Local 1245 powers discussion on young leadership
Ninth District Progress Meeting
Hundreds of delegates gathered from across the west for the annual IBEW 9th District Progress Meeting held May 15-17 in Portland, OR.
International President Ed Hill stressed the importance of being politically engaged.
“When union density was at 30% we were at the table,” said Hill. He shared that private sector union membership is at an all-time low and it is important that members be concerned with all working people and should contact elected officials regularly.
President Hill, 9th District International Vice President Mike Mowrey and several other keynote speakers emphasized the importance of identifying, recruiting and training the next generation of leaders and providing mentorship to up-and-coming leaders. They recognized IBEW 1245’s work in building a strong leadership development program.
IBEW 1245 Organizers Fred Ross and Jennifer Gray participated in a panel to showcase the various ways mentorship works at 1245. They underscored the importance of creating opportunities for members of all ages to come together, tell their stories, and put theory into action. Setting and achieving concrete goals, learning by doing, being accountable to one another, celebrating victories and working in solidarity were resonant themes.
On the second day of the conference, Gray and IBEW 1245 Business Representative Lloyd Cargo were presenters at the day-long Young Worker caucus on how to develop young worker engagement at the local level. The workshop was attended by nearly 60 IBEW members from 20 locals from across the 9th District.
Gray and Cargo shared IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell’s vision to integrate young workers into the life of the union at every level. Gray detailed the genesis of the program four years ago when Tom appointed young members to negotiating committees, dispatched ten young members to the AFL-CIO “Next Up” Conference and followed up by investing resources and assigning Ross and organizer Eileen Purcell to systematically expand the union’s engagement with young members.
Local 1245’s young people’s involvement has grown exponentially. Young members have been appointed to bargaining committees and participated in leadership trainings, seminars, and contract fights. Young members have also been appointed as shop stewards and hired as full
time staff. They’ve also organized charity events to strengthen relations with local communities, and organized sporting events for our members.
Young members also played a key role in Local 1245’s campaign to provide assistance to other unions engaged in political fights in Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin, and provided “boots on the ground” in California’s successful campaign to defeat Proposition 32 last fall.
“Our approach has been intergenerational, a mix of experience and youth,” said Purcell. Today, IBEW 1245 has more than 45 member organizers, “providing boots on the ground and leadership on committees and in campaigns,” she said.
In 2012 and 2013, the California Labor Federation recognized IBEW 1245 for outstanding work developing young workers and for generating the highest participation in the No on Prop 32 Campaign.
Other workshops at the 9th District Progress Meeting included breakouts on Utilities, Outside Construction, Broadcast, Telephone, Government, Railroad, Inside Construction, and Manufacturing sectors.
In addition to members of the IBEW 1245 Executive Board and staff, eight IBEW 1245 members who have been participating in 1245’s Leadership Development Program attended the conference. These emerging leaders included: Georgette Carrillo, Justin Casey, Rodrigo Flores, Rene Cruz-Martinez, Jammi Juarez, Christine Raines, Donchele Soper and Jeremiah Tompkins. For some, it was their first District Progress meeting.
“It was informative and provided tools to help bring members to unit meetings and to organize charity and family events for members in my area of Central California,” said Rodrigo Flores, a Senior Distribution System Operator at Merced Irrigation District. “A key point for me was to make sure we don’t keep the IBEW a secret, that we let people know who we are and what we do.”
During the plenary session, Justin Casey presented goals and suggestions that came out of the Young Worker caucus.
“The Young Worker caucus was very informative,” said Casey, a Davey Tree Line Clearance Tree Trimmer. “I got to sit and talk with a group of my peers from various locals and really learned a lot. I left the workshop with a lot of great ideas.”
Delegates learned best practices and new ideas around organizing, including associate memberships and the newly created Business Development Program.
“I believe it is important that locals come together to discuss issues, triumphs and struggles, that we learn from one another, ” said delegate Jammi Juarez, a PG&E Operating Clerk and 7-year member of Local 1245. “If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to make the same mistakes.”