To the sounds and lyrics of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and Billy Bragg’s “There Is Power in the Union,” 70 IBEW 1245 activists streamed into the IBEW 1245 union hall in Vacaville to officially kick off the 2022 mid-term election campaign season.
For one-third of the group, this was their first time visiting the union hall and their first time participating in the Get Out the Vote (GOTV) drive for IBEW 1245’s endorsed candidates and initiatives.
Local 1245 Assistant Business Manager and seasoned Organizer Rene Cruz Martinez welcomed the group, emphasizing the crucial role each and every IBEW 1245 member in the room will play in building the brotherhood and sisterhood and defending the rights of working families by getting involved in politics.
“If we didn’t have a hand in politics, we’d be crushed. Corporations spend millions of dollars on politicians. What we have are boots on the ground. We have you, your family, and your friends to help us elect politicians and win legislation that protects working families,” declared Cruz Martinez. “I am inspired by the energy in the room!”
IBEW 1245 Business Manager Bob Dean addressed the group saying, “I can’t stress how important this is, what you’re doing for our Local and the 29,000 members. You are the shock troops of 1245.”
Brother Dean lifted up the decisive role that IBEW 1245’s organizing stewards played in the recent victories our union achieved in Sacramento. During the last week of the legislative session, a sea of organizing stewards and union staff flooded the capitol in a show of strength, to persuade California legislators — many of whom IBEW 1245 helped get elected — to pass legislation that extends the life of Diablo Canyon Power Plant, along with 11 additional bills. Together, the organizing stewards helped push the Diablo bill, as well as bills that impact fire mitigation, grid hardening, electrical infrastructure/EV stations, and worker rights, across the finish line. The governor signed the bills shortly before the 2022 legislative session ended.
“We have 450 members in Diablo Canyon Power Plant who will keep their jobs, because a bunch of people here decided to wear out their shoes in Sacramento,” Dean told the room full of organizing stewards and prospective stewards. “A rising tide raises all boats, and we are the best in the nation at this. What we can’t win at the negotiating table, we win at the ballot box.”
According to Dean, the stakes in the November 2022 mid-term election couldn’t be higher, as billions of dollars and the workers rights’ agenda stand in the balance in Nevada and California.
He highlighted Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, who is locked in a tight re-election campaign. Sisolak has been a good friend to IBEW 1245, signing legislation that secures billions of dollars for grid hardening and transmission lines. Sisolak is a prime example of a lawmaker who has earned IBEW 1245’s endorsement by demonstrating that he prioritizes safe, reliable, and affordable energy, as well as a generation of work for our Nevada members.
Dean also recognized another union champion in Nevada — US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a strong labor ally who was instrumental in shepherding the federal Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (which pumps billions of federal dollars into electrical infrastructure and water and transportation projects, among other IBEW 1245 priorities). Assistant Business Manager and Political Director Hunter Stern shared that, as a member of the Senate Energy Committee, Cortez Masto plays an important role in shaping federal energy legislation that safeguards workers’ rights during the transition to a clean, sustainable energy future.
“That’s the key – keeping you and your fellow workers working, while transitioning and changing the energy infrastructure to be more climate friendly and less harmful, especially for our kids and the next generation,” said Stern, underscoring the importance of supporting Cortez Masto in her tight re-election race. “Progress is being made, and the candidates we are supporting are advancing that progress.”
Brother Stern also pointed out several key races in California that will impact IBEW 1245 members, including crucial elections that directly impact our members at SMUD, Modesto Irrigation District and the city of San Jose, as well as for the California State Assembly and Senate. More than 100 IBEW 1245 members, including organizing stewards, staff, leaders and volunteers, are stepping up to assist with these and other campaigns across our service territory this fall. They’re door-knocking at labor households, and also phone banking and texting fellow union members to let them know about the importance of voting in this election.
“You’re going to be hot and sweaty, you may have a few doors slammed in your face, but it’s all worth it because you’re making a real difference,” said Dean. “Some races will be decided by 1,000 votes, maybe even 500, which means every single vote matters! No matter how hard and how hot it is, it absolutely matters that our members vote. It’s vital.”
IBEW 1245 Organizer Charlotte Stevens walked the stewards through their team assignments, divvying them up between at the Sacramento Central Labor Council, the Alameda Central Labor Council, the North Valley Labor Federation, South Bay Labor Council and Nevada.
“And if you aren’t signed up yet, you can expect a call to recruit you. We’re going to need your help!” Stevens declared.
IBEW 1245 Organizer Melissa Echeverria invited stewards to scan the QR code on their work tables to sign up in real time for more shifts and to recruit their co-workers, friends and families to join them. More than twenty organizing stewards signed up for additional shifts, including special Saturday mobilizations to support the campaigns of pro-labor candidates at the Modesto Irrigation District Board, as well as California State Senate candidate and labor leader Tim Robertson.
In a recorded message, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler thanked IBEW 1245 saying, “All of you are the beating heart of the [organizing] program. We need you now more than ever. Let’s make sure that on Nov 8th, we know that we’ve done everything we could. Leave no stone unturned. Let’s elect pro-worker candidates across the country.”
Organizing Steward Darla West, a mechanic at Sacramento Regional Transit (SRT) ended the day with a signature chant of the labor movement: “Fired up! Ready to go!” “Fired up! Ready to go!” “Fired up! Ready to go!”
The Difference Politics and the Union Make In Our Lives
Over the course of the kick off, IBEW 1245 Organizing Stewards reflected on the importance of politics and the union in their lives and work.
“At the top of the list is job protection. If it wasn’t for the union, corporate America would be more likely to give us the boot. We have someone to stand up for us.” — Quentin Hunter, PG&E Customer Service Rep
“For me, it’s about solidarity. I feel comfortable knowing we all have each other’s back. I don’t know anyone in DCPP, but it was important to support them. It makes a difference.” — Crystal Harris, PG&E Operating Clerk
“Safety. We have homeless, drugs, all kinds of things in the street. I’m not afraid to turn a job down or to speak with my shop steward and share that I don’t feel safe…that’s a big deal. Having the union back me up when I don’t feel safe is one of the best things.” — John Hoang, PG&E Field Meter Reader
“This job gave me a great opportunity, money, to live a good life. I always thought PG&E was a great company, but having IBEW 1245 behind us is what makes everything so wonderful. I like where I work, but I love being a part of this union and organizing!” –– Tim Neal, PG&E Customer Service Rep
“SMUD just went through our first year of a new agreement. We bargained for six months. SMUD came in aggressive, non responsive, not respectful. It was amazing to see the resources that were brought in to support us; seven of us and three IBEW staff, including legal. At the end of the day, because of the resources and bargaining strength, we were successful. And remember, SMUD is an open shop. Workers do not have to pay dues. After negotiations, we saw about a 12% increase in our membership!” — Rafael Bustos, SMUD Facility Stationary Engineer
“This is my first union. I came from Wells Fargo Bank. I was there 15 years, and one day got a phone call saying ‘You’re done.’ They just cut me off. I’d thought I’d retire there. But it worked out for the best [because I end up as an IBEW member at PG&E]. I feel more secure. I feel the love!” — Danielle Bradly, PG&E Customer Service Rep
“Getting out of the Marines hit me pretty hard. For a decade, I spent every day with a purpose, surrounded by people I considered family. The Summer I got out, I returned to LA with no real purpose and absolutely no idea what to do next. I found myself in some pretty dark places, finding comfort in drugs and alcohol. I bounced from odd job to odd job, couch to couch, and even lived in my truck for a period of time. I was lonely, broke, depressed, and had no idea what to do. Without even realizing it, I had allowed myself to become that kid who lacked direction, drive, and motivation all over again. My girlfriend at the time, wife now, was the only bright spot in my life and in all honesty, I think she probably saved my life. In 2014, we came to northern California, and I got a job working graveyard shifts at a factory in Fairfield. Working conditions there were abysmal, safety culture was non-existent, and the workers had no voice. 24/7 production was the name of the game, often at the expense of the well-being and safety of the employees. Coming from the aviation community where we were so safety conscious and one error could be the difference between life and death to a place like that didn’t sit well with me at all, but just like everyone else there, I needed the money, so we all just showed up and tried to get through the night. One night, one of my co-workers there started talking to me about IBEW and the opportunities that are available throughout their jurisdiction. I applied, tested, and interviewed for the apprenticeship and to my delight, was offered the role and started in September of 2016.
Because of IBEW, we never wonder where our next meal is going to come from, we never wonder how we’re going to pay our bills, and because of IBEW, I’ve regained my self-respect.
I was honored to be appointed as a Shop Steward by my Business Rep, Dave Sankey, to help defend the contract that makes this all possible through the collective bargaining of those who have come before us and fought so hard for everything that we have. I was fortunate enough to, with the backing of Business Rep Fred Aboud and Business Manager Bob Dean, stand up a new Peer to Peer Safety Initiative referred to as ‘Regulate the Voltage’ and serve as its inaugural Chairman, doing everything we can to make sure every one of our sisters and brothers goes home to their family every day. And last year, I was afforded the opportunity by Rene, Rick, Charlotte and the rest of the organizing staff to come aboard with all of you as an Organizing Steward. We live in a strange timeline in the world right now. Economic volatility, uncertainty about the future of our climate, and creeping authoritarianism dominate the everyday news cycle. The one constant that we can count on throughout it all, however, is that the IBEW will be there for us. Training, collective bargaining, fair treatment, worksite safety, and RESPECT. We fight hard for these and we don’t give an inch. When our Union, our family, comes under attack from negative outside influences, we fight. And when we fight, we win.” — Mike Tilden, PG&E Journeyman Electric Transmission System Operator
Organizing Stewards Remember Brother Ron Borst
At the election kick off, organizing stewards paid tribute to brother Ron Borst, a long- time IBEW 1245 leader, an active organizing steward and co-founder/president of the Reno-Sparks IBEW 1245 Retiree Club who recently passed away over Labor Day.
Brother Borst was a beloved husband, father, union brother and friend. He was also a master woodworker. He helped lead IBEW 1245’s 2009-2011 campaign that restored retiree medical benefits that NV Energy unilaterally and arbitrarily slashed, witnessing the power of the union, solidarity, and political power.
“Ron would say, ‘If it hadn’t been for you guys and the union, the retirees wouldn’t have a medical plan,’” IBEW 1245 retiree and Organizing Steward Bob Veiera reflected.
“I’m active because of Ron. I didn’t do much until Ron got me energized, “IBEW 1245 retiree and Organizing Steward Jim Lappin shared. “I got involved in the fight at NV Energy for our medical benefits. When I retired, he asked if I wanted to join the Retiree Club. Then a few months later he asked if I wanted to become an Organizing Steward. I wouldn’t be here, or in any of our fights without Ron.”
IBEW 1245 Organizing Steward Veronica Rivera shared how he took her under his wing, preparing her to be the IBEW 1245 Unit Chair of the Reno/Sparks Unit.
“Ron and Vickie were like parents to me, they mentored me. I was appointed Unit Chair and had no idea what was entailed. He said, ‘Kid, come over here. You need to come home with us, we’re going to have a couple of drinks, we’re going to practice this, and you’re going to be the best Unit chair ever.’ And we did that for a couple of weekends. He always mentored us. It is a huge loss. He will be missed,” she said, noting that Borst was always willing to lend a hand to a union member in need. “When Ron learned that there was a journeyman lineman who didn’t have enough money to buy new boots, he asked him his size and gave him his boots. That’s the kind of person he was.”
“Seeing younger members pick up the torch as organizing stewards was a source of great pride and hope,” I added. “Ron and his wife Vickie bled union and the brotherhood. Knowing others would continue the lifelong struggle for worker rights from the bargaining table to the ballot box gave him peace. He inspired a whole new generation of trade unionists committed to building the brotherhood and sisterhood.”
A ”Celebration of Life” for Brother Ron Borst will be held on Monday, October 31, 2022 at the Reno Elks Club.
–Eileen Purcell, IBEW 1245 Senior Advisor to the Business Manager