IBEW 1245’s ground-breaking “Organizing Steward” program has only been in effect for 18 months, but it’s already making a remarkable difference in the culture of activism in the union.
“We stood with teachers on strike in Medford, Oregon. We provided bilingual organizers to the Teamsters in two hard fought organizing campaigns. We mobilized nineteen volunteers to door knock in Redding, CA for a critical election. And in the Fall of 2014, 35 organizing stewards and prospective organizing stewards participated full time in the mid-term elections that won significant gains for our members in California, fought the good fight in Nevada and defended the interests of working families across America,” noted IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell.
“I’m incredibly excited and honored to be a part of this year’s Organizing Steward program,” said new Organizing Steward Melissa Becerril. “Last year was my first year being involved in the organizing aspect of the union. From grassroots campaigning in Fresno County to canvassing in Colorado, it’s been quite the journey. Organizing is more than just politics, it’s a movement, and I’m proud to be part of it!”
Since this year isn’t a big election year, the Organizing Stewards are preparing for a series of activities aimed at reinvigorating the principles of solidarity and volunteerism that the Labor Movement was founded on.
“We should be able to do some serious movement-building this year,” said Eric Sunderland, an Organizing Steward who has been part of the program since its inception. “I’m getting it started with a bang by attending the Fight for Fifteen national leadership conference in Atlanta in February. I expect to come back from Atlanta fired up and ready for some huge coalition-building for a massive day of action April 15 [to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour].”
Getting Down to Business
The 36 Organizing Stewards that make up the “Class of 2015” met at Weakley Hall on Friday, Jan. 23 to discuss their plans and responsibilities for the coming year. Several of the stewards brought along their children, who in some cases are getting involved in campaign work themselves.
The Organizing Stewards have divided themselves into regional “organizing committees,” and each committee is planning at least one union activity in each region to support a local charity in the area this year. From bowling parties to charity softball tournaments and cancer walks, there will be no shortage of opportunities for IBEW 1245 members to get involved and make a difference in their own communities. Check the IBEW 1245 Website Calendar periodically and ‘like’ IBEW local 1245 on Facebook to find out when activities will be taking place in your area.
To make sure the program continues to grow, each Steward identified at least one other union member who could potentially be part of next year’s class of Organizing Stewards, with the ultimate goal of doubling the number of Organizing Stewards in 2016. Stewards will be working in close coordination with the Local 1245 organizing team and Business Representatives to build the program.
“An Arrow in Our Quiver”
On Saturday, Jan. 24, the Organizing Stewards came back to Weakley Hall for the quarterly Advisory Council meeting, where they were recognized by the union leadership for their dedication and hard work.
IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell detailed some of the campaigns and activities they’ve taken part in over the past year, and explained how the organizing experience these members have gained can help the union protect and improve jobs. He cited political threats to the PG&E Diablo Canyon facility as just one example.
“Diablo Canyon provides 600 jobs for our members,” Dalzell said, “but right now, there are many cannons aimed at Diablo Canyon. I believe that at some point in the near future, we’re going to have to deploy a full campaign to protect the jobs there. We’re going to need a strong ground game, and now we have these trained warriors who are experienced and ready to do it.”
“These Organizing Stewards have done a phenomenal job,” Dalzell continued. “They’re an arrow in our quiver and part of the personality of our union. Thanks to them, we’re becoming a more multi-dimensional and well-rounded union.”
The Organizing Stewards were called up one by one, and many brought family and friends along with them to join the swearing-in ceremony. After Local 1245 President Mike Davis administered the oath to them as a group, Organizing Steward Kevin Krummes shared a few words of reflection.
“30 years ago when I started at PG&E, I had no sense of union … but now, thanks to the vision and foresight of Business Manager Tom Dalzell and the generosity and courage of our Executive Board, all that’s changed,” Krummes said. “With the advent of the Organizing Steward program, my life and the lives of all those up here with me have been forever altered. We’ve won some, lost a few, but more importantly we changed the narrative, redrawn the face of union power and reawakened the spirit of solidarity.”
Other Local 1245 members and IBEW locals are taking notice, and they aren’t the only ones. Since the advent of the program, the union has been recognized by the California Labor Federation, IBEW International President Ed Hill and AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler for its outstanding commitment to organizing and solidarity. And in just the past few months, other unions, including the Teamsters and California Federation of Teachers, have reached out to the 1245 team to express interest in starting their own programs based on 1245’s innovative Organizing Steward model.
For more information on IBEW Local 1245, you can visit their website here.