On June 26, 2020, Hamilton’s Local 105 cast their ballots to choose Steve Fox as their new business manager.
“I feel incredibly honoured,” said Fox. “To have the membership endorse you as their business manager is quite a feeling. At the same time, the responsibility is not insignificant, especially during this unsettling time.”
Fox’s election is not surprising, given that he spent nine years as the assistant business manager for his local, supporting former Business Manager Lorne Newick.
Together, the team has made significant progress in markets in which Local 105 has not traditionally been strong. Commenting on the progress, Fox said, “Our presence in both the high- and low-rise sectors has greatly increased. Much of the thanks for this success can be shared between our members, who have embraced the change, and our contracting partners, who have committed to digging in for the long haul.”
Looking to the future, Fox said that his priorities will continue to be jobs, protecting members’ health as the pandemic unfolds, and continuing to encourage diversity in the local.
“It’s ever-changing,” said Fox about the effect of the coronavirus on daily life for Local 105 members. “Our members are very good at following health and safety protocols, and essentially, COVID-19 is a health and safety issue. As electricians, we treat everything as live; I see no need to treat coronavirus differently.”
But the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall has Fox concerned because work in Hamilton has followed a boom-and-bust cycle in the past.
“Some of our members, who are diabetic, older, or who have family members in high-risk categories, have had some very hard decisions to make. They are having to balance the need to provide an income with the risk covid-19 presents. These are the real-life decisions that our members are having to make.”
Ensuring that continuity of work in the future has been top of mind for Fox. “I’ve been talking to contractors and looking for opportunities to help keep things going.”
To help members connect and communicate safely, Fox and the office staff are currently working on organizing a telephone town hall.
Strength Through Diversity
Enriching diversity has also been an important priority for Fox, one that he plans to continue pursuing.
Workshops that provide safety training and allow young people to tour the training centre and try out simple electrical tasks help the Local 105 spot apprenticeship candidates with smarts and passion for the work. “With the help of a number of partners, we’ve been able to identify strong apprentice candidates.”
Proud to be an IBEW Electrician
Fox has experienced many joys and challenges throughout his years on the tools, they all have served to deepen his commitment to union life. He joined IBEW Local 105 in 1999 through their apprentice intake process. “I was fortunate to have exposure to different contractors and many fantastic members. I quickly felt a sense of comradery and IBEW pride,” he says.
But it was not all smooth sailing. Fox continues, “Not long after earning my license, my wife and I purchased our first house and, of course, within a week I was laid off. I quickly found myself travelling for work, but again was fortunate to be welcomed into other IBEW locals. Experiencing the solidarity amongst the sisters and brothers of the IBEW was an immense help to me while I was away from my family.”
While Fox doesn’t have a family history in the electrical trade, as a young man he knew he was looking for a skilled trade as a career. “Our family has never been afraid to roll up our sleeves. My grandfather was a coal miner, my father was a millwright, and my brother is a sheet metal worker. I’ve always liked the idea of working in construction; of building things.”
Like many members, he enjoys pointing out landmarks around town that he helped create, whether they’re large or small. “To this day, I point out to my wife and two boys lights I’ve installed on buildings as we drive by”
His years spent experiencing the ups and downs of the electrical trade have made Fox mindful of everyone who has supported him, in whatever way, past or present.
“I’d like to extend my thanks to the members that participated in the election, either as candidates or voters: it makes us stronger as a local. I’d also like to thank my wife, who supports my passion for labour and never questions the time I dedicate to it. I’m also grateful to all the good sisters and brothers who I have learned from, travelled and worked with.