were you to truly look for the answer to the underlying problem with labor, it is the internal moral and ethical corruption with the passing on of the mission (or vision, if you will), of Samuel Gompers and the real leaders of labor.

By embracing government involvement and industrial-style unionism, Gompers' successors through the 30's, 40's and beyond eventually bastardized the origins of organized labor and, in the process, wound up (in the latter 20th century) doing America's workers more harm than good as they embarked on a mission of mediocrity and killed the goose with the golden egg (the companies and industries).

Now, instead of returning to the self-elevating policies of the crafts of old, which made labor valuable, Today's labor leaders are embracing more government involvement while dumbing down their membership, making them less valuable and easier to outsource--all for the sake of a buck (dues).

In the building trades, why do you think unionized construction is down to 14%? It is foolhearty for Ed Hill and the other trades' bosses to think that, by organizing only, they'll bring back power to the IBEW, or any other union.

They're wrong. If they wanted to restore the IBEW (et al) to anything, they should look in the mirror--revamp their union into something that is more attractive (and respected) than what non-union employers can get and do for themselves--at a competitive price.

So you unionize one goes out of business...the builder finds another while you have more men on the bench. Now what has this strategy accomplished other than to make more unemployed union members--good strategy.

Labor's problem today is not 'greedy employers'...labor's problem today is that it stands for all-too expensive mediocrity, with work rules that hamper competitiveness. Until this reality changes, perceptions will not change and, whatever work that can be outsourced, done by non-union subs (be it in Boston or in Burma) it will.

Keep searching for your answers, as one day you may just find them. However, if you're like me and many others who have left the union movement, who are still idealists for helping workers, you may also someday realize that the answer lies not in Today's labor movement, but to advocating for workers at the source.

For me, the final straw came when I wrote my graduating paper on how to reverse labor's decline. I found that the b.s. that I was being fed by the unions was just that, b.s--and I found it by researching their own data in DC and elswhere.

At that point, I realized that, if the movement was corrupted that far up, it no longer served a moral purpose.

Once again, good luck on your quest!