June 2009

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Maryland Members Help Pass Prevailing Wage Law


Grassroots lobbying by IBEW members and other labor activists in Charles County, Md., helped win a landmark prevailing wage law earlier this year.

The new law makes the county only the fourth jurisdiction in the state to require government contractors to pay a standard wage for state-funded construction projects.

The campaign was launched by Tri-County COPE, a political action committee representing unions in three Maryland counties. Helping to lead the efforts was Washington, D.C., Local 1900 Vice President Greg Waller.

A 32-year member, Waller helped to organize President Obama’s campaign in Charles County. He was inspired to get involved in the prevailing wage campaign by Washington, D.C., Local 26 Political Director Larry Greenhill, who lives in the county.

“It was one of the biggest labor campaigns we’ve seen in a while,” Waller said. “We had volunteers from all the unions in the area making phone calls and sending letters.”

For his efforts in the campaign, Waller was recognized by the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO, receiving its annual award for political activism.

Council President Jos Williams credited the bill’s success to Waller, Greenhill “and other up-and-coming leaders advocating on behalf of working families in Charles County.”

Washington, D.C., Local 1900 Vice President Greg Waller, center, with the political activism award he received from AFL-CIO Metropolitan Washington Council President Jos Williams, right, and Political Coordinator Rick Powell.

Study: Advanced Coal Coming Soon

With $3.4 billion dollars set aside in President Obama’s stimulus bill for the advanced clean coal industry, energy experts and coal advocates are in a favorable position to move new technology forward—creating jobs and reducing carbon in the process.

Touting a recent study commissioned by the IBEW, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and other groups, a coalition of labor leaders and energy experts met in Washington, D.C., in February for a press conference outlining the financial and environmental benefits of clean coal technology, which captures and stores carbon emissions underground.

“The nation stands at a crossroads of opportunity for domestic investments and innovation in new technology and energy efficiency that will save jobs, create new jobs, build new industries and revitalize American manufacturing,” said Bob Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council.

The study claims that new technology can foster millions of high-paying jobs, yielding nearly 7 million work-years of employment and generating $1 trillion of economic output.

“The promise of federal funding will get some of these projects up and running, demonstrating that they are viable and competitive in price with other technologies,” said IBEW Utility Department Director Jim Hunter. “Things are looking brighter for the industry and the prospect of more union jobs—we just need to keep fighting.”

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Power Initiative illustrates the government’s commitment to looking at ways in which technology can reduce sulfur, nitrogen and mercury pollutants from power plants while shrinking greenhouse emissions. Obama’s Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said at his Senate confirmation hearing, “Coal is an abundant resource in the world. It is imperative that we figure out a way to use coal as cleanly as possible.”

The U.S. has the largest coal reserves in the world, which produce half of the nation’s electricity. Tens of thousands of IBEW members are employed at coal-fired utilities, some of which are already moving forward with clean coal test projects. Plants in Wisconsin, North Dakota, West Virginia and elsewhere are conducting experiments with carbon capture technologies.

“Many lawmakers, industry leaders and energy experts are all recognizing that in order to make a long-term change in carbon emissions, clean coal has to be a part of the solution,” International President Edwin D. Hill said. “The technological advancements in the industry will help put us on the path to energy independence while creating good-paying jobs and, ultimately, reducing our environmental footprint.”

Florida Airport Work Nets Kudos for Contractors


More than 70 members of Jacksonville, Fla., Local 177 helped two national companies win a prestigious award for stellar efficiency and safety on a $13 million job at the city’s international airport.

St. Louis-based Guarantee Electrical Co. and White Electrical of Atlanta won the Federated Electrical Contractors 2008 Joint Venture Award after joining forces in February 2007 to add two new concourses to the airport. Totaling 1,600 feet in length, the concourses will service 20 gates to accommodate 7.5 million passengers annually.

“It was definitely not your everyday kind of work,” said Local 177 member Greg Lea, superintendent general foreman at the site. Lea noted that the complex jobs of installing everything from high-tech security systems, intricate lighting and fiber optics proved novel projects for apprentices and journeymen alike. “But we’re IBEW members—we like a good challenge.”

Local 177 members completed the 18-month project ahead of schedule, logging about 80,000 man hours with no safety incidents.

“The IBEW workers demonstrated excellence, efficiency and professionalism on a job that involved a lot of newer technology,” said David Yencarelli, project manager with White Electrical. “The members definitely brought their ‘A’ game.”

“We take the Code of Excellence very seriously, and our members strive to do the best job on every worksite,” Local 177 Business Manager Russell Harper said.

Federated Electrical Contractors is an international network of leading electrical companies that engage in joint ventures throughout the continental U.S. and abroad. The FEC only employs union labor.

Members of Jacksonville, Fla., Local 177 completed a $13 million airport project ahead of schedule and with no injuries.

IBEW Member Elected Head of Hawaii Metal Trades Council


Honolulu Local 1186 member Don Bongo became the first IBEW member in decades to head the Hawaii Metal Trades Council after being elected president by the council’s executive board in April.

The council is made up of 12 unions representing more than 4,000 workers at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard.

“It’s a heavy duty responsibility,” said Bongo, who started in the shipyard in 1982. “But I’m ready to do what it takes to represent all the workers in the yard.”

Bongo comes from a long line of union activists. His father was a member of the firefighters union and his grandparents were active in organizing sugar cane workers.

Bongo’s top priority is to increase the number of permanent jobs at the yard. The summer season often sees a slowdown in work and Bongo wants to help seasonal workers stay on the job.

Bongo also is hopeful about resurrecting the labor-management partnership between unions and the U.S. Navy that was dismantled by President George W. Bush.

In addition to his union activism, Bongo is a veteran of the Iraq War. His National Guard unit was sent to Iraq in 2004, where he served as a combat engineer.

“He’s got a big job ahead of him but I’ve known Don a long time and I know he’ll be strong voice for every shipyard worker,” said Local 1186 Business Manager Damien Kim.

The shipyard, site of the infamous 1941 attack that dragged the United States into World War II, serves as the Navy’s regional maintenance facility.

Don Bongo, Local 1186 member