English | Español

For Boilermakers, resilience is not unprecedented

Boilermakers have a long and storied record of rising to challenges, innovating and adapting to solve problems…

Newton B. Jones, International President

While accurately used to describe the many untested and unimaginable experiences we’ve been forced to face living through a pandemic, the word “unprecedented” has effectively lost its ability to shock and awe. The year we’ve come through has simply been like no other in its magnitude and frequency of fresh awfulness.

We stood weary as quarantine orders shuttered businesses and stalled jobs. We learned to cope with the constant anxiety of uncertainty.  We mourned far too many family, neighbors and Boilermaker brothers and sisters lost to a disease scientists and doctors still struggle to understand. We feared for our health and our future.

Yet, even mired in a year of “unprecedented” despair there is, and always has been, hope, deeply rooted in our unique history of resilience.

Boilermakers have a long and storied record of rising to challenges, innovating and adapting to solve problems, to break into new industries, to evolve and use new technology, to adjust and get the job done—whatever the job might be.

Consider our evolution from building steam-powered locomotives in the late 1800s to building an “inside out” solar-powered boiler system in the Mojave Desert and even making a system that helped scientists prove Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Consider that while carbon capture, use and storage is finally finding its way to the forefront of mainstream discussions, Boilermakers have been on the cutting-edge building, retrofitting and advocating for CCUS technology for at least a decade. In fact, we’ve been at the forefront of every pollution control innovation along the way.

Our commitment to innovation plays out in the unmatched safety, training and apprenticeship programs we’ve created. It’s in the alliances we’ve built with contractors and owners, the legislation we’ve championed to defend the integrity of our craft and the safety of our members. It’s in our forward-thinking programs, like the M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund, that preserve our union and provide for members.

Our resilience shows in the many industries we’ve organized and added to our repertoire—from cement to caskets to ship building.  And it’s proven every day when a Boilermaker climbs high up into a hot, cramped space, contorting his or her body to perform the unsung magnificent work that keeps North American running.

As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, we will continue to need to adapt and navigate our union through unique challenges to ensure our future. For our upcoming 34th Consolidated Convention, this means the International Executive Council has made the difficult but necessary decision to convene the convention virtually only, on July 19, 2021.  This decision came after very careful consideration and with the mutual understanding that we all would, of course, prefer to meet in person.

As of this writing, hope appears to be on the near horizon for a return to some semblance of “normalcy;” however, we are just not confident we will be in a position in July to responsibly and safely travel or meet in a large group setting. Our primary concern is for the safety of delegates and their families, as we remain unsure of when vaccines will be widely available and will have no way of ensuring all in attendance will be able to have a vaccine prior to the convention.  We also are concerned that our Canadian Boilermaker brothers and sisters may still have difficulty entering the United States at that time, unfairly preventing them from participating in an in-person event.

Additionally, the decision was fiscally responsible. While the situation with vaccines and quarantine requirements may change in the coming months, in working with Caesars Palace and making the decision now, rather than later, to cancel our in-person event, the International Executive Council was able to save our organization $1.6 million.

Technology allows us to innovate, adapt and show our resilience, once again. Because of the virtual format, the event will be abbreviated and limited solely to necessary business.  As directed in our Constitution, convention committees will still be appointed and meet as needed to maintain forward progress and address any needed business. In all regards, we will work to the best of our abilities in planning to ensure the convention and committee meetings are substantive, our virtual platform runs as smoothly as possible and that our organization’s business needs and expectations are well met.

As has been the case throughout the past year, while we will most certainly miss the opportunity to meet in person to conduct our business and celebrate our organization’s history and future, we no less look forward to meeting virtually to keep our organization moving forward and address our Convention business.

It’s certainly an unprecedented measure for our organization to take—but it also, marks the Boilermakers’ history with a note about our resilience and resolve to rise to a challenge.