Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Leader of Ibew Here Steps Down as He Ran His Union - Quietly and with Class

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Leader of Ibew Here Steps Down as He Ran His Union - Quietly and with Class

Article excerpt

He entered quietly, served quietly and left quietly.

For an electrician, he lacked flash.

Two weeks ago, 48 years after joining the nation's oldest electrical workers local as an apprentice and 16 years after assuming its top job, Don Bresnan shut off the lights at the union hall for the last time.

You could have read every word in this column since it began in 1989, and you wouldn't have seen his name once.

That, despite the fact that he ran Local 1 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and pioneered some intriguing programs.

"It's the style of the individual," he said this week. "We just go on about doing the job. Hopefully, our interests are with the members and not necessarily to tell anybody else how great we are."

One year after World War II ended, the high school sophomore from south St. Louis signed on as an apprentice tool-and-die maker at Frank Adam Manufacturing on Grand and Bell. The place made electrical panel boards. Bresnan was one of eight children, which made the decision to leave school and earn money a simple one.

He later used a union program to go to school nights at the old Hadley Vocational High School, then spent 18 years as a construction wireman. By 1975, he'd become a full-time union business rep. Three years later he got the job of business manager, holding it until Sept. 1.

Local 1 has its own compelling history. Founded in 1891 just north of downtown - at the old Kram fish market on Biddle Street, formerly Stolley's dance hall - it soon grew into an international union. By the time the IBEW met here in 1991 to celebrate its 100th anniversary, it had nearly 1 million members.

Bresnan had his chances over the years to take a job with the international. But the higher visibility and power never lured him. "I was content with what I was doing. I felt I could accomplish more here."

His most noteworthy accomplishment for the 5,000 members of Local 1 was a work-sharing agreement with electrical contractors. It called for electricians to sacrifice a day's work each week, to provide work for the 20 percent of unemployed electricians. That accord - on June 12, 1992 - followed an acrimonious two-day strike. …

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