When IBEW 1245 President Emeritus Mike Davis passed away in mid-January, the loss sent shockwaves through the union.
To commemorate Davis’ life and his contributions to the union, the IBEW Local 1245 Executive Board held a small memorial for his friends and family in conjunction with the quarterly Advisory Council meeting.
“Mike Davis was a big part of 1245 for many years, and he always will be,” Local 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell said at the start of the ceremony. “What he did, the changes he made, and the dedication he had to this organization will live on … and we are better because of him.”
Former Business Manager Jack McNally worked closely with Davis over the course of many years. During the memorial, McNally shared many anecdotes about Davis, including a story about his no-holds-barred approach to enforcing the union’s expense policies when he served as Local 1245’s treasurer – questioning and even rejecting one of McNally’s own meal expenses to set an example.
“I looked at him as being a very valuable leader of 1245,” said McNally. “Mike was a great unionist through and through … and he was a good man as well.”
Steve Rayburn, PG&E’s former director of labor relations, often sat on the opposite side of the table from Davis during labor-management meetings, but despite this seemingly adversarial relationship, he and Davis formed a unique bond. Rayburn wasn’t able to attend the memorial, but he sent in a letter, which Dalzell read aloud to all in attendance.
“Mike’s passing comes at a time when there is an unprecedented level of divisiveness in our country. Today’s political leaders could have learned a lot from Mike … When it came to issues when parties had a disagreement, Mike was always calm and respectful,” Rayburn wrote in the letter. “He was a fair and tough union leader, but he will always be a better friend in my eyes.”
Dalzell shared a story from early in his career as business manager, when he and Davis were debating whether or not they should push for a dues increase in order to build up a war chest to use for big fights that they knew would soon be on the horizon.
“Mike said, ‘This is something we have to do for the local. We’ll go out and make our case, and if the members agree, that’s fine, and if they don’t agree and it ends our careers with the union, that’s fine too.’ … Well, it ended up passing, and it left us in a very sound financial position, in a way we wouldn’t have been if Mike hadn’t led that fight.”
Current President Art Freitas viewed Davis as an invaluable mentor, and expressed his appreciation for the lessons he gleaned from his predecessor.
“I’m where I am today because of what I learned from Mike,” said Freitas. “He taught me to stop, listen, and analyze — and then act.”
Davis’ widow, Dee, and several members of the family were in attendance at the memorial as well. The union presented the family with a framed photo collage, featuring photos of Davis throughout the course of his 45 years with the union.
Davis’ family was a bit too emotional to speak at length during the memorial, but his wife managed to hold back tears for a few moments to share some sentiments.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done for him — and for us,” she said.
Photos by John Storey