The IBEW Electrical Workers Minority Caucus (EWMC) held its 33rd annual leadership conference in Denver, CO during Martin Luther King Jr weekend. This was the first in-person conference since 2020 as COVID restrictions limited gathering the two previous years. In 2020 and 2021, the conference was held virtually.
This year’s theme “Healing and Building Through Solidarity” focused on having tough conversations to grow and strengthen our IBEW family. The leadership within EWMC understood for IBEW to expand, it must address fundamental issues that plague our membership.
Twenty IBEW 1245 members fully participated in pre-conference activities, community service, plenary sessions, and leadership workshops. Our delegation included 1245 Staff, members of the Executive Board, a member of the Advisory Council, and Organizing Stewards.
A Day of Giving
The first day of the conference kicked off at sunrise as delegates were dispatched to various community service assignments. EWMC strategically selects Martin Luther King’s birthday weekend for the conference dates to commemorate Dr. King’s servant leadership.
Through community service, EWMC’s goal is to leave the hosting city in a better position than when attendees arrived.
Organizing Stewards took part in painting the interior of the Denver Inner City Parish. Reflecting on his volunteerism, PG&E CSR and Organizing Steward Quentin Hunter said, “It was just a different experience helping people who live over a thousand miles away, but it was even better to do it with my brothers and sisters of the IBEW from near and far.”
Assistant Business Manager Rene Cruz Martinez and Staff Organizer Charlotte Stevens helped sort clothing and goods at The Salvation Army while 1245 Admin Asst/Building Manager Tonya Alton and Business Representative Liz McInnis volunteered at The Gathering Place, a wrap-around service organization for women, transgender individuals, and children impacted by marginalization and oppression.
Executive Board members spread themselves out amongst various community organizations: Del Norte Neighborhood Development, The Lambuth Family Center, and The Second Chance Center, a premier re-entry program.
In one day, EWMC members volunteered over 2,000 hours of labor and resources to the Denver community.
Plenary Sessions – Sharing, Growing, and Healing
In his first appearance as International President of IBEW, Kenneth ‘Coop’ Cooper, spoke about the mission of the IBEW and IBEW Strong, the union’s diversity, inclusion, and equity initiative.
Three Organizing Steward Leads – Brandon Fosselman, Alvin Dayoan, and Foster Goree – were part of the Sergeant at Arms team at the EWMC, a role that includes maintaining order of the conference, checking credentials at the door, and escorting distinguished guests.
“Escorting President Cooper to the stage and the level of respect that people showed to the three of us for serving as Sergeant-At-Arms was my biggest highlight,” said Brandon Fosselman. “It is something I am proud of and look forward to doing again in the future.”
A panel discussion, Politics & Legislative Action NOW!, was led by IBEW Government Affairs Department representatives who explained the importance of staying politically involved. Assistant Business Manager Rene Cruz Martinez was called on short notice to speak at the podium where he laid out the victories and legislative actions Local 1245 accomplished recently for its members: retaining employment at PG&E during bankruptcy, higher wages for vegetation management members, and extending the life of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.
“This is the work that we have been living and breathing over the last couple of years and it was easy to present with no prior preparation,” he said.
1245’s Organizing Stewards continued to represent our local with great honor and integrity, showcasing the skills they learned through the Organizing Steward Program. Alvin Dayoan assisted Jammi Ouellette, Assistant to International President, in a presentation for the Professional and Industrial (P&I) Caucus.
“I was delighted to participate and share our Organizing Steward program’s best practices while representing Local 1245,” said Dayoan.
EWMC Solano County Chapter President and Organizing Steward Lead Laquania ‘Que’ Thompson presented her chapter president’s report eloquently, with details of the chapter’s activities from the previous year.
Political, civic, and labor leaders took to the stage to share their knowledge and personal stories. The highlight for many of the delegates was keynote speaker, Dr. Keith Dempsey, who led a powerful session on mental health and wellness. He shared that our industry has a high rate of stress, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, accidental death numbers pale in comparison to the suicide rate.
When Dr. Dempsey addressed the delegation, many members were moved to share their interactions with co-workers and employers, and the impact those interactions have on their daily work lives and their families.
“Hearing testimony after testimony from my siblings in the room and responses from Dr. Dempsey was an eye opener,” reflected Quentin Hunter. “It was a tearjerker because everyone, including myself, was crying.”
“This year the topic of mental health was much needed as displayed by those brave souls who got up and told their story. It really hit home for me on several levels” reported Business Representative Liz McInnis.
“Dr. Dempsey did something you don’t see every day and you may never see again. He spoke on wellness and therapy, things that people of color typically do not participate in,” said Brandon Fosselman. “Breakthrough after breakthrough people spoke on their struggles and reached for help.”
Moved by Dr. Dempsey’s session, PG&E Op Clerk and Organizing Steward Lead Brenda Balcazar had her own personal breakthrough. “I realized that I was shutting my son down when he was trying to tell me his story and his struggles…I felt like going straight home to tell my son ‘I am sorry that I didn’t give you the opportunity to share your story with me.’ I was prepared to attend the EWMC conference to learn new skills and tools to be a better union member. I was not prepared to attend the EWMC conference to become a better mother!”
“We needed this stark, emotionally raw reminder that our mental, physical, and emotional well-being does not have to suffer in exchange for our chosen professions,” remarked Alston.
Although every issue cannot be resolved over one weekend, the recognition and resources offered started the process.
After a very intense and emotionally raw plenary session, moving on with the rest of the program was challenging. However, a lunch with time to be mindful and self-reflective provided the reset the attendees needed to move on to the next phase – workshops.
Workshops – Leadership & Learning
Retired Sr. Assistant Business Manager and former EWMC National Recording Secretary, Dorothy Fortier, facilitated a workshop, Know the Rules of the Game, which was designed to enhance knowledge of parliamentary procedures.
“I took her class and she built up my knowledge on bylaws, constitution, and Robert’s Rules of Order. I plan to put those skills to use while attending union meetings,” said Quentin Hunter.
PG&E CSR and Organizing Steward Lead Donny David says of the workshop: “Being taught basic laws and policies of the IBEW was priceless.”
Influential Leadership was another powerful workshop attended by Organizing Staff and Stewards which focused on establishing a learning and leadership development program and improving leadership skills.
“I enjoyed this workshop as it gave me the tools to develop my personal mission statement,” exclaimed Que Thompson.
Union Strong, Union Proud
Every EWMC conference is a family reunion with a purpose. The camaraderie and fellowship seemed to deepen at this conference which only makes 1245 stronger.
“This year’s conference was like no other. It showcased the true value of the brotherhood and sisterhood in the IBEW. It showed me solidarity, compassion, and resiliency – all in four days,” reflected Cruz Martinez.
“The group that attended this EWMC conference bonded on another level. We are truly family,” proclaimed Brandon Fosselman. “Relationships were built that will last a lifetime.”
— Charlotte Stevens, Staff Organizer and EWMC Delegate