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With convention complete, focus returns to pressing issues

Newton B. Jones, Intl. President

Solidarity will help energize, guide our union

THE 33RD CONSOLIDATED Convention brought together Boilermakers from across the United States and Canada to perform the vital work of reaffirming our constitution and electing officers. We can be proud that delegates accomplished these goals while representing, with great passion and conviction, the interests of our membership.

As it has always done, our convention concentrated the attention of our Brotherhood on examining our founding document, proposing changes, debating those changes and voting to approve or reject them. Throughout this process, delegates demonstrated their love of this union and their respect for one another. Our convention not only renewed our constitution; it renewed our sense of who we are.

Convention delegates took care of business, and they also celebrated the work our members do each day, work that sustains our two great societies and builds our two great nations. With this important effort now complete, we return to the challenges and opportunities before us, energized by our solidarity and focused on moving forward.

Following is a summary of some of the more pressing issues that were discussed at convention and which will now require our renewed attention.

Organizing and recruiting

OUR UNION CERTAINLY has not been immune to the shrinking of the Labor Movement. We, too, have been impacted by bad trade deals, shifting technology and job loss from government policies on climate change.

While we have stepped up our organizing efforts in recent years — with some notable successes — we need to do more. In the coming weeks and months, you will be hearing about a major initiative in the Western States, spearheaded by IVP J. Tom Baca, to bring more organizers on board and increase our numbers. We will be calling on all locals to support these organizers.

“Our Brotherhood is endowed with bright, capable and dedicated people. And as was proven once again at our 33rd Consolidated Convention, we are unafraid to tackle tough problems — and to come together in solidarity to get things done.”

It is worth noting that last year, through our in-plant organizing program, 1,200 workers at our shops and shipyards became dues-paying members. This program has served us well in strengthening our local lodges and growing our Brotherhood.

Just as organizing is critical to our future, so too is recruitment and marketing. In the Construction Sector, we must regain market share lost to us over the years and now done by nonunion workers and companies.

We are approaching this challenge through innovative strategies to reach out to facilities where Boilermakers have lost work — or where we have never worked before — and to bring skilled workers on board who are not now in a union.

In Canada, under IVP Joe Maloney's leadership, our union has developed a temporary foreign worker program to fill manpower shortages, drawing on qualified workers from the United States, the United Kingdom and South Korea. We are the only craft in Canada with such a program.

Educating and training our members

EDUCATION HAS LONG been a priority of our union, not only for current leaders but also for our membership and future leaders. Staying competitive and meeting new challenges requires that we be informed and involved.

We approach education and training through a variety of meetings and programs such as our ISO, CSO, LEAP and MOST tripartite conferences. Our Summer Institute at School for Workers continues to play an important role, as it has for more than 50 years.

Online training programs such as our Virtual Campus in Canada and the Learning Management System in the United States bring a modern, flexible approach to prepare our apprentices in the construction industry.

And of course our MOST alliance continues to develop ground-breaking programs such as The Boilermaker Code that give our members and our contractors an advantage over nonunion competitors by elevating the value union Boilermakers bring to our clients.

One of the concerns brought forward at convention was a lack of understanding about Boilermaker National Funds, especially how decisions are made concerning health care and pension benefits. The International has been aware of this concern, and we have consulted with the National Funds Office regarding professionally produced instructional videos. Meanwhile, the International has commissioned a film that will explain the family of Boilermaker organizations, the relationships and structures of these organizations, and their legal responsibilities. This information will be available on our International website, along with a section addressing frequently asked questions.

Fighting for our jobs and benefits

WE CONTINUE TO be engaged in Washington, D.C. and at local and state government levels to fight for our rights as union members. Among the key issues facing our members is the string of government regulations that has disrupted the energy industry and cost our members work.

We are part of a coalition that successfully challenged the Clean Power Plan before the Supreme Court, and our effort resulted in a stay of the plan. The District Court of Washington, D.C., was set to determine the plan's legal standing as we went to press, and we are hopeful the court agrees with our position.

At convention, we were intrigued by a presentation from North West Upgrade's Ian MacGregor that involves building an $8 billion refinery in Alberta, Canada, that incorporates carbon capture, use and storage in the initial design. Many of our field construction members are at work on the project. We want to learn more about this approach — and other CCUS technologies — as they hold promise for the continued use of fossil fuels in a way that is responsive to the concerns of climate change while securing well-paying jobs for Boilermakers and other trades.

We are also engaged in efforts to protect our pension and health care benefits from unfair and misguided legislation and policies coming out of D.C. These are fights being waged by other unions as well, including our close friends at the United Mine Workers of America. At a recent rally on Capitol Hill, thousands of coal miners and supporters — including Boilermakers from across the country — gathered to demand that our federal government ensure coal companies honor their commitments to provide pensions and healthcare to UMWA members.

Focusing labor's financial resources

AS AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka told our delegates at convention, if labor doesn't use its financial resources in a way that benefits union workers and their families, those resources will be used against us.

President Trumka has been a strong supporter of Bank of Labor and our push to grow the bank for the benefit not only of the Brotherhood but also the broader Labor Movement.

Bank of Labor can marshal labor's financial resources to work for labor and its causes and deny those resources to the big Wall Street banks that have failed unions and have even worked directly against us.

We are thankful to have the support of many of labor's top leaders and the positive reception we have seen from our allies in the movement.

Looking forward

WHILE THERE IS not space here to address all of the areas where we are engaged, I trust the foregoing offers a sense of how we are approaching some of the key issues and challenges of our time.

Our Brotherhood is endowed with bright, capable and dedicated people. And as was proven once again at our 33rd Consolidated Convention, we are unafraid to tackle tough problems — and to come together in solidarity to get things done.

To that end, we will apply our collective strength and resources to grow and prosper in our rapidly changing world.