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10 Ways I’ve Been Working Hard for Members

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I’m re-offering for the Business Manager of IBEW Local 37, and as a Local 37 voter, I’m hoping you’ll give me your support by voting for me, and also by sharing this post with your IBEW Local 37 co-workers.

Helping others and showing leadership has always been important to me. I take this job seriously, and here are ten ways I’ve worked hard for members throughout my career:

  1. Local 37 Business Manager for 12 years (elected 2006, 2010, 2014 – present), Assistant Business Manager for 10 years prior (1996 – 2006), Unit Chair/Executive Board member (1994 – 1996);
  2. Lead Negotiator on more than 20 sets of successful contract negotiations since 1998, gaining improvements for members every time;
  3.  Helped countless members from all bargaining units by directly representing them at grievance meetings, disciplinary meetings, and with other issues for 24 years;
  4. Champion of worker safety – participating on High Level Safety Committees, helped introduce the joint commitment to safety, many media interviews on worker safety and I participate annually in multiple Day of Mourning ceremonies;
  5. Representing Canada on the Executive Board of the IBEW – the International Executive Council (2013 – present);
  6. Led the initiative to roll out the IBEW Code of Excellence at Local 37 and negotiated paid time off for members to attend training;
  7.  Designed and implemented lobby campaigns on issues important to Local 37 members, and was Local 37’s media spokesperson on key membership issues e.g., the importance of the continued operation of Belledune and Coleson Cove, “NB Power – Not for Sale” campaign, Point Lepreau refurbishment campaign, etc.;
  8.  Committee member on High Level Safety, High Level Labour/Management, Pension, Benefits, Atlantic Utility Council, Trustee of IBEW Local 37 Training Trust Fund, etc.;
  9. Delivered numerous presentations and written submissions on behalf of Local 37 members e.g., to the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB), NB Government Select Committee on Climate Change, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, NB Government Electricity Task Force, etc.;
  10. Helping our member’s communities move forward by volunteering and personally supporting community organizations like the United Way, New Brunswick Association for Community Living and World Vision Canada, and personally sponsoring an annual $500 bursary for our youth. Winner of NBCC’s 2017 annual Alumni award for Community Leadership.

    As an IBEW Local 37 voter, I hope you’ll vote for me once you receive your ballot, so that I can keep working hard for you every day.

A strong team at the top.

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Although the Business Manager is the primary officer of an IBEW Local, the President also plays a very important role. Accordingly, it’s vital to have a President that’s committed to the membership, one who will work hand-in-hand with the Business Manager in order to achieve our Local’s goals of improving the lives of our members and their families. Without that close working relationship, the membership will suffer.

Local 37 President Steve Hayes and Business Manager Ross Galbraith

Local 37 President Steve Hayes and Business Manager Ross Galbraith

Luckily for us, we’ve had an excellent President in Steve Hayes. Many of you know his absolute commitment to safety, a commitment that he’s demonstrated time and again in his fight to create a working environment where all Local 37 members can go home safely at the end of the work day. Most recently, he took a major role in our discussions to create a renewed safety commitment document with NB Power, while also taking on the role of co-chair for the national IBEW Canadian Utility Safety committee.

Ross and Steve at the 2014 Lineman's Rodeo

Ross and Steve at the 2014 Lineman’s Rodeo

But what some of you may not know, is the work he’s done for Local 37 above-and-beyond his responsibilities as President. Among the many things he’s done related to safety, he’s also been a champion of learning and skill building,  being a strong voice for the apprenticeship system and also on the organizing committee of the Lineman’s Rodeo. He also played an instrumental and very active role in the organizing campaign that saw 200 new members join us in 2012.  And then last year, after Assistant Business Manager Claude Richard was severely injured in a motor vehicle accident, he stepped up and started working part-time at the union office so that we could continue providing a high level of service to our members, even though we had a key person out on long term sick leave.

As we approach the counting of ballots for Local 37 union officers, I encourage you first and foremost to vote, so that you will have your say in our democratic process. 

And then I encourage you to vote for Steve Hayes to continue as our President. He’s a key part of the Local 37 team, and a union brother who has been very effective in representing the members of Local 37, one that has proven his selfless dedication to our members time and again.

How to get results.

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I like to get results.

My philosophy is to seek out partners we can work with and then build good relationships. I look at our employers as partners, people that we can hopefully have a good relationship with in order to achieve the things our members are looking for.

This is different than the approach employed by some people that look at management as the enemy. I know that a good relationship is not always possible – both parties need to want it, and if management doesn’t want to play ball, fine – I can do it the old way.

But what about when a difficult issue arises, a potential source of conflict? I don’t run away from it – in fact with a good working relationship, it’s often easier to resolve problems. There is an effective approach I like – it’s to “be hard on the issue, but soft on the people”. By focusing on the real issues, and by not making it personal or taking “cheap” shots, I can achieve better results for IBEW members.

A great example of this occurred once when we had a number of long-term temporary employees and I’d been working to achieve regular status for them. One day I happened to be at an external meeting and I sat next to NB Power CEO Gaëtan Thomas. Because we’ve both worked to build a good relationship, we’re able to discuss issues in a frank and open manner.

That day we ended up talking about the temporaries, and I was able to put forth the business case for changing their status. Gaëtan was interested in the points I raised and followed up by having his people look into it.

To make a long story short, that informal conversation started the ball rolling and many of those temporaries ended up gaining regular status. If I had tried to achieve that goal the old way – threatening grievances, work slow-downs, or writing nasty letters, I know I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. But by valuing the relationship, and treating the issue as a joint problem that we could work on together to find a solution, we achieved real results. A win-win result.

And that’s what it’s all about.

 

My History in the IBEW

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I’d like to tell you a little about me, and my involvement with the IBEW.

In 1992 I started work as a Temporary in NB Power’s Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station’s Health Physics lab after having graduated as a Chemical Technologist. (The people in Health Physics record and track the radiation “dose” that workers receive, as well as measuring and recording any environmental releases of radiation. FYI – Releases and worker exposure are both extremely low.)

After I had been there a while, the Shop Steward in my department invited me to attend a union meeting. My Grandfather had been the national Vice President of the International Longshoreman’s Association and although I never knew him (he died when I was very young) I had a strong impression of unions, knowing the important role they play in providing good jobs for working people.  As a result of the invitation, I attended that meeting and became very interested in our Local. I think in my first five years I might have missed two union meetings.

I had been attending monthly unit meetings regularly for two or three years when elections eventually rolled around. At the time, the existing Unit Chairperson decided to step down and I heard that a certain person was going to throw their hat in the ring. The problem for me was that I had seen this person in action and they seemed to have a chip on their shoulder, and it always seemed to me that this person looked for ways to create conflict, rather than solve problems for our members.

Even then, I had some strong feelings about the right way of handling issues. I believed, as I still do, that you can be hard on an issue, but soft on the people. It’s not necessary to create needless conflicts and bad feelings in order to deal with problems, in fact it’s counter productive. I think it’s better to take the high road while single-mindedly working on behalf of your membership.

I also feel that if you don’t think something is right, you should do something about it – don’t just complain and do nothing. So, I decided to run for the Unit Chairperson’s job – not because I had ever planned to take on a leadership role, but because I thought the alternative would be a disaster for our members. I ended up winning that election for Unit Chairperson, and as a consequence became a member of the Executive Board.

In 1996, we were working on an organizing campaign for two new groups within NB Power (the Engineers and the Supervisors) decided to join the IBEW. About the same time, my temporary job came to an end and I was laid off. In the midst of this organizing campaign, the union needed another person in the office and the Business Manager at the time, John Cole, asked me to work for him as an Assistant Business Manager and organizer, which I did. About six months later, I was offered a recall to a regular position with NB Power, but I decided to stick where I was, and I turned NB Power down. (Their loss!)

The rest is history, and I’ve now been working for the IBEW for over 20 years. I’ve done a lot of things in that time – grievances, adjudications, labour board hearings, negotiations, lobbying, etc. But one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s my desire to help people whenever I can, and to always take the high road.

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