International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) First District Canada international vice-president Phil Flemming passed away suddenly on May 25th at the age of 68.
“He had a large personality. He was always known for his laughter — he had a great laugh. He was very approachable and very memorable,” said Mike LeBlanc, international representative for the IBEW.
Flemming worked with the IBEW for 43 years after joining Local 1432 in Charlottetown in August 1966. He became a journeyman electrician in 1968. He held various positions within Local 1432 and was business manager from 1975 to 1981. He also served as president of the Prince Edward Island Building Trades Council from 1976 to 1981.
After serving as an international representative to the IBEW First District staff in 1981, working with local unions in Newfoundland and Labrador, Flemming was reassigned to Ontario in 1992 servicing the paper mill, utility, manufacturing and construction industries. He was appointed as the executive assistant to the international vice-president — First District in 1999 and he was elected international vice-president — First District in October 2003.
Flemming has been involved with various initiatives within the IBEW, notably he was a founding member of the National Electrical Trade Council (NETCO), a joint Labour-Management partnership of the IBEW First District and the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association. He also introduced a full-time trainer for Canada to train members in locals across the country, a job that was previously done by servicing representatives.
“He had a good vision of where he wanted to go and I think he was quite happy with the direction we’re heading. I don’t think we would be as far as we are without him at the helm,” said Matt Wayland, IBEW political action/media strategist for First District.
“Phil was great in anything he started with the IBEW in recognizing if we needed to do something to bring a group of people together to figure it out and listen and take up a lot of different opinions and figure out how to work with them in the IBEW,” said Kate Walsh, IBEW strategic coordinator for the NextGen initiative.
Flemming started the NextGen initiative which engages the IBEW’s younger workers and tries to bridge the growing leadership generation gap.
“Although he was older, he had a young heart and he saw how important it was that we needed to change things up. He wasn’t afraid to do things a little bit differently and lead the way on new initiatives,” said Walsh.
Flemming brought in a generational research company to determine how to engage the younger generation. In recent years, NextGen has held a caucus at the IBEW’s annual progress meeting to introduce young workers to the organization’s operations.
“He was the first one in the IBEW to do anything like that and he put Canada in the forefront of engaging our younger members across the IBEW. We continue to lead that. He wasn’t afraid to really change it up,” said Walsh.
Flemming is survived by his wife Loretta Flemming, his sons Darren Flemming and Jeff Flemming, his step daughters Holly Clark and Chelsea Clark-Martin, his grandchildren Holly Flemming and Summer Flemming and his brother Clarey Flemming along with many other friends and family.
“Phil enjoyed golfing and boating but most of all, laughing with friends and family,” reads his obituary.
Flemming taught his co-workers the value of family.
“It was something he stressed to me,” said Wayland, who has two young children. “He said your job is important, but your family is just as important. He made sure we had time for that and he was always asking how our kids were doing.”
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be given in Flemming’s name to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
The IBEW held a memorial service for Flemming on June 6 at Pearson Convention Centre.
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