The first page of the IBEW Constitution begins with a declaration:
"Our cause is the cause of human justice, human rights, human security."
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It’s a powerful statement of the values that IBEW leaders and members pledge to uphold when they take the oath of membership. And combined with the union’s first objective, to organize all workers in the entire electrical industry in the United States and Canada, the message is unmistakable.
“There is a place in the IBEW for working people of every race and gender, every religion and sexual orientation, every background,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson in launching the implementation phase of the union’s new diversity, inclusion and equity initiative, “IBEW Strong.”
“This diversity and full inclusion effort is about making sure that the IBEW genuinely represents the interests of every single worker in our industries,” he said. “It’s about ensuring that people entering the workforce today — members of one of the most diverse generations in history — feel that they have a place in the IBEW.”
“We need to include everyone, regardless of history, background, or job classification,” said Boise, Idaho, Local 291 Business Manager Mark Zaleski, who served on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “Society is changing, but the thing is, everyone deserves good wages and benefits, and we can offer that. That’s how we stay strong.”
There’s nothing new about seeking to represent the voiceless and unrepresented. The IBEW has long stood for solidarity, equality and against oppression of any kind. So, IBEW Strong is a natural outgrowth of what this union has stood for since its beginning, Stephenson said. The IBEW should be a place that welcomes all workers and gives everyone a voice and a shot at a better life for themselves and their families.
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee grew out of a unanimously passed resolution at the 39th International Convention in 2016.
Made up of officers and other IBEW leaders and members from every branch, district and background, its members have worked behind the scenes for the last three years.
Through the work of the committee and discussions with the international vice presidents and executive officers, members of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus, RENEW/NextGen and the Women’s Committee, five themes were identified as part of a strategic plan to strengthen and grow the IBEW.
Organizing/Expanding Membership: Develop and expand outreach, recruitment and marketing programs to young people, nontraditional and historically marginalized communities.
Education and Training: Provide training and education programs that address the importance and need for inclusion to all IBEW members and leaders.
Building Member Capacity: Provide inclusive opportunities for members to learn and develop leadership skills and foster local union activism.
Leadership Advancement: Provide opportunities for all local union members to take on leadership roles.
Replicating Best Practices: Document, share, and replicate best practices for creating a stronger IBEW through outreach and inclusion programs.
Now, the focus shifts to putting the ideas behind these themes into practice.
With input from the committee, the Education Department is working on a variety of trainings for locals, as well as outreach efforts, including to schools, and a collection of best practices that will be shared union-wide. The trainings will vary in length, content and audience, including some geared toward leadership, and eventually include a train-the-trainer version.
“We want locals to see the value of diversity and inclusion,” said Education Department Director Amanda Pacheco. “The IBEW will be stronger for this, and we can lead the way.”
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