November 2009

Baltimore Local Grows Despite Down Economy
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This is the third article in a series on how locals are expanding market share and creating opportunities for contractors, local unions and members looking for careers in the electrical trade.

As local unions work to keep members on the job, rigid journeyman-apprentice ratios are being altered to strengthen the customer base of signatory contractors. And new classifications (CE/CW) are being more widely applied.

It's not an easy life for union leaders who choose this route, says Gary Griffin, business manager of Baltimore Local 24. When the local union proposed a new addendum to the inside wireman collective bargaining agreement in 2007, "Many members, especially journeymen, were very opposed and skeptical, afraid of losing their jobs to lower classified employees," says Griffin.

Two years later, more than 30 projects have been completed, applying provisions of the modified collective bargaining agreement that applies to construction projects under 200,000 square feet—including office buildings, funeral homes, hospitals, motels and residential buildings.

The modifications include flexible work schedules, no overtime paid until 40 hours in the work week or 10 hours in the day, and a ratio of one inside wireman to four non-journey-level classifications.

While veteran members were concerned that contractors would use the addendum to cheapen the wages and benefits on projects that they would have been awarded anyway, the results show otherwise, says Griffin.

As of July 2009, more than 30 addendum jobs have been completed in Local 24's jurisdiction. More than half of the jobs were done by contractors from other venues. " Having those contractors be able to come in and do jobs our local signatories weren't pursuing amounts to taking money out of nonunion contractors' pockets," says Griffin.

Local 24's CE/CW program is now over 200-strong, complementing 475 apprentices. Despite a suffering national economy, Local 24's man-hours are ahead of 2008 figures.

The addendum and the CE/CW program aren't the sole reason Local 24 is moving in the right direction, says Griffin. There are many factors, he states. "However, they [addendum and CE/CW program] are definitely a piece of the puzzle, no matter how big or small," he concludes.

Fifty members of Baltimore, Md., Local 24 worked on a project for investment firm T. Rowe Price. From left: Russ Main, CW; Rita Aiello, CW; Bob Fifield, journeyman wireman; Bill Bollinger Jr., journeyman wireman; Gary Griffin, business manager; Bert Bollinger, foreman; Mike Nulf, apprentice; George Cerutto, journeyman wireman; Michael Lynch, general foreman; William Ebberts III, V.P., Enterprise Electric; Jack Beck, owner, Enterprise Electric; Tom Bethke, shop steward.