How can you help members learn how to fight for their rights? One way is to put them in the same room as proven fighters!
That’s a guiding principle of IBEW 1245’s organizing stewards program, and it was on full view recently when 56 organizing stewards heard from two veterans of the fight for workers’ rights: Congressman George Miller and Culinary Workers Union President D. Taylor.
Miller, who just retired from Congress after 40 years of defending workers’ rights, reminded the organizing stewards that the middle class didn’t just happen—working people fought together to create it. With the middle class under attack today, that fight continues, as does the need to find more people to carry on the fight.
D. Taylor, who has spent 34 years as an organizer and leader of the Culinary Workers Union in Las Vegas, said the way workers grow their power is by organizing. Successful organizing requires that a union’s rank and file members get involved, which is the organizing model now being implemented by IBEW 1245.
“D. Taylor was an inspiration and reminder of what my own personal goals as a union member are: never give up, fight smart, recruit new minds, and listen to those new ideas,” said Samson Wilson, an organizing steward at NV Energy. By establishing an organizing stewards program, IBEW 1245 is “setting the bench mark for the future of labor,” Wilson said.
When people understand the benefits of collective bargaining, they support unions, “but what holds people back is fear,” said Andrew West, an organizing steward at PG&E, responding to Taylor’s remarks. This makes it important to organize in a positive way, West said, “standing strong, and showing support and encouraging workers who want union representation.”
There was certainly a good reason to listen to Taylor’s advice on union building. During his tenure as an organizer and leader of the Culinary Workers in Las Vegas, his local union grew from 18,000 members in 1987 to over 55,000 in 2013. Taylor not only built his own union; he is a strong proponent of standing up for other unions. When IBEW 1245 retiree benefits were under attack by NV Energy, for example, Taylor turned out hundreds of his members to join IBEW 1245 members and retirees in picketing the company’s headquarters in Las Vegas.