December 2010

2010 Founders' Scholarship Winners Advance Union Values
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Troy Warner and Timothy Griffin—this year's IBEW Founders' Scholarship winners—embody the high quality our union has to offer to the work site and to our country.

International President Gordon Freeman started the scholarship fund in 1966 to help IBEW members obtain higher education degrees to benefit themselves, the union and the trade as a whole.

Warner coordinates organizing and business development for South Bend, Ind., Local 153. The 10-year member is pursuing a degree in labor studies with a minor in business at Indiana University, and his hard work in the classroom is already reaping rewards for members in his local.

"The curriculum has helped me on real-world issues that concern our members—the Family and Medical Leave Act, prevailing wage laws, grievance arbitration and more," said Warner, 39. "The business classes have helped me learn to better use databases, which we use for our COPE committee planning."

Warner is also the deputy chairman of the St. Joseph County Democratic Party, a position that yields concrete benefits for the membership. He was an early advocate for Barack Obama's candidacy and attended the inauguration—but he said cultivating local connections are the most rewarding part of the job.

"The contacts that I've made with officials in the area have been tremendous," Warner said. "I know them on a first name basis and I know their families. Having those connections helps me give our contractors a heads-up when things are bid.

"And when I find out that someone is skimming or cheating workers out of wages, I've got someone I can call who'll pick up the phone and take me seriously," he said.

Warner helped advocate for a city ordinance that gives new companies in the South Bend area property tax breaks if they hire local construction crews, pay prevailing wages and offer health benefits.

The father of two is considering a career as a labor lawyer.

York, Pa., Local 229 member Timothy Griffin plans to further his studies in business administration and project management. Brother Griffin boasts an impressive resume that includes military service, volunteerism and a 4.0 grade point average at DeVry University for the past year.

The 10-year member and general foreman with signatory contractor I.B. Abel, Inc., said working full time, raising a family and taking online courses "can be stressful, but it will pay off in the end." His long-term goal is to move into the business side of construction to promote union skill and values.

"A lot of people go into construction management with a four-year degree but don't have experience in the trades," said Griffin, 30. "I feel that my experience working on bigger projects and having an IBEW background will give me an edge."

He completed the Army's Military Police School in 1998 and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003-2004. The sergeant team leader received the Army Commendation Medal partially for providing and maintaining electrical service to his company in the desert.

"As the unofficial 'company electrician,' I made sure that we always had running power, lighting and—eventually—air conditioning in our camp," Griffin said.

The father of two said he is "truly honored" to win a scholarship and appreciates the IBEW's focus on education for its members. He said added studies can help push the movement forward and promote shared prosperity for more Americans in the trades.

"I think it's important that the IBEW continue to encourage and enable members to get degrees," Griffin said. "That's how we're going to change some people's negative attitudes about unions. There are a lot of stereotypes, but education and leadership can combat biases and ignorance. Unions help build and support the middle class, which is the foundation of this country's strength. We take a view that when all the stakeholders in an organization are considered, everyone benefits rather than exclusively the shareholders."

As scholarship winners, Griffin and Warner have each earned $200 per semester hour toward their degrees with a maximum amount of $24,000, not to exceed an eight-year period.

Troy Warner

Timothy Griffin