Posted on Apr 03, 2007
John M Grau
Two weeks ago, I sat in the front row at the annual IBEW Construction Conference next to my old colleague, Jack Moore, Secretary Emeritus of the IBEW. Jack is looking good and feeling good. We both commented that we miss the day-to-day interaction we shared as co-trustees of the NEBF before he retired in 1997.
The current national officers of the IBEW were there as well, along with business managers from construction locals across the country. As I sat between my former and current colleagues, I realized just how much has changed about the conference during the years that I’ve been attending.
In the past, much of the conference was dedicated to national politics. Speaker after speaker would rail against big business and anti-union forces. A word or two was said about the need to organize, but there was hardly a mention of NECA or signatory employers.
Today, the focus has completely shifted. In fact, you might think you were at a joint NECA-IBEW conference. Speakers now urge the local union leaders to work cooperatively with NECA and NECA contractors to recover and build markets. You’re more likely to hear about increasing market share, improving worker attitudes, and delivering customer service than the same-old bashing of White House.
IBEW International President Ed Hill used his keynote to promote the benefits of using the new CW/CE classifications to organize non-union workers, make contractors more competitive, and alleviate worker shortages. He hammered home the need to provide a full day's work for a full day's pay. Ed even said it’s time to adopt the Code of Excellence nationally, perhaps as Category I language.
Hard-won changes like this – an openness to new ideas and an appreciation for NECA contractors – means that our message is getting through. It means that Ed understands what we’ve been saying about the competitive challenges our contractors are facing and what we need to do about them.
These changing perspectives at the IBEW are good news for NECA contractors, too. Let’s hope that the local union leaders were listening.