Building America Back Better:
Biden’s Agenda is Working for the IBEW
Witnessing History: IBEW Members at White House for Infrastructure Bill Signing
With the stroke of the pen, alongside more than 10 IBEW members and a bipartisan group of lawmakers at the White House on Nov. 15, President Biden made official one of the biggest infrastructure investments in U.S. history.
Its size and scope ensures that it will rebuild both the country’s weakened infrastructure and the middle class. Touching nearly every sector of the U.S. economy, the bill was touted on a level comparable to the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the late 19th century and the interstate highway system in the 1950s.
“I could not be more proud of IBEW members who have long called for transformative investments in infrastructure, and are now ready to get to work rebuilding this country,” said IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson. “The long-overdue upgrade America has been waiting for has finally arrived.”
IBEW Lobbying Effort Hours before House Vote
Passage by the House of Representatives came only hours after the IBEW launched a lobbying effort involving hundreds of IBEW members working the phones in an all-out push for a vote on the infrastructure legislation that ultimately passed both chambers with bipartisan support.
First, President Stephenson convened a call on Nov. 1 with more than 500 IBEW members to urge them to press their members of Congress to support the package.
“Congress must seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” President Stephenson told the IBEW members. “I know IBEW members are ready, willing and able to roll up our sleeves and get to work. But we cannot rebuild America on our own. We need elected leaders to understand the urgency of this moment. We need them to take action immediately.”
Winning Passage of the Build Back Better Act
Relief for middle class families is one step closer with the passage by the House of Representatives of the Build Back Better Act on Nov. 19.
Like the infrastructure bill, the Build Back Better Act will make transformative investments in future generations, the health care system and public schools..
“For generations, IBEW members have joined our working sisters and brothers across the economy in calling for the kind of basic protections and services found in the Build Back Better Act,” President Stephenson said. “This historic legislation will improve quality of life for millions, and today, IBEW members are celebrating its passage by the U.S. House of Representatives.”
The nearly $2 trillion bill also includes $555 billion for clean energy tax credits and climate funding, expanded Affordable Care Act tax credits, and caps on childcare and out-of-pocket prescription drug costs. In addition, the bill sets aside $20 billion for workforce development activities, including $6 billion in funding to expand apprenticeship programs over the next five years.
Pressing Congress to Pass the Build Back Better Agenda
Historic and transformational change for America’s infrastructure and jobs is the order of the day on Capitol Hill as negotiators seek to construct legislation containing President Biden’s bold plan for America.
At issue are plans to build the charging infrastructure necessary for widescale adoption of electric vehicles, buses, trains and trucks and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in roads, transit, the electrical grid, passenger and freight rail, broadband and water infrastructure.
After President Biden helped negotiate it, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed the Senate and is now under consideration by the House of Representatives. Negotiators are also working on the Budget Reconciliation package, the administration’s and congressional Democrats’ proposal for “human infrastructure.”
Both of these bills have the potential to impact a large swath of IBEW membership and their families.
President Stephenson and Government Affairs Department staff are actively lobbying on these negotiations, which are fluctuating daily. Please look for updates in next month’s issue of this newsletter, on ibew.org and in the Electrical Worker.
Calling IBEW Members ‘The Best in the World,’ Biden Talks Renewables at DOE Site
It was almost déjà vu when Denver Local 68 journeyman wireman Julian Aguilar met President Biden at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on September 14 outside Denver.
“I know I just now met Joe Biden for the first time in my life, but I feel like he’s had my back for years,” said Aguilar, a second-generation member of Local 68. “President Joe Biden is not just pro-union. He’s pro-people. He’s pro-America.”
Biden saluted IBEW electricians as “the best in the world,” as he thanked Aguilar and discussed the urgency of renewable energy.
“Whether you’re an engineer at a lab bench, an IBEW worker working on a turbine, [whether] you work for a power company or a small construction business, everyone has a role to play in building a clean energy future and a stronger economy,” Biden said at the Department of Energy site where Local 68 members are at work on a solar installation project.
Relying on IBEW’s Charging Infrastructure Expertise to Make EV Target
President Biden signed an executive order targeting 2030 as the year that half of all passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. will be electric.
He was joined by auto company executives in the August 5 White House announcement, when he emphasized the transformative infrastructure potential of his Build Back Better plan.
“We’re going to put Americans to work modernizing our roads, our highways, our ports, our airports, rail and transit systems,” Biden said at the event. “That includes putting IBEW members and other union workers to work installing a national network of 500,000 charging stations along our roads and highways and at our homes and our apartments.”
Celebrating Labor Day with IBEW Members
President Biden spent the day dedicated to workers with members of the IBEW.
Along with IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson, President Biden delivered sandwiches to members of Wilmington, Del. Local 313 on Labor Day, Sept. 6.
IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson called Biden "a longtime friend of working families and the IBEW."
"Joe has a long record of standing up for union members, and we believe it’s in the best interest of IBEW members to elect him our next president," Stephenson wrote in February 2020, adding: "Joe Biden has listened to IBEW members, and his energy policy has been shaped by deep, meaningful conversations with the professionals who will build and maintain the energy grid of the future."
In his Labor Day proclamation, President Biden said that hard-working Americans are the backbone of the country.
"Everything that supports a sustainable middle-class life was made possible by unions, and on Labor Day we honor all those workers — and their enduring movement — that keep our economy moving and make our nation strong.”
Supporting Infrastructure Legislation to Shore up America
America’s rundown infrastructure is heading for a makeover following the passage in the Senate of the sweeping historic legislation in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act on Aug. 9.
Together with the budget bill under consideration in the House of Representatives, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created as the Biden Build Back Better agenda comes to fruition.
In a statement, IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson said the IBEW is pleased with investments modernizing the electrical grid, transit, and rail, in addition to the plan to construct the charging infrastructure necessary for widescale adoption of electric vehicles, buses, trains and trucks.
“We commend President Biden’s leadership in addressing climate change as an urgent crisis for our country and encourage the Biden administration to continue supporting carbon-free nuclear energy,” he said. “The majority of infrastructure investments passed by the Senate do include labor standards; I also hope and expect that the Biden administration and congressional leaders will continue to push for labor standards in all infrastructure investments, particularly in the critical area of broadband expansion, so that the new jobs created will be good union jobs.”
IBEW members also contributed to the bill’s gathering momentum in favor of the bill. Over the summer, IBEW members sent 12,700 emails to congressional offices and 440 letters to the editor through the IBEW Action website at www.ibewaction.org.
On July 22, President Stephenson was among a handful of labor and business leaders invited to the White House to discuss infrastructure jobs.
‘Running toward the Storm:’ Biden Recognizes IBEW in Ida Power Restoration Work
President Biden called out the necessity of IBEW linemen following the Category 4 hurricane that smashed into New Orleans and continued to menace the country’s interior before inundating New York and New Jersey with massive flooding.
In a meeting that included Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and utility officials, “the president thanked the IBEW for the vital work their members perform, especially during emergencies such as Ida where they run toward the storm while others are being urged to evacuate,” said a White House statement.
Miles of electrical transmission and distribution lines were damaged in the storm, increasing the importance of the infrastructure legislation awaiting action in the House of Representatives. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by the Senate on Aug. 9 includes $110 billion for grid upgrades and $29 billion for reliability and resilience.
Touting ‘Build Back Better,’ Biden Tours Cincinnati Training Center
President Joe Biden took his pitch for a massive investment in infrastructure and American labor directly to the workers July 21, touring the IBEW-NECA Electrical Training Center in Cincinnati to learn about what IBEW electricians do every day on the job.
It was the first visit by a sitting president to an IBEW training center since President Barack Obama toured Washington, D.C., Local 26’s facility in 2010.
“The Build Back Better plan that President Biden is proposing will be a game-changer for union tradesmen and tradeswomen,” said International President Lonnie Stephenson. “But we can’t overstate how important it is that a sitting president showed up at our training center, asked genuine questions about the work that we do and used the word ‘union’ again and again.”
For more on this story, read the September issue of the Electrical Worker
Negotiating a Bipartisan Deal with Congress for More Jobs, Cleaner Infrastructure
President Joe Biden proposed the largest investment in American infrastructure since World War II at the end of March, after being introduced by Pittsburgh Local 29 member Mike Fiore. Four weeks later, he renewed his call for the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan from the House floor, again with the IBEW at the heart of his pitch.
Today, President Biden and Congress are making their way toward passing $4 trillion in spending that will upgrade America’s flagging infrastructure, better position the U.S. as a global competitor and aggressively combat climate change.
As a result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework deal reached on June 24, within grasp are plans to modernize the electric grid, expand access to broadband internet, invest and electrify the transportation sector, including public passenger rail, ports, roads, bridges and airports. The framework will create and sustain good-paying union jobs when paired with the appropriate labor protections.
EVITP a Necessary Component
Key to this plan are 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations and the standardization of the buildout of the nation’s EV infrastructure. The IBEW is pressing lawmakers to ensure that the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP) is included in any legislation.
“Without proper credentialing, the EV buildout will be vulnerable to unscrupulous companies hiring unqualified workers, paying low wages and contributing to the race-to-the-bottom mentality that is already rampant in the renewable energy industry,” Stephenson said.
Read more in the July Newsletter.
Making the IBEW Integral in Federal EV Expansion Discussions
IBEW was front and center in a June 4 conversation with White House officials, industry leaders and agency procurement officials about transitioning the entire federal vehicle fleet from gas-powered to electric.
White House Council on Environmental Quality chair Brenda Mallory said the transformation of more than 600,000 cars and trucks to an all-electric fleet will accelerate the advancement of America’s industrial capacity to supply domestically produced zero-emission vehicles and electric batteries, while creating good-paying union jobs in manufacturing, engineering and skilled-trades and significantly cutting the federal government’s carbon footprint.
IBEW’s Austin Keyser, assistant to the international president for government affairs, said when it comes to building the electric vehicle charging infrastructure, there is no better model for scaling up and training the construction workforce than the IBEW and National Electrical Contractor Association’s jointly administered program.
Holding First Worker Task Force Meeting at IBEW Training Center
Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh traveled to Pittsburgh in late June for the first meeting of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment.
The roundtable featured Local 5 organizer Bill Garner and counterparts from seven other unions. President Biden created the task force in April, giving appointed cabinet members and top advisors six months to report back on how the federal government can support union growth and collective bargaining.
“You had the vice president and secretary of labor walk into a union hall — our hall — and sit down with a group of union members for two hours,” President Stephenson said. “Their only agenda was to learn about union organizing from the experts, from the people who live and breathe it. The workers around the table were the VIPs that day.”
Check out the August issue of the Electrical Worker for more on this story.
Getting Another Public Shoutout from President Biden
President Biden toured the Ford electric F-150 plant in Michigan on May 18, highlighting his American Jobs Plan and the importance of remaking auto manufacturing to help curb climate change.
And once again, Biden took the opportunity to promote the key role of the IBEW in his plans for an electric vehicle revolution.
“We’re going to put Americans back to work … and that includes putting IBEW members to work installing 500,000 charging stations along our roads and highways,” President Biden said. “The IBEW is ready to do it and they can.”
The visit to the Dearborn, Mich. Ford plant gearing up to produce the Ford F-150 Lightning was planned to draw attention to the burgeoning electric vehicle market and the intensifying efforts to gather support for an infrastructure bill that includes the construction of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations by IBEW members.
Read more in the June newsletter.
Publicly Saying Enough IBEW-Positive Things for a Highlight Reel
Joe Biden’s the most pro-IBEW, pro-union president in history. But don’t just take our word for it. Watch this highlight video, with clips from President Biden’s address to Congress, his comments from a meeting with labor leaders at the White House, an off-the cuff statement at a global climate summit and even a private video he made to thank the IBEW officers for their support.
“With this administration, you will have a partner, I promise you that,” President Biden said to the IBEW officers. “You will have a partner to make it easier for workers to unionize and for unions to organize.”
At the Labor Department, Providing Steadfast Support for Unions
Policy at the Department of Labor is looking a lot different than under the Trump administration, or even under Obama.
The DOL’s anti-corruption unit, the Office of Labor-Management Standards, is going back to defending unions. Under the agency’s mandate of transparency and accountability, disclosure forms collected by the OLMS require detailed information about unions’ membership and finances.
The new OLMS director, Jeffrey Freund, plans a public campaign to tout unions’ compliance with the agency’s transparency rules.
“We know there are organizations out there who have an agenda to defeat union organizing, to reduce union power, and to generally diminish the importance of unions in the American economy,” Freund said. “And they take our data, they produce a picture based on cherry-picking examples, and extrapolate that to the labor movement writ large. And that has an effect.
Read more here.
Giving the IBEW a Shoutout in his First State of the Union Address
It would be the first time President Biden addressed a joint session of Congress and 27 million at-home viewers – and the vision he laid out for the future was bold: ending the coronavirus pandemic, rebuilding the country’s neglected infrastructure, restarting the covid-ravaged economy.
He also made clear to everyone on April 28 what he’s been saying all along: unions hold the keys to the nation’s recovery.
“The American Jobs Plan will put engineers and construction workers to work building more energy efficient buildings and homes,” President Biden said. “Electrical workers – IBEW members – installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways.”
Even without the IBEW namecheck, it was one of the most pro-worker, pro-union speeches in presidential history. President Biden called for passage of the PRO Act, bringing offshored manufacturing home to the United States and boosting taxes on corporations and the wealthy to fund his plans.
In the address, President Biden also introduced the American Families Plan, which will provide investments in education from early childhood to post-secondary level and tax cuts and direct support for children and families.
“The American Families Plan is a vital investment in working families and the middle class,” said IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson. “This plan provides needed relief to working people and their children.”
Read more in the May newsletter.
IBEW: Leaning into the Biden Jobs Agenda
Nearly 500 IBEW members virtually roamed the halls of Congress on April 12-13 in pursuit of support for IBEW priorities from elected leaders. This effort came at a critical moment in the national conversation about the need for infrastructure legislation.
Scheduled to precede the Construction & Maintenance Conference, the Zoom extravaganza included more than 250 meetings with a clear-cut agenda: infrastructure, the broadband buildout, the power grid and labor standards. Members also emphasized the need to include the Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP) in any legislation that provides federal support for construction of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. and the National Child ID Program, a community safety initiative dedicated to protecting the estimated 800,000 children that go missing each year.
The event featured hundreds of meetings with members of both parties in the House and the Senate.
“Your work always pays off,” IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson told IBEW participants following the meetings. “If there is anything IBEW members have learned in the past few years, it is when members of Congress hear a strong message from their IBEW constituents back home, they can make an important difference.”
Click here for more.
Fulfilling a Critical Campaign Promise on Infrastructure
President Biden promised to put America back to work. On March 31, he shared his plan to deliver, with a historic eight-year $2 trillion package to rebuild a diminished infrastructure, battle climate change and take on global competitors.
The proposal will put the United States on the path to a revitalized domestic infrastructure while creating tens of thousands of jobs in several of the IBEW’s core sectors. Unveiled in Pittsburgh, several of Biden’s plan highlights will:
- Upgrade the electric grid by laying thousands of miles of new transmission lines, modernize power generation and deliver clean energy: $100 billion
- Construct 500,000 electrical vehicle charging stations, retool factories to produce batteries and electric vehicles: $173 billion
- Revitalize American manufacturing: $300 billion
- Invest in research and development on advanced manufacturing: $180 billion
- Upgrade transportation, highways, bridges, ports, transit systems and airports: More than $100 billion
- Deliver reliable, affordable high-speed broadband to all Americans: $100 billion
- Invest in workforce development programs: $100 billion
- Repair and upgrade Amtrak and modernize its Northeast Corridor: $80 billion
- Make infrastructure more resilient: $50 billion
- Clean up mines, brownfields and Superfund sites rural areas: $21 billion
- Require taxpayer dollars to benefit working families, materials made in the U.S. and transported on U.S.-crewed and -flagged ships
The plan will ensure that workers have the right to organize, join a union and bargain collectively and asks Congress to tie clean energy and infrastructure investments to prevailing wages, local hire rules and apprenticeship programs.
“The American Jobs plan is an investment in America’s workers and communities to not only rebuild the physical infrastructure and the battered economy but to harness new technologies to reposition the United States as a leader against global competitors like China,” said IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson. “This plan utilizes and creates jobs in nearly every branch of the IBEW’s membership.”
President Biden traveled to Pennsylvania to announce the plan. He was introduced by Pittsburgh Local 29 member Mike Fiore, a lineman employed by Duquesne Light, who spoke of the universal recognition for the need for the Build Back Better plan.
“But what President Biden is proposing isn’t just an investment in infrastructure,” Fiore said. “It’s an investment in good union jobs. It’s an investment in good schools and strong communities. It’s an investment in the future of so many forgotten parts of America.”
Once, Pennsylvania was a global leader in manufacturing and good union jobs, Fiore said. “It can be that way again. President Biden has a solid plan to make it happen.”
Helping America Dig out from Under the Pandemic
President Biden signed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan on March 12, sending more stimulus checks, help for vaccine distribution and re-opening schools to individuals and states and communities to hasten the recovery from the year-long pandemic. Critically for the IBEW, this bill also provides a fix for multiemployer pension plans.
Provisions in the bill include:
- $1,400 stimulus checks to individuals making up to $75,000 a year
- Extending unemployment insurance six months, through September
- $7.5 billion to increase the pace of coronavirus vaccine distribution, $5.2 billion for procurement of vaccines and supplies and $10 billion to expand domestic production of PPE, vaccines and supplies under the Defense Production Act
- Expanding eligibility for the Affordable Care Act
- Subsidizes 100 percent of health care premiums of COBRA-eligible individuals who lose their jobs, for six months
The popular legislation passed the Democratic-majority House of Representatives and Senate without any support from Republicans. It is Biden’s top priority, and it was accomplished in his 50th day in office.
Read more in the April newsletter.
Inviting IBEW President, Labor Leaders to White House
IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson was among several leaders to meet with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in the Oval Office on February 17.
“Today’s meeting with President Biden was enormously productive in addressing how the labor movement can work with the administration in putting Americans back to work and creating good-paying union jobs,” President Stephenson said of the 90-minute meeting.
Stephenson was joined by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and others to discuss coronavirus relief, retirement security, energy policy, infrastructure legislation and apprenticeship initiatives.
Biden announced his action to rescind Trump’s executive order creating industry recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs), which constituted a direct threat to world-class training programs like the IBEW’s.
“We applaud President Biden’s decision to rescind IRAPs,” Stephenson said.
Click here for more.
Biden on Domestic Manufacturing: ‘We’re Going to Invest in American Workers’
President Biden fulfilled a campaign pledge by launching a sweeping review of the country’s supply chains with an eye to beef up domestic production of computer chips, medical gear, electric vehicles, electric vehicle batteries and other materials critical for defense, energy, transportation and information technology.
A high-level meeting was called by the White House on February 24 to discuss the executive order signed that day by President Biden. The meeting consisted of President Stephenson, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, Director of the President’s National Economic Advisory Council Brian Deese, UAW President Rory Gamble, and the top auto executives representing 100% of new automobile sales in the United States.
President Stephenson emphasized the IBEW’s ability to construct new plants, retool existing facilities and build out the EV charging infrastructure. He touted the IBEW- and industry-developed Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP) as the national standard for skilled workers.
IBEW Political & Legislative Affairs Department Director Austin Keyser said Biden administration officials said repeatedly: “These are going to be union jobs.”
Click here for more.
Voicing Unequivocal Support for Union Organizing before Big Amazon Vote
On the eve of a historic union vote at Amazon, President Biden released a video February 28 stating the administration’s full support for organizing.
“Every worker should have a free and fair choice of whether to join a union,” Biden said in the video. “There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda.”
Click here for more.
Siding with Workers on a Labor Law Overhaul: PRO Act introduced
It would be the biggest to change labor law since the National Labor Relations Act gave workers the right to organize. And President Biden is all in, he told IBEW leaders in a video he made for the IBEW Officers Meeting on February 1.
“With this administration, you will have a partner, I promise you that,” Biden said in the video. “You will have a partner to make it easier for workers to unionize and for unions to organize.”
Labor laws enable employers to routinely interfere, intimidate, coerce and fire them during organizing campaigns. The PRO Act (H.R. 842) would help counteract this inequality by strengthening labor rights.
“Every American deserves the dignity and respect that comes with the right to organize and collectively bargain. The policy of our government is to encourage union organizing, and employers should ensure their workers have a free and fair choice to join a union,” Biden tweeted on February 3.
Read more here.
Providing Multiemployer Pension Relief
President Biden supports the re-imagined and improved Butch Lewis Act, the IBEW-supported legislation that would assist ailing multiemployer pension plans. A previous version of the bill passed the House of Representatives in 2019, though not the Senate. Now, legislation based on Butch Lewis is included in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that was signed into law on March 12.
It will help shore up troubled plans and avert a looming funding crisis for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation as a result of possible plan failures. Most of IBEW’s multiemployer plans, including the National Electrical Benefit Fund, are in good shape.
“This version of Butch Lewis is everything we asked for, and more,” said IBEW International Secretary-Treasurer Kenny Cooper. “This is an issue that has kept me up at night for years. There were times when others thought we should negotiate the best deal possible with the Republicans, but we knew those deals would have fundamentally changed the pension system in a way that would have destroyed our plans.
Read more here.