August 2010

Letters to the Editor
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Another Perspective on the Code

In your June issue you featured an article on the Code of Excellence ("Standout Utility Locals Promote Code of Excellence," June 2010). I believe it advocates a program long overdue to further the understanding of the electrical worker about the business end of their industry.

I am a retired journey wireman with a 56-year membership. I served a four-year apprenticeship, earned my master electrician’s license and was a union electrical contractor for seven years. I finished my working career as a vice president of a savings and loan bank.

I would like to suggest that a business course be added to all apprenticeship programs. Obviously I have been away from the hiring hall practices of the local unions for a good many years. But one thing I did not see in the article is a plan to provide the worker the knowledge and understanding of profit and loss, overhead, and most important, a fuller understanding of productivity.

Through my years of working with the tools, we obtained jobs from the hiring hall and returned there for further referrals. As far as we knew the contractor was the one writing the paychecks, and jobs came from the business agent. I distinctly remember the attitude was, "Don’t worry about the contractor. If he went out of business, we will just send you to another job."

It wasn’t until I became a contractor I learned a whole new side of this world. The key was and still is what you paid an electrician, whether it was the prevailing wage or more, was immaterial. His or her productivity was balanced against benefits and related expenses like workers’ compensation, insurance, and associated overhead and yes, profit. He or she has to PRODUCE enough work to offset those costs.

Maybe that is being taught today, but if not, it should become a paramount subject in the apprenticeship programs.

Howard Gelbman
Local 349 retiree, Miami, Fla.

Help for the Unemployed?

I simply want to know: Where is the outrage? I grew up in a pro-union household, married a Jersey City, N.J., Local 164 electrician, and am now facing a fearful future, for he has been unemployed since last Christmas.

I want to organize some form of protest, not just for union workers, but for all of us who are insulted by our government’s cowardice and inability to work together.

By voting not to extend unemployment benefits, the Republicans and Democrats have forced millions of honest, hard-working Americans onto welfare or into the streets.

This is not a government of the people or by the people. It’s time to stand up.

Mindy Hetherington
Wife of Richard Hetherington Jr., Local 164 member, Jersey City, N.J.

Making Spirits Bright

Following a severe snowstorm in December, our local power company was fortunate to receive assistance from union linemen out of Knoxville, Tenn., Local 760. I snapped this photo of Buck Pritchett, Mike Grant, Matt Vanwitzenburg and Drake Thompson as they were working to restore power to us and our neighbors, who were without electricity for four days.

Thanks, guys, for all you did to give us the gift of electricity for Christmas.

Angie Seal
Wife of Local 934 member Dale Seal, Kingsport, Tenn.

Buck Pritchett, Mike Grant, Matt Vanwitzenburg and Drake Thompson