For this week’s edition of Multimedia Monday I am going to put on my Gonzo Journalism hat and tell you a story about a man named Ed.
In 1956 Ed Hill joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and started his career as a construction electrician in Beaver, Pa. Ed became the Business Manager of IBEW Local 712 and moved on to serving as the vice president of the IBEW’s Third District, covering New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Ed’s roots as a second-generation wireman formed a strong foundation for him as he moved forward in service to the men and women of the IBEW. In 1997 he was appointed International Secretary, which turned into a new position of Secretary-Treasurer one year later.
In 2001 Ed assumed the office of International President and nine years later we met for the first and only time.
“Some leaders in Washington revel in hobnobbing with the powerful. I recognize the importance of a strong presence in the halls of power, but I know that any power we wield comes from our strength in numbers and our solidarity as working people.” —Ed Hill
In 1968 I began my career when I joined IBEW Local 728 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. No one in my family was in the Electrical Trade; it was virgin territory for me. My career had a lot of economic ups and downs which resulted in relocating our household to Western Colorado for a spell and finally to the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a lot like the WaterGate investigation, follow the money.
I worked in San Francisco for the next 33 years—the last 15 of which were spent on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Every five years the IBEW has an International Convention and in 2001 it was held here in San Francisco. The theme that year was, Your Bridge to Opportunity. Ed was the new International President. I was the cover boy for our International Journal that month. It was the week of September 11. Nothing was ever the same again.
Enter the Land of Never-thoughts
I never thought that I would be mentioned in the IBEW Journal, except for the inevitable obituary notice—and I wouldn’t even get to read that. I never thought my photo would be in the Journal, much less on the cover. I never thought that I would one day meet the head honcho, much less get to spend a half-hour alone with him.
I was working a day shift at the Golden Gate Bridge when we got the call from our Local 6 Business Manager that International President Hill was in town and could we possibly arrange a Tower Tour for him? VIP Tower Tours are done all the time at the GGB and our Administration extended the courtesy to us for the following day.
President Hill arrived with with his party of three and it was decided that he and Mike, our District vice-president, would go up the South Tower elevator with me. The other two people in the party would go up the North tower with my foreman. This is where the human element comes to light.
Mr. Hill was claustrophobic in small elevators and ours was the size of a phone booth. Ed confided that back in the ‘60s he was in an elevator accident. The falling elevator car caused back and leg injuries and the act of getting in such a tight place again stirred up bad memories. We agreed to let me take Mike up and back, and then return for Ed to try it with just the two of us.
The 500 foot ride to the top of the tower takes about four and a half minutes. It is a good time to get to know someone, to take their mind off what they are about to do and see. We talked about growing up in the steel and coal country of Ohio and Pennsylvania. I left right after my 6th birthday, but we came back every year on vacation to visit our families. Ed spoke about some of the recent challenges that we, as a brotherhood, faced with the downturn in the Global Economy.
Ed Hill’s experience on top the tower was just like that of everyone else I have ever shared it with. The view is marvelous wherever you look. There is no such thing as taking too many photos—or bad ones (unless you leave the lens cover on).
It was enjoyable for me to see the man behind the image, to realize that as different as we were, we were still pretty much the same: Two aging wiremen sharing a common bond and doing something that we never thought possible.
Click on a photo below to enlarge the view.
The Next Chapter
Ed Hill retired at the beginning of this month. Our 725,000 members have a new President, Lonnie Stephenson. Mr. Stephenson said, “President Hill laid the groundwork for the IBEW’s success and growth throughout the last decade. His leadership and commitment to this union will be greatly missed.”
The following video is a short tribute to Ed Hill.
Good luck and good health in your retirement, Ed.