Cooper will succeed Stephenson as IBEW International President in 2023

Lonnie Stephenson, International President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, announced his retirement effective Jan. 4.

The IBEW International Executive Council appointed International Secretary-Treasurer Kenneth W. Cooper to fill the remainder of Stephenson’s term. Sixth District International Vice President Paul Noble will fill the remainder of Cooper’s term as the International Secretary-Treasurer.

In a prepared statement, Cooper said he was humbled to be appointed and looks forward to working with officers, staff and the membership to continue to grow the IBEW. 

“President Stephenson leaves behind a great legacy,” Cooper said. “We are a bigger, stronger and more diverse union than we were seven years ago. I am committed to building on that legacy as we work to fulfill our fundamental mission: ‘to organize every worker in the electrical industry.’”

IBEW International Secretary-Treasurer Kenneth W. Cooper

IBEW International Secretary-Treasurer Kenneth W. Cooper

Cooper began his career in 1985 with Local 688 in Mansfield, where he served a four-year apprenticeship to become a journeyman wireman. 

Local 688 is located just north of the C/COBCTC jurisdiction. The Local is affiliated with the North Central Ohio Building and Construction Trades Council. 

Cooper held many elected positions with Local 688, including Steward, Vice President, President, Chairman Pension Fund Trustee, Chairman Trustee for the Annuity and Chairman of the Health and Welfare Fund Trustees. 

In 1993 he was elected Local’s 688 Business Manager. As the market share for construction grew and organizing increased under his leadership, the Local continued to prosper.

During his eight years as the Local’s Business Manager, Cooper oversaw tremendous growth, including organizing a 150-employee manufacturing located just south of Mansfield.

Active in his community, Cooper held roles such as Vice President of the Richland County AFL-CIO, Co-Chairman of the Richland County Building Trades, and board member for the American Red Cross, United Way, Catholic Charities and Richland County Woman’s Shelter.

In 2002, Cooper relocated to Las Vegas and became Assistant Business Manager of Local 396. Four years later, he was appointed International Representative for the IBEW Fourth District by IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill. In May 2011, the International Executive Council appointed him to be the Fourth District International Vice President.

He was elected to the same position in September 2011 by the delegates at the 38th International Convention in Vancouver, B.C. and re-elected in 2016 at the 39th International Convention in St. Louis.

Cooper was appointed International Secretary-Treasurer, effective May 1, 2017. He was overwhelmingly elected to another term by delegates at the 40th International Convention. 

H2: Stephenson’s accomplishments as IBEW President

IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson

IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson

The decision by Stephenson to retire came almost six months after IBEW Delegates elected him to another term as President at the International Convention, which took place in early May in Chicago. 

“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 in a prepared statement. “As hard as it is to step aside, I am confident that the IBEW remains in good hands.”

A native of Rock Island, Ill., Stephenson started as an apprentice wireman in 1975, with Local 145 and went on to serve as business manager, international representative and Sixth District International Vice President before rising to International President in 2015. His retirement ends a nearly five-decade career.

Stephenson thanked the more than 775,000 active 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.”

During his tenure as International President, Stephenson helped the IBEW’s organizing efforts reach new heights as membership grew yearly, boosting ‘A’ membership to an all-time high, while organizing major companies and adding thousands of new members to both the professional and industrial side as well.

IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson

IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson addresses convention delegates as IBEW International Secretary-Treasurer Kenneth W. Cooper looks on.

Stephenson 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.

Additionally, he supported the Code of Excellence, a labor-management program that fosters closer and more productive relationships and demands excellence and fair working conditions. 

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. Such legislation is allowing IBEW members to rebuild America’s energy infrastructure. Additionally, the passage of the Butch Lewis Act saved the pensions of millions of union members and retirees.

He also served on the Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO, the Center for Energy Workforce Development, the Board of Directors of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the Governing Board of Presidents for North America’s Building Trades Unions and as Labor Vice-Chair of the Council on Competitiveness. 

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