Young people are the future of the Labor Movement, and the longevity of our union depends on this up-and-coming generation of workers. That’s why the IBEW launched its “Reach out and Engage Next-Gen Electrical Workers” (RENEW) initiative, in order to inspire the next generation of IBEW workers to become active in the union by focusing on the issues that are important to younger workers, providing education about the IBEW and the labor movement, and fostering relationships with members and local union leadership.
IBEW Local 1245 sent a large and diverse delegation of younger members to this year’s International RENEW/NextGen Conference, which took place in Pittsburgh, PA in mid-September. These members had the unique opportunity to hear from inspiring speakers, participate in ground-breaking workshops, and meet other like-minded young people from across the IBEW.
Below, members of Local 1245’s RENEW delegation describe the experience in their own words:
The RENEW/NextGen conference was an experience that I will never forget. IBEW is so diverse, and it was amazing to see all different types of people find a common relation that allowed us to organize for the sake of knowledge and representation. The knowledge I gained from the conference made me feel empowered and unified all at the same time. The workshops were interactive and helpful, not only for me as a Local 1245 member, but also on a personal level. It was an honor to represent Local 1245 and I am grateful for the invitation by our union leadership. All the processes and training I received will be put to use organizing our new/young union members. –Orlando Knox
This was my first conference, and man was it eye-opening! I had no idea how big IBEW is, and all of the different positions! I walked away having so many new friends all over the world! After leaving this conference, I feel so honored to be a part of IBEW. I learned the importance of being involved, and what I can do as a young member to ensure the union’s future! I leave you with a quote from the USAS (United students against sweatshops) workshop. “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together!” – Marisa Nagore
I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend this conference. It not only made me more energized to reach out to our membership and fight for our union, but it provided me with the tools to channel that energy in order to energize, organize, and help prepare my brothers and sisters for the fights to come. My two favorite workshops were “Leadership Communication Styles” and “Politics 101”. “Leadership Communication Styles” highlighted how to recognize communication styles among our membership and improve communications between different styles to reduce conflict. It focused on one primary question: “Is it the content of my message, or is it just the way I’m saying it?” “Politics 101” highlighted minorities and minority examples. It touched on how we as union members are a minority, making up only 11% of the workforce. It also emphasized the importance of finding a personal connection with someone to allow opinions to be shared, which will be very beneficial with discussions with our brothers and sisters about Right to Work. — Ashley Nelson Finley
I would like to start off by thanking our business manager and the executive board for giving me the opportunity to attend the RENEW conference. This was my first time to the east coast, so just to be given the opportunity to travel and experience something new was exciting! The Conference was so refreshing and really helped me feel at ease with being a young shop steward. It was AMAZING to meet a plethora of young, engaged IBEW members all excited and passionate about being involved in our union. It was also awesome to meet everyone from around the nation, and to get their input as to how they get people in their local involved and engaged. I walked out of RENEW feeling inspired, engaged, refreshed, empowered, FIRED UP AND READY TO GO!! Renew helped not only add fuel to my passion for building my union, but it helped equip me with the proper tools and ideas to do so. — Alyssa Fernandez
Although the conference was rather large, with over 200+ delegates from different locals in our International, the two main speakers, Alicia Garza and Mark Breslin, kept the audience engaged and empowered. Garza’s Race. Gender & Identity speech focused on three-dimensional organizing, using collective action to change the environment and culture by educating and including those who may oppose. Mark Breslin’s speech on Legacy: Past, Present, & Future definitely opened up our minds in terms of how employers, businesses, and our government dictate the status quo of employment and also diminish the idea of unionism and the labor movement. Mark provided a statistical idea of the percentage of workers that are non-union in our country and those that are afraid of change. The skills and ideas we learned from Mark definitely empowered everyone in the room to take action and to redefine our legacy. — –Alvin Dayoan
It was such an honor and a privilege to be a part of such an amazing team and get such amazing training from so many of our experienced members. The entire RENEW experience was just incredible. Solidarity is so important today in our middle class and for all future labor workers. I am honored to represent that and I have so much passion for it. I will take the skills I have learned and share it with my brothers and sisters so that we can be a greater force and work together to build a stronger labor movement. This training has been inspirational and motivating and i want to make sure I use these skills and help grow a stronger and richer union. — Felicia Lynch
I feel privileged to have attended the RENEW/NextGen young leaders conference in Pittsburgh and have already started sharing the story of my experience with others. I am thankful I was one of the few selected to attend this conference. The workshops were great and had me and the other 1245 members excited to come back home and start our own RENEW committee and eventual chapter. It was nice to see the different job classifications that made up the conference as we are a diversified workforce. Usually, a lot of IBEW meetings are electrician-focused, so it was nice to see our diverse brotherhood in electric, manufacturing, customer service, etc. I’m excited to be a part of the movement and keeping IBEW around for many years and generations to come! – Ricardo Hernandez
This conference made me feel pretty lucky to be part of a union, and pretty lucky to live in California. There was so much information I received that I did not know before attending this conference. I met lots of new brothers and sisters from across the U.S. and Canada. This was pretty amazing conference, and I’m glad I was given the opportunity to attend. I cannot thank Local 1245 enough for giving me an unforgettable experience. — Jody Cather