Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois welcomed delegates to Chicago on the last day of the 40th International Convention and reminded them of what’s at stake for the future of the labor movement in the 2022 midterm elections.

Senator Dick Durbin delivered a speech to the convention on Friday morning. Among other things, he updated the gathered delegates on the ongoing fight on Capitol Hill for working men and women.

Senator Durbin is my home state senator, and I’ve gotten to know him well over the years,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson, a native of Rock Island, Ill., introducing Durbin. “He knows, like President Biden, that unions built the middle class. His door has been always open to the IBEW members.”

During his remarks, Durbin was equally complimentary of Stephenson. “[Lonnie] really speaks for you, and we listen in Washington, D.C.,” said Durbin, a Democrat from East St. Louis, Ill.

The senator began his speech recalling his own union family background, which he said helped his mother and brothers get by after his father died of lung cancer at age 53. “We made it because we were a union family,” he said. “I though every family was a union family.”

What kept his mother going, he said, “was a union pension from my dad, that made sure there was food on the table and every son got a chance to go to college.” He noted that he and his brothers also joined unions during their own work experiences.

Durbin was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 before becoming a senator in 1997. He is now chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and serves as the Senate Majority Whip. His fellow Senator from Illinois, Tammy Duckworth, sent a video address to the convention that was presented to delegates on Tuesday.

“I think focusing on working families like those represented in your union is the way to build a strong America,” Durbin said, “focusing on a union movement that gives everybody a pathway to success in life.”

Durbin spoke about the electric vehicle revolution. “It’s a decision by the marketplace to move into electric vehicles in a big, big way,” he said. “It’s a decision which directly affects you and your members.” The country needs union electricians to build the vehicles and their charging stations, he said.

Durbin also applauded the IBEW for its IBEW Strong program, which works to increase diversity in the ranks and leadership. “More and more we are moving in that direction as a nation. It is a healthy thing,” he said. “Let’s make sure the union movement continues to look like America.”

He wrapped up his address speaking about the importance of electing and reelecting a host of union-friendly candidates to Congress this fall, to keep the pro-labor momentum going.

“We’ve got to keep the United States Senate to make sure America is moving forward and we unite as a country,” he said. “I know the electrical workers are going to be behind that movement, because they always have been.”