International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Lonnie R. Stephenson is retiring, effective Jan. 4, bringing an end to a nearly five-decade active career in the union.
“It’s been the honor of my life to serve the members of the greatest union in the world and advance the cause of trade unionism in the electrical industry,” Stephenson said. “As hard as it is to step aside, I am confident that the IBEW remains in good hands.”
The International Executive Council appointed International Secretary-Treasurer Kenneth W. Cooper to fill the remainder of Stephenson's term and Sixth District International Vice President Paul Noble to fill the remainder of Cooper’s term.
“Lonnie’s been more than my working partner for these last few years,” Cooper said. “He’s one of my closest friends as well. Every day I had a front-row seat to witness his dedication to growing the IBEW, and he leaves our union in a much stronger place than when he started.”
A native of Rock Island, Ill., Stephenson started as an apprentice wireman in 1975, joining Local 145.
He served as business manager, international representative and Sixth District International Vice President before rising to International President in 2015.
Stephenson helped the IBEW’s organizing efforts reach new heights as membership grew yearly, propelling ‘A’ membership to an all-time high while organizing major companies and bringing in thousands of new members on the professional and industrial side as well.
He also deepened the IBEW’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity, stewarding the IBEW Strong program to bring more people of color and women into the union.
And he was a strong supporter of the Code of Excellence, a popular labor-management program that demands excellence and fair working conditions and forges closer and more productive relationships between employers and employees.
Under Stephenson’s leadership, the IBEW built a historically close relationship with President Joe Biden and his administration. This partnership resulted in groundbreaking pro-jobs and pro-union legislation, such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, which are already putting IBEW members to work rebuilding America’s energy infrastructure, and the Butch Lewis Act, which saved the pensions of millions of union members and retirees.
President Biden conveyed just how close that relationship was when he became the first sitting president to address an IBEW convention last May in Chicago.
Stephenson thanked the more than 775,000 members of the IBEW for entrusting him with stewardship of the union. “I’m proud of everything we accomplished together,” he said. “This was never about me, but about all of us working together as a team to make the IBEW bigger, stronger and more effective for improving the lives of our members and future members. Thank you to each and every IBEW member for your contributions over the last seven years.”
Incoming President Cooper said he is humbled by his selection and is ready to work with officers, staff and the membership to continue growing the IBEW to new heights.
“President Stephenson leaves behind a great legacy. We are a bigger, stronger and more diverse union than we were seven years ago,” he said.
“I am committed to building on that legacy as we work to fulfill our fundamental mission: ‘to organize every worker in the electrical industry.’”