Ed Hill started as a second-generation journeyman electrician and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 712 in Beaver, Pennsylvania. He rose to regional prominence as the local’s business manager and vice president of IBEW’s Third District, covering New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. In 1997, Ed was appointed international secretary and assumed the newly created position of secretary-treasurer one year later. He became international president of the IBEW in 2001 and served until his retirement in May 2015. All along, Ed never forgot where he came from.
Ed was a unifying force in the labor movement. At the 2005 AFL-CIO Convention in Chicago, as some affiliates were considering whether to form their own federation, Ed delivered a memorable and eloquent speech about the need for labor solidarity. Even though the split eventually occurred, Ed’s message of healing resonated, and it still rings true today.
Ed was never one to talk the most or speak the loudest, but he always commanded respect. When he had something to say, people listened. Whenever there were honest disagreements between the AFL-CIO and the Building Trades, it was Ed who stepped in to achieve consensus.
As Ed worked to keep the labor movement united, he helped build the IBEW into one of the strongest unions in North America. Under his leadership, the IBEW harnessed an array of technological tools to better prepare organizers, servicing staff and local unions for a changing economy.
In response to the Great Recession, Ed implemented a market recovery program that established alternative job classifications in electrical construction. That effort helped boost man-hours and market share that had been lost by the union’s signatory contractors during the economic downturn, while getting idled journeymen back on the job.
While Ed stayed true to his roots, he was also a pioneer, always looking for new and creative ways to help IBEW members and workers in general. According to his protégé, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, he often said, “Making mistakes is good. It’s better to try something and fail, than not try at all—because if you’re not failing once in a while, it means you’re not doing anything new.”
The AFL-CIO, the IBEW, the labor movement and all working people are better off because of Ed Hill. The Executive Council thanks Ed for his humility, leadership and friendship.