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“Our Goal Is To Help More Members Get Interested In Activism In Their Union And Learn How It’s All Done” - ‘Investing In The Next Generation Of Union Leaders’

Published Wednesday, January 19, 2022
by IBEW News
“Our Goal Is To Help More Members Get Interested In Activism In Their Union And Learn How It’s All Done” - ‘Investing In The Next Generation Of Union Leaders’

(SEATTLE, WASHINGTON) - Great Union Leaders aren’t born with the skills to rally Working People, fight for fair contracts or navigate the challenges that come with leading large organizations.  Those skills are learned over time and an innovative approach to developing future leaders is helping speed up the educational process at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 46 in Seattle.

Since 2004, Local 46 has put time and resources into leadership education, but after a dormant few years, the Local has relaunched its Leadership classes and Internship Program to better prepare future generations of Members for the challenges of Union governance and activism.

“It’s greatly important we accelerate our leadership development, because our youth are our future,” IBEW Local 46 Business Manager Sean Bagsby said.

“It’s very important that we have the highest levels of representation available for all Members, all classifications, now and into the future,” he added.

IBEW Members who pursue and take on leadership roles in their Locals often seek the training they need, on their own outside the Union - usually from a nearby college or institution.

But the missing ingredient, of course, is an IBEW perspective, something Local 46’s program provides.

“I like that (Business Manager) Sean (Bagsby) highly believes in education,” said Laura Robinson, a Local 46 Business Representative who, as the Local’s Assistant Educational Coordinator, heads up the leadership training effort. “He really wants to get people moving through the program.”

The idea for some sort of leadership development curriculum at Local 46 first emerged in 2004 under then-Business Manager Gary Price, Robinson said.

“Gary felt very strongly about training replacements and leaders,” Robinson said.

Shifts in leaders’ priorities over the years brought a few stops and starts to the program, she said, but after his election as Business Manager in 2020, one of the first things Bagsby brought back was the Leadership Program.

From the very start, Local 46 has developed and maintained relationships with Labor Educators, Labor Historians and other experts with similar backgrounds, such as the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Resource Center and the former National Labor College and its George Meany Center in Suburban Washington, D.C.

With their assistance, Robinson and her team have developed a comprehensive and IBEW-focused training course that consists of 12 topics, beginning with a review of Labor Unions through history.

Trainers and lecturers also cover a variety of subjects, from parliamentary procedures for local meetings to negotiation fundamentals, from representation and grievance handling to economic justice and legislation, and from effective communication and ethics to Trustee duties and funds.

Supplemental lectures are provided by local leaders and subject matter experts, with Robinson and Bagsby keeping a close watch on how things are going throughout the process.

“Our goal is to help more Members get interested in activism in their Union and learn how it’s all done,” Robinson said.

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