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May 2005 IBEW Journal

With the ceremonial stroke of a pen and a solemnly spoken obligation oath by 17 charter members, the IBEW officially opened San Juan, Puerto Rico, Local 950 on March 22, 2005.

The dedication shown by the new members and their new business manager, Gerardo Mulero, who spent three years laying the groundwork to make the new local possible, was noted in the ceremony. IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill was in attendance, accompanied by Secretary-Treasurer Jon Walters, Fifth District Vice President John Schantzen, National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) President Ben Cook and National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) Senior Director James Boyd. Also present was Cocoa Beach, Florida, Local 2088 Chief Steward Don Goff on behalf of approximately 40 IBEW members working at naval radio transmission facilities on the island and employed by Rome Research Corp.

"The commitment and tenacity demonstrated by these new IBEW members and volunteers leaves no doubt in my mind this will be a successful local," President Hill said. "I am humbled by their pride in our union, and I am proud to call them brothers."

President Edwin D. Hill and Secretary-Treasurer Jon F. Walters
administer obligation oath to Local 950’s charter members.

Vice President Schantzen said the project has been a vision of the IBEW for many years, particularly his predecessor, Mel Horton, who retired in March. "I commend those who worked so hard to see this day come to fruition," he said.

The charter signing was a highlight of three days of public activities surrounding the opening of the local office and training center. Prospective members, contractors, the business community and government and education leaders toured the center, a cooperative effort of the IBEW, NECA and NJATC. It is the first multi-employer electrical training center in Puerto Rico and promises a uniform skill level for the island’s construction electricians.

From left, Local 950 Training Director Juan Pagán, Fifth District
International Representative Harold Higginbotham, Fifth District
Vice President John Schantzen, President Hill, Local 950 Recording
Secretary René Rodriguez, Hispanic Outreach Program Manager
Carmen Marsans, Local 950 Business Manager Gerardo
Mulero and Secretary-Treasurer Jon Walters.

Nearly 200 attendees came through the facility featuring conduit-bending and transformer labs, theory classrooms and eight jobsite-comparable evaluation stations, Mulero said. They also attended presentations on the NJATC testing and certification process, the benefits of a NECA/IBEW partnership, the English as a Second Language (ESL) program. The session highlighted the Fifth District Code of Excellence, a written commitment demonstrating to customers that IBEW members perform the highest quality of work.

A key component of the instruction at the educational facility will be the ESL classes. All training material is in English, and for the sake of safety and uniformity, IBEW members must have basic proficiency in English. Most instructors will be bilingual.

The training center will be staffed by NJATC-certified instructors. Former Colegio de Peritos Electricistas (Puerto Rico’s technical college for electricians) President Juan Pagán is the education director. Local 950 plans to work cooperatively with the technical school to improve standards of the island’s electrical construction industry, as well as elevate the lives of workers and the economy in general. Mulero expects to have 2,000 members within the next year and a half.

"This is a historic moment for the IBEW," President Hill said. "For the first time in Puerto Rico, contractors, builders and all users of construction will have a benchmark by which to judge the abilities of electricians. Soon, everyone in Puerto Rico will know that IBEW means the most experienced, best qualified electricians in construction."

To maintain the uniformly qualified work force, potential IBEW members must take evaluations that test the full scope of skills required to install electrical components and systems.

This is not the first time the IBEW has had a presence in Puerto Rico. The union had electrical manufacturing locals in Juncos and Barceloneta. Those locals went defunct in 1986 and 1987, respectively, when the plants were shuttered and the work moved to Spain.