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  • 01/2017 Jared Brydson RENEW/EWMC Conference report
    Updated On: Jan 27, 2017

    EWMC/RENEW Conference

    Wednesday morning started with introductions and roll call of EWMC officers.

    Introductions were then passed on to the body for every member to give a brief introduction about themselves. After noting how some members spoke about themselves, EWMC President Keith Edwards gave a brief speech about not diminishing ourselves for our classification or being “just an apprentice”. We’re all dues paying IBEW members with an equal voice and we need to carry ourselves as such. President Emeritus Robbie Sparks spoke about the importance of holding people accountable that say they stand with minorities, but wont stand when its important. About keeping your head up when times are hard and to keep fighting. Also, about the minorities not being represented in our International Office and encouraged members to run for office, both in the union and out.

    Eric Bauman, Vice Chair of the California Democratic Party talked about how difficult the next four years will be under the new administration. After 50 years of progress, now we’re building walls. How our President talks about bringing jobs back but won’t build here himself.

    Stacked his cabinet with the richest cabinet in history. Solidarity is more important than ever. We have to stand together, union and non-union, to fight for every worker’s rights. We need to educate ourselves and our members to be better equipped to handle arguments that are political in nature. Have conversations with people about how it is to be a minority, with people that don't understand what it’s like. “Don’t be quiet, don’t be discouraged, don’t sit down.”

    I attended a workshop on “Member to Member Organizing”. Successful organizing is building a foundation based on common ground and building a relationship from there. The two most important things are to talk to people and to listen. The more you practice these skills, the better you get. We are uniquely qualified to organize because we live it every day. Think globally, act locally. Act within your local to make the changes that you want made. Set one goal at a time and implement them. The key to making this country strong is to invest in a solid middle class built on labor.

    Short Term Goals, for me, for Local 354:

    General Attendance

    Educating Members

    Increase Diversity

    Cultivate Positivity

    Inclusion

    Community Involvement

    Increase Membership

    Political Involvement

    Focus on Safety

    Empowering Women

    Empowering Minorities

    Reduce Bigotry

    Encourage Unity

    Lead By Example

    Share Information

    Listen to People

    Growing Internal Organizations

    Harnessing Political Anxiety

    Get Involved in Communities

    Understanding Issues

     

    “The purpose of a leader is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”

    The next workshop I attended was on “Leadership Development”. Leadership is both an art and a science. To be an effective leader, we need to learn how to apply it accordingly.

    Science-based leadership is analytical and making data based decisions, following the

    fundamental process of the scientific method. Art-based leadership is working with people, putting yourself in other’s shoes. Its built on empathy, an act of imagination. When we can bring these concepts together, we can become effective leaders in our workplace and union. Purpose influences leadership. To be effective, you must have a goal on what you want to accomplish.

    The person with the most power is not the leader. It’s the person with the most influence.

    Thursday was the EWMC/RENEW day of service projects. 380 of the 500 delegates registered to the conference signed up for the day of service. The project; Veterans First Organization, that works to provide services exclusively to the region’s homeless and at-risk veterans. The organization provides a multitude of services including housing, meals, life coaching counseling, life skills, access to mental health counseling, benefit counseling, transportation, as well as job training and employment placement assistance. Volunteers worked to replace light fixtures, receptacles, switches, and do some painting at this location. The other project we worked was the Orange County Food Bank. We worked on lineups to pack boxes that will feed one adult for 3 days. All in all 3,100 boxes were packed by our volunteers in a 4 hour period.

    On Friday, keynote speaker International President Lonnie Stephenson gave a brief speech about the responsibility of the IBEW, as a pillar of the community, to raise the standard of living for all workers in the country. Next, a political action panel discussion took place.

    Delegates discussed what steps they took in their areas to help elect labor-friendly candidates and paired with their local AFL to Get Out The Vote in working class neighborhoods.

    In the Construction Caucus, President Keith Edwards spoke about Code of Excellence and how it has evolved into SPARQ and important it is in our industry moving forward to repair our image where it has been negatively effected. Also, how Code of Excellence applies to both the IBEW and NECA alike. We must hold our contractors accountable that they hold up their end of the bargain; Proper management and planning, effective supervision, working with stewards, proper tools and material, safety and safety training.

    Friday ended with guest speaker Bill Fletcher, a trade unionist and former President of the TransAfrica Forum. His speech was titled, “Building a Strong Labor Movement in the Trump Era”. I have a video of the speech that I will send to anyone that wants it, fair warning, it is heavily politically biased. He touched on a lot of good points about political strategy and about how we, as voters, have failed to elect leaders that accurately represent working people. We need to elect new leadership, diverse leadership.

    Saturday, IEC Chairman Chris Erickson spoke about the impact of the presidential election and the spike of racist and xenophobic attacks in the wake of the election, the normalization of racism. How we need to drive that out of our midst because it breaks down the fundamental principles of our union.

    “Reaching Back and Lifting Up”. This panel was very touching, it involved members that worked in their communities to help ex-cons get back on their feet after serving time and changing their lives through the IBEW and other trade unions. Through various “Second Chance” programs and bootcamps that teach unskilled people the basics of construction.

    Learning how to use tools and basic skills needed in our industry, they were introduced to different trades and at the end of bootcamp were able to choose what career path they would like to pursue. Then were given guidance on how to apply for apprenticeships and given mock interviews before graduating from the program.

    I then attended two workshops to finish out Saturday. First, “How to talk politics with a new Sheriff in town”. This was a mock lobbying session in which each group was given a different scenario and we were taught how to properly lobby our politicians. Our scenario was a power plant was closing in our area and we needed to convince the director of the energy department for our “town” to keep the plant open and save 100 IBEW jobs. This was a very useful and educational exercise for me. The next workshop was “Movement Building”, a discussion about how the IBEW has paired with various environmental groups to build and organize “green” jobs in the electrical industry. Though the IBEW and environmentalists don't always get along, examples were shown on how we have worked together around the country.

    Sunday was the closing plenary session for the conference. Open discussions were held on Chapter, Caucus, and Workshops. Delegates were also encouraged to give reports on their conference experience. Closing remarks and prayer were given by Keith Edwards and EWMC President Emeritus Robbie Sparks sang “We Shall Overcome”, while the delegates formed a human chain around the room as a show of solidarity. There is a video of this adjournment on the EWMC Facebook page.

    “We must pledge ourselves to fight with all of our strength to combat bigotry and injustice within our ranks.”International President Lonnie Stephenson

    Jared Brydson

    Vice President, Local 354 Card no. 7096529


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