IBEW Turns to Comics to Teach About Unions

Comics345_000Though comics might be known for their spandex and capes, they have a long tradition of being used for political and educational purposes though. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) has turned to comics to tell the story of the hero of the “union men and women who made the American middle class.”

Local union chapter Local 1245 in Vacaville, California earlier this year published First Day. It’s a 20-page comic that goes over the history of Local 1245 and the labor movement. It’s given to all new members in their orientation packets and so far the reaction has been positive.

The comic was created by the communications director of the local union Eric Wolfe and artist Tom Christopher.

“First Day” tells the story of a new employee at California utility PG&E. The worker tells his son about the IBEW and all the good benefits that being a member bring his family, while recounting the struggles that helped create the labor movement and Local 1245.

This was part of an effort to engage younger members in new ways. This is needed as the utility industry, of which the IBEW is involved, shifts it’s demographics as older employees exit the work force and new members join. The goal is to educate this younger generation about Unions, something many have no experience with.

This is a first step though. Wolfe wants to use the comic book format in other literature like training materials.

The IBEW represents approximately 750,000 active members and retirees who work in a wide variety of fields, including utilities, construction, telecommunications, broadcasting, manufacturing, railroads and government.  The IBEW has members in both the United States and Canada and is one of the largest organizations within the AFL-CIO.

I wish they had something this cool when I joined a union many years ago and great to see a forward thinking use of the comic medium!

(via the IBEW)