Sunday, March 22, 2009

A little bit about my history with the IBEW

I thought I'd lighten things up, and instead of talking about an issue affecting union members, I'd tell all of you a little about me and my involvement with the IBEW.

In 1992 I started work as a Temporary in Point Lepreau's Health Physics lab after having graduated as a Chemical Technologist. (The people in Health Physics record and track the radiation "dose" that workers receive, as well as measuring and recording any environmental releases of radiation. Releases and worker exposure are both extremely low.)

After I had been there a while, the Shop Steward in my department invited me to attend a union meeting. My Grandfather had been the national Vice President of the International Longshoreman's Association and although I never knew him (he died when I very young) I had a favourable impression of unions. As a result of the invitation, I attended that meeting and became very interested in the union. I think in five years I might have missed two meetings.

I had been attending monthly unit meetings regularly for two or three years when elections eventually rolled around. At the time, the existing Unit Chairperson decided to step down and I heard that a certain person was going to throw their hat in the ring. The problem for me was that I had seen this person in action -- they seemed to have a chip on their shoulder, and it always seemed to me that this person looked for ways to create conflict, rather than solve problems.

Even then, I had some strong feelings about the right way of handling issues. I believed , as I still do, that you can be hard on an issue, but soft on the people. It's not necessary to create needless conflicts and bad feelings in order to deal with problems, in fact it's counter productive. I think it's better to take the high road.

I also feel that if you don't think something is right, you should either do something about it or keep quiet -- just don't complain and do nothing. So, I decided to run for the Unit Chairperson's job -- not because I had ever planned to take on a leadership role, but because I thought the alternative would be a disaster for our members. I ended up winning that election for Unit Chairperson, and as a consequence became a member of the Executive Board.

To make a long story short, in 1996 two new groups within NB Power (the Engineers and the Supervisors) decided to join the IBEW. About the same time, my temporary job came to an end and I was laid off. With our membership numbers growing, the union needed another person in the office and the Business Manager at the time, John Cole, asked me to work for him as an Assistant Business Manager, which I did. About six months later, I was offered a recall to a regular positon with NB Power, but I decided to stick where I was, and turned them down.

The rest as they say, is history, and I've now been working for the IBEW for over a dozen years. I've done a lot of things in that time -- grievances, adjudications, labour board hearings, negotiations, lobbying, etc. You name it, it seems like I've done it. But one thing hasn't changed, and that's my desire to help people when I can and to always take the high road.

No comments: