The theme for the 21st Electrical Workers Minority Caucus.
Then International President Edwin D. Hill pictured with Pedro Besonia (left) and Rosendo Fernandez.
Business Manager and International Executive Council Chairman Christopher Erikson being interviewed on the Electrical Workers Miniority Caucus Day of Service.
International Representative Victor Uno pictured with EWMC President Emeritus Robbie Sparks.
(adapted from “History of EWMC”)
The history of the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus (EWMC) is a proud one for many IBEW members, but is especially proud for the members of Local 3.
In 1974, Black and Hispanic delegates at the IBEW International Convention (IC) in Kansas City, MO expressed their disappointment at the lack of representation of people of color at the IC.
Right then and there, Local 3 Business Manager Harry Van Arsdale Jr. facilitated a meeting with International President (IP) Charles Pillard. This was the first meeting to discuss the lack of diversity and full inclusion in the IBEW. From 1974 on, national-level meetings between the minority representatives and IP Pillard continued every four years at the IC. What was later to become the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus (EWMC) was born.
In 1991 the first annual meeting of the EWMC was held in Atlanta, GA. The conference was spearheaded by IBEW Local 2127 Business Manager Robbie Sparks. Sister Sparks, with the support of Local18 Business Representative Royetta Sanford, Local 1805 Business Manager Gladys Greene, International Representatives Susie Barber, Mel Horton, and Art Jones, held a two-day conference with approximately 47 delegates from across the country. Over the two days, the delegates developed the structure of the new organization and held a series of workshops. Sister Sparks was elected the first president of the EWMC. The delegates created a resolution to present at the 100th anniversary IBEW convention in October of 1991 to establish a Minority Affairs Department . The resolution was overwhelmingly passed at the convention.
Drawing inspiration from a great American leader, the EWMC conference is always held the week prior to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The motto of the EWMC is “Always Moving Forward, Forever Lifting Up, Strength Through Diversity.” The mission summarized is to promote equal opportunity and employment for people of color and women in the IBEW while fostering leadership development to empower people of color and women to become active participants and leaders in the IBEW. Membership in the EWMC is open to all IBEW members. The EWMC is not an exclusive organization, except that only IBEW members or retirees can become members of the EWMC.
In 1992, Local 18 member and EWMC Secretary Royetta Sanford became the first Director of the Human Services Dept. under IP Jack Barry, who began the tradition of meeting annually with EWMC leadership. The second annual conference was held in Chicago, IL. The EWMC structure was amended to add at-large members to the executive committee.
During the period of 1993-2011 there were some changes in EWMC officers, but Sister Sparks remained at the helm with her steady, visionary leadership. Through these years, many of the local unions who had attended the first conference continued to be heavily involved with the EWMC, including Local Unions 3, 11, 18, 48, 1245 and others. Local 3 is the only Local Union that has consistently had a representative on the EWMC Executive Committee. In this period, local chapters of the EWMC were started. A scholarship fund was established at Sister Spark’s urging and an scholarship award is given annually to a descendant of an EWMC member.
The yearly conference grew and changed as speakers from labor, political, faith-based, academic and community groups contributed. Construction and professional and industrial caucuses are now held each year. Topics discussed in workshops include: Strategic Planning, Social Security, Rules of the Game, IBEW Structure, Political Action, Parliamentary Procedure, Sexual Harassment, Grievance Procedure, Common Sense Economics, Membership Development (organizing), Financial Literacy, Diversity & Inclusion, Immigration Reform, Coalition Building and many other pertinent issues that affect our members. A financial contribution is given to a local charity in the conference host city.
The “Day of Giving” was later instituted to give back to the community in the host city. The “Day of Giving” begins before the first official day of the conference. Thousands of hours of service are given to charities in the host city by 250-300 EWMC conference attendees every year. The “Day of Giving” includes electrical work, painting, landscaping, clean-up, packing food baskets, reading to children in schools, and many other activities that would not happen if not for the EWMC. In some venues we work with our partners at NECA to provide these services. Their support is critical to our success in many of these endeavors across the country.
What has now become EWMC-RENEW (the youth cohort) also began during this time and now has a one-day conference in conjunction with the annual EWMC conference. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the EWMC is very proud that RENEW (Reach out and Engage Next-gen Electrical Workers) was initiated by the EWMC and a “Day of Giving” was held at the International Convention in St. Louis in 2016.
The Breakthrough Leadership Training Institiute (BLTI), a program to teach leadership skills to women and people of color at local unions, began in 2006. Brother Mel Horton, Robbie Sparks, and Royetta Sanford developed and provided the training. Local 3 was one of the first local unions to take advantage of this training for its members. The training is broken into three parts: Beginning, Advanced Part 1, and Advanced Part 2. Each part is an eight-hour training for 30 students. The students are chosen by their business manager, with an emphasis on diversity (officers, staff, rank and file, youth, senior, people of color, women, LGBTQ, etc.).
In 2011, Sister Sparks stepped down as President of the EWMC but remains active today as President Emeritus. Local595 Business Manager/Financial Secretary Victor Uno was appointed by the Executive Committee to finish the unexpired term of President Sparks. Under President Uno’s leadership the EWMC continued to grow, and he was unanimously elected to office in 2013. The participation and number of delegates increased at each conference with the 2014 conference attendance in Kansas City, MO celebrating the 40th anniversary with over 400 delegates.
President Uno was appointed as an international representative assigned to the 9th District in 2014. The EWMC national operating bylaws prohibit any EWMC officers from being employed by the IBEW. Retired former Local48 Business Manager/Financial Secretary Keith Edwards was appointed by the Executive Committee to fulfill the unexpired term of Brother Uno. Brother Edwards was elected at the 26th EWMC Conference in New York City in 2016. The conference hosted by Local 3 boasted over 600 delegates.
The EWMC introduced a resolution to establish a Diversity Council that was passed at the 39th IBEW International Convention in St. Louis, MO. This resolution was created to help the IBEW grow while embracing diversity and full inclusion. Provisions of the resolution are: to develop a “Diversity Council” that will recommend to the International President a training program(s) that will address the underlying issues that hinder diversity and full inclusion; and to evaluate and monitor the training program(s) to assess the need for modifications to better serve the IBEW in Membership Development both internally and externally. The implementation of this resolution is needed now more than ever.
The success of the EWMC can be seen in the increased number of women and people of color that have accepted appointments to the I/O; in the creation of a department to address concerns and issues of constituencies within the IBEW; and in the over 300 members trained as leaders by the BLTI who are now active in their local unions and communities.
The 28th Annual EWMC conference will be held January 10-14, 2018 in Detroit, MI.
Lewis Howard Latimer members shown on the EWMC Day of Service.
Business Manager Christopher Erikson (2nd from r.) pictured with Local 3 delegates to the EWMC.
International Representative Victor Uno participating in the Day of Service.
EWMC attendees from Local 3 enjoying the evening‰Ûªs festivities.
Local 3 Business Representatives Derek Jordan (left) and Anthony Esponda take a break from the days activities.
IBEW members who participated in the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus.