EWMC History Document
Prepared by Dorothy Fortier:
EWMC was also known as the Black Caucus and the Minority Affairs Committee for brief periods of time.
As many of you know, the EWMC was officially founded in 1974, by a small group of primarily African American IBEW brothers and sisters who were delegates to the 30th International Convention in Kansas City, MO. Hispanic and African American IBEW members were threatening the formation of an informational picket line outside of the convention hall to publically protest the under-representation of minorities on the International Staff.
International Financial Secretary and Business Manager/Financial Secretary of Local 3, Harry Van Arsdale, Jr. spoke with the protestors regarding their concerns and convinced International President Charles Pillard to meet with a representative group of the concerned members who were selected by the minority delegates who attended pre-meeting(s) at the Kansas City Convention.
The first EWMC Executive Committee was comprised of six (6) members and they met with IBEW International President Charles Pillard and International Treasurer Van Arsdale on September 13, 1974, the last day of the Convention and again on November 8, 1974 . Meetings have been scheduled on a continuous basis since 1974.
The officers and members of Local 3 have always been strong supporters of the goals and objectives of the EWMC. They stood with us in the beginning. We will be eternally grateful!
The primary purpose of the Electrical Workers Minority is to advocate for greater diversity and inclusiveness within the IBEW, with extreme emphasis on increasing the numbers of people of color and women in leadership positions at all levels of the IBEW. The EWMC founding Executive Committee members included Art Jones (1974-1976) the Business Manager of Local 1969, a Manufacturing local in California; Leon Wilkerson (1974-1977) the Recording Secretary of Local 2188 in Shreveport, LA; George Scott (1974-1982) Executive Board Member, Local 1470, New Jersey; Mary Nell Whipps (1974- 1978) Financial Secretary, Local 2262 in Jackson, Mississippi; and Charles Horhn, President/Business Manager, Local 2262, Jackson, Mississippi and Roy Tempro (1974-1977) Business Representative, Local 3, New York. As of this date, the only living founding Executive Committee members that we know of are Mary Nell O’Brien aka Whipps and Charles Horhn.
Our current President is Keith Edwards. Keith is a former Business Manager/Financial Secretary of Local 48 in Portland, Oregon and a retired International Representative. Past EWMC Executive Committee Presidents and or Co-Chairs are: Leon Wilkerson, Art Jones, Charles Horhn, Veodis Stamps, Robbie Sparks and Victor Uno. Victor continued Robbie’s legacy and Keith is taking us to new heights.
Raymond J. Bowlding may have also served as Chair. He was an Executive Committee member from 1982 – 1984.
Sister Sparks retired as President in 2012 and now serves as President Emeritus. Under the dynamic leadership of Sister Sparks the EWMC has grown and prospered.
In 1974 Melvin Horton was the only African American on the International Staff. It is worth mentioning that Brother Horton was hired as a probationary organizer in 1971, appointed as an International Representative in 1972 and after a long and distinguished career of service retired, from the position of 5th District Vice President in 2005. The first African American International Staff person was Roy Stafford. He did not stay on staff long after Brother Horton was hired. He was a member of Local 1806 – a Western Electric Local at Hawthorn Works in Chicago.
We believe Lawrence Tafoya was the first Mexican-American to serve as an International Representative. Shortly after his initiation into Local 1710 in Los Angeles, CA he was appointed to the International Representative position. He retired from the International in 1993. He held many prominent positions in the labor movement prior to working for the IBEW.
Royetta Sanford, Retired Director of the Human Services Department was the first African-American woman to hold a director position at the IBEW International Office. Sister Sanford also served as a Business Representative at Local 18 in CA and is a former EWMC Executive Committee member Gladys Greene (deceased) was the first African American woman to run for an IEC position. Sister Greene served as Business Manager of Local 1805 and was a member of the EWMC Executive Committee prior to her retirement.