On March 23-25th, IBEW held its second annual RENEW (Reach out and Engage Next-gen Electrical Workers) in downtown Chicago. The event took place on the heels of the NextUp Conference for young workers, also in Chicago. Over 400 electrical workers from across the US and Canada attended this year’s event – up four-fold over last year’s event, which had 100 attendees.
RENEW focuses on educating and training the next generation of electrical workers so the labor movement and the IBEW specifically remain strong. Participants attend workshops, training activities and seminars on topics like the History and Structure of IBEW, Grassroots Campaigning, Getting Out the Vote and more.
Below are the reflections of three 1245 members who attended.
It was a great honor to be chosen to represent IBEW 1245, at the RENEW Conference. This conference was extremely special for me, because I helped plan the activities for the event, and hosted a workshop. I also had the honor and pleasure to represent the 9th District’s young workers. This is the most important position I have ever held in my career, and I am very proud and committed to my position. I learned a great deal of knowledge from the workshops, and also from my fellow union brothers and sisters at the conference. I am very grateful for my Local allowing me to attend.
This was our second conference for RENEW, and it was amazing. We had over 400 union members attend, which was well over our projected number of 200. The reason why we projected low attendance was due to the AFL-CIO young workers meeting, NEXT UP held a day prior to our conference. The convention hall was at maximum capacity, and there were chairs placed where ever space was found. Attendees were from all different demographics and it was nice seeing us come together to learn and unite. I met people from all over the United States and Canada, and made some great friendships and connections.
I learned techniques and knowledge from the three workshops I attended, especially the public speaking workshops. I really enjoyed the workshop hosted by Toastmasters, it was not only learning but also fun. Toastmasters included activities in which they allowed audience members to engage in public speaking exercises. Many of us dread public speaking, especially I, and this workshop taught techniques and strategies to utilize when conducting public speaking. The other workshop I took was also on public speaking, and was taught by Amanda from the International IBEW. This workshop was great because it taught different approaches to getting your message out and not boring your audience by engaging them.
The third workshop was on supporting union friendly candidates and strategies when running for political office. This workshop made me realize I can be a campaign manager or support candidates but not a political candidate. It is a huge responsibility and commitment running for office, and I admire the union/people friendly candidates. I know from my experience working on campaigns it isn’t an easy job, and you have to put up with a lot of ridicule and negativity. This workshop was very organized and informational, but I didn’t learn much only because as an Organizing Steward I have learned much of what was taught. It was a good workshop for those with no experience in campaigning, and politics.
The workshop Jammi and I hosted went ok, considering our speakers cancelled at the last minute. We made the best of it, and got a lot of positive feedback. The second workshop went a lot better than the first one, and it was a great learning experience for me on what to do and not to do hosting a workshop. Speaking with others, who hosted workshops, some had similar experiences to share, so it made me feel better that we weren’t the only ones who had some technical difficulties. Jammi is such a strong leader and I really admire her. If it wasn’t for her support I would have been a lot less confident. I think our local staff is amazing and we are a great bunch of people.
One thing said by one of the panelist at the conference that has stayed in my head is, “I sleep well at night because I know I am fighting a good fight and helping people”, she is a political advisor for the IO. I feel we are fighting the good fight and we are the only hope for a dying middle class. We literally are the only people who stand in the way of the 1% ruling the United States. It is extremely important we organize and fight against the anti-union politicians and legislation. The middle class currently is “down for the count”, and we have the power to overturn this, it will take a lot of work and commitment but I have faith we can do it if we work together.
For the last three years union work has been my passion, and I pursued it because I feel it is the right thing to do. Someone fought so I can have the benefits and pay I have now, and it’s my job to continue the fight. This conference has made me realize just how important my role is, and the fact that someone seen something in me that I never saw in myself really touches my heart. Being appointed as representing the 9th District’s new workers is an honor and pleasure. I do this work without expecting recognition, but recognition is what I am getting and it feels amazing. I am truly grateful for all the amazing opportunities I have been given. I see my life’s work fighting for social justice, thanks to the great leaders in our Local for inspiring and encouraging me to do the work I do.
With great honor and pleasure I had the privilege to attend the RENEW conference in Chicago, IL 2015. The conference was confirmation of what is happening in our fight with labor in our great country. We are truly in a battle against anti-labor rights and anti-union activists that have been and are continuing to oppress our working families in America. We need to continue to stand together and organize as we move into the next generation. We brothers and sisters are this generation.
Our local organizing leaders have been educating us for a while now on what is going on with labor in our nation, that is, and will, directly affect our lives, our children’s lives, and their children’s lives currently and in the future. As I mentioned I just attended the RENEW conference and have been inspired and awakened (scared). We need to continue to motivate, educate, and organize now more than ever. We need to do this now, not in a month, or a year, or years down the road. Now!
We currently have little or next to no worker’s rights in our country. Currently half of our states are right-to-work states and frankly that concerns me. The term right-to-work may sound good but it is the exact opposite. These right-to-work states cover almost all of the South and the Midwest. It is imperative and essential that we continue to build on what we have started. We need to continue to reach out and motivate our members and non-members to stand up and fight for our rights and our children’s rights before we have no rights left.
I’m not saying you need to go out and pick a fight with your local congressman or even run for congress yourself, although that would be great. I’m saying at the very least continue to build on our momentum that our organizing leaders and team has started. Please go out and inspire, inform, and encourage people in your community. Let them know what we know so they can help spread the word. If we can follow our old motto “ Strength in numbers “ we can stand together in our march to equality for all.
This past week I was given the opportunity to attend the IBEW RENEW Conference in Chicago, IL. I was chosen to represent my local union 1245. This was my very first organizing/union event, so I was unsure of what to expect but was extremely excited for the opportunity. The conference was for 3 days, which included a variety of panel discussions, various workshops to give us various tools and education on not only our union, but also the political aspect of it all.
The first day of the Conference was completely eye opening. The overall atmosphere of the 400+ union members who attended from around the nation was electric to say the least. You could really feel the energy in the crowd. The conference began with a speech from some of our top union leaders, including our President Ed Hill. They really set the tone for the entire conference, everyone was anxious to learn and take as much away from this experience to take home to their locals.
After the keynote address, there was a panel discussion with various young leaders in our union who gave information on what got them involved and got them to where they are now. They were all extremely knowledgeable from their various backgrounds, but there were two things that immediately stood out to me the most.
First was how everyone came from completely different backgrounds and career areas, but they all had a common goal, maintaining the strength and solidarity of our union. Second, one of the panel speakers, Chelsea Nelson from local union 46 really stood out to me personally. What stood out me about her was the reason she gave for being passionate about her role in her union. She talked about how her Mother had 3+ jobs during her childhood, just to support her and her sisters. She mentioned how she was angry at her mother for most of her young life because she felt her Mom wasn’t a part of her life. It wasn’t until she joined the union that she realized the sacrifices her Mom actually made for her sisters. This made her wants to give others the opportunity to get a good paying, safe, stable job where they don’t need to work 3 regular jobs just to support their families, about how your life outside of work is just as important. That part really touched me, because that is exactly how I feel.
The second part of the day including 2 workshops, I chose, IBEW History and Structure, and Labor Legislation: Law and Workers’ rights. The first workshop, IBEW History and Structure. gave a general background of our union’s history and the struggles they went through to organize and become the strong union we are today. I found this workshop very informative and gave me a good amount of history that I did not know. Additionally it gave me an idea of the same principles that we are still fighting for today.
The last workshop of the day was on Labor Legislation, this workshop was a good introductory to some of the other workshops I did later in the week. It gives a general breakdown of the political side of the labor movement. In the workshop they discussed a lot of the legal hurdles and legislation that is being created to weaken unions. What I took from this workshop is how big corporations are no longer fighting with unions on the picket lines, they are now are trying to get the law on their sides. It stressed the importance of how our next generation of skilled workers need to be not only skilled in our individual craft, but also knowledgeable of the laws and our rights as workers to continue to stay strong.
Day two of the conference was a similar structure to the first. We started the morning with a panel discussion with various Stewards and Business Reps throughout out the Nation. They each gave stories of how they started in their initial roles or jobs and how they transitioned into the leadership roles that they currently have. One of the panel speakers who caught my attention was a Business Rep from Seattle area, Nichole Reedy. She gave her story about how she transitioned into her role from a CSR to a business rep with her local utility. I enjoyed her story not only because she started in the same role I currently have now, but I was really inspired by her personality, you could tell she was the type of person who was not afraid to voice her opinion and fight for what is right. Definitely the type of union brother or sister that you want fighting with you.
The second part of day 2 included 2 additional workshops. The first workshop I chose was, Leadership Development and Skills Analysis. I enjoyed this workshop very much. It really gave me a greater understanding of how to organize and understand other people. About how there are many different kinds of leaders and how it is extremely important to be to able to understand the kind of leader that someone is be able to get the most out of that person. I found this extremely valuable because I think this will be extremely important for our next generation of workers. It cant be just one great leader, it will take a group of great people and leaders that must work together to move our union forward and remain strong.
The second workshop was, Parliamentary Procedure: Robert Rules of Order and Running and Participating in a Meeting. This workshop gave a lot of useful tips on how to run a union meeting as quickly and efficiently as possible. Because of my work schedule, I am not able to participate just yet in my local union meetings. However, from what I heard from a lot of others in the workshop, their biggest complaint was how they sometimes get off track and run much longer than most would like. Some of the tools I learned was how to make sure the meetings stay on task, and on time. The presenter also stressed how important this was to keep everyone engaged and want to come back for future meetings. I look forward to using some of these tools I learned with my fellow members.
Day 3, the final day of the conference, we had one final workshop before closing plenary. I chose Community Boards, Local Government, and Candidate Training. This workshop gave a lot of information on how the political side of union labor and how important it is for us as union workers to fight and campaign for the people that protect our values and interest. It was a lot to soak in for just a 2 hour workshop, but definitely gave me a great perspective on how much I need to follow not only local government, but even at the state and national level. I never spent too much time researching politics before this trip, I would mainly just follow headline news when it came to that, but I see now how important it really is. There are a lot of large corporations with more money than we have that count on us as working class people to not be educated on politics and the power of voting. In addition to that, I see how important our roles are as organizers to not only support our local interest, but also when our brothers and sisters from other states ask us for their help when fighting for a big campaign or election.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to attend the IBEW RENEW Conference in Chicago. I feel that for my first union trip, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I was given the opportunity to visit a beautiful city, meet some awesome people that I now call friends, but most importantly give myself a sense of greater purpose. I knew how important unions are, but this trip put it in a bigger perspective.
Prior to being hired at PG&E, I went through some very rough times. I was a victim of the economic downturn and was working for a company that did not care about its employees, only the bottom line for its investors. I spent a lot of sleepless nights worrying how I was going to provide for my family and make sure they are safe. It took me almost 4 years to get hired and I told myself that if I was ever given the opportunity to be represented by such a great union, I would do everything in my power to now only maintain the strength of my union for not just myself, but to also help others who may not yet have that opportunity.
I feel extremely blessed to be given the opportunity that I have in front of me. I know that as an organizer, we have a lot of tough work ahead of us, but I am excited for the challenge. I look forward to taking everything that I have learned during this conference as a foundation that I will continue to build up each and every day going forward.