January 2011

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Scholarship Established in Memory of Apprentice

When Aaron Dineen was growing up on his family’s farm in the vast forested area of coastal Washington, he quickly developed a love of exploring, facing challenges and working with his hands. These qualities suited him for life as a fifth-step apprentice lineman with Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245.

But an on-the-job accident cut that thriving life short on Sept. 22, 2009. Aaron was 22 years old.

To honor their son’s memory, Aaron’s parents Tom and Dale Dineen have established a scholarship in his name for area high school graduates looking to go into the trades.

"He loved what he was doing as an IBEW lineman,” Tom said. "He talked about the trade all the time, and he liked the guys he was with. It was a really good group. And since he loved that work so much, we wanted to help extend the opportunity to others with similar dreams.”

Following a service for Aaron in his hometown of Hoquiam, Wash.—where many members of his local traveled hundreds of miles to pay their respects—friends from near and far offered money to the family to help with any unexpected expenses following Aaron’s passing.

"I think people just wanted to do something to help,” Tom said. Within the first month following the accident, the family was "overwhelmed by the generosity of those who gave,” he said.

"We would find envelopes full of cash on our porch, from flaggers on the ground to a retired lineman who purchased a brick with Aaron’s name on it to be placed at a memorial for fallen linemen,” Tom said, a member of the carpenters union in Aberdeen, Wash.

Before long, the family had received nearly $10,000 from IBEW members and friends touched by the family’s loss. Tom and Dale then contacted the Grays Harbor Community Foundation—a local group that works to improve the quality of life of area residents, partly by administering memorial scholarships and grants—to set up the award fund.

The family is still working out the particulars of how students can apply for and receive scholarship funds, but the Dineens said they will start by offering a $1,000 award to an outstanding candidate each year to attend an accredited trade school.

"We support what the family is doing in Aaron’s name and are exploring options at the local level to support this as well,” said Local 1245 Business/ Safety Representative Ralph Armstrong.

"Aaron was an amazing man who was full of life, inspiration and had many dreams,” the family said in a statement that will appear on the Grays Harbor Community Foundation Web site. "Aaron was always living life as fast as it came, not afraid of the challenges that lay ahead and lived out his dreams to the fullest. We are extremely proud of the man he became.”

To make a donation to the Aaron Thomas Dineen Scholarship, please contact Grays Harbor Community Foundation Program Officer Cassie Jackson at 360-532-1600 or email cassie@gh-cf.org.

For more information, visit www.gh-cf.org.

Aaron Dineen was a lineman with Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245.

Labor Communicators Award IBEW Video, Social Media

IBEW’s social media and video projects received several awards at the International Labor Communication Association’s Labor Media Awards luncheon on Nov. 19 in Washington, D.C. Members of two local unions also received recognition.

IBEW’s Facebook Fan Page www.facebook.com/IBEWFB received a first award in the general excellence category for social media produced by national and international unions. Alex Hogan, IBEW communications specialist, accepted the award on behalf of the Media Department. Says Hogan, "The IBEW Facebook page has been a huge hit with members and a great tool to get the union’s message out, so we’re honored to get recognition from some of best labor communicators for our effort.”

Three first awards for video were presented to Producer Len Turner, Photographer John Sellman and International Representative Mark Brueggenjohann for "Health Reform: Real People, Real Problems” and "Henry Miller: Father of the IBEW” and "Mastering My Space.” The Brotherhood won a third-place award for Web site content and received a second-place award for a video on the Telecommunications Code of Excellence and a second award for visual presentation and print for The Electrical Worker. The video archive is available at www.ibew.org.

Brueggenjohann says, "The leadership of the IBEW recognizes that video is a large component of an effective overall communications strategy and encouraged us to develop a successful video plan. It’s a great honor to have our work recognized by our peers. Over the next year, we will be expanding and improving. This is really just the beginning for us.”

Eric Wolfe, director of communications for Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245, added to his numerous yearly honors, winning second awards for Web site design, news, editorials and features, a third award for a story on political action and first awards for feature writing and reporting on collective bargaining.

Downers Grove, Ill., Local 21 received a second award in the multi-media campaign category.

The IBEW was singled out for its work on video and social networking.

Remembering an Organizing Pioneer

In a legendary 16-year battle to organize court reporters in Cook County, Ill., no voice was stronger or more eloquent than that of Local 134 member Renia Boykin, who succumbed to cancer on October 15 at the age of 57.

Between 2003 and 2005, Boykin and her co-workers—facing intense opposition from judges—joined with other IBEW activists to push for passage of a state law supporting court reporters’ rights to collective bargaining.

Sixth District Vice President Lonnie Stephenson met Boykin working on the lobbying campaign while he was as an International Representative. In a letter to her family, Stephenson said, "There are a few people you meet in life’s journey that make an impression on you that you will never forget. Renia was one of those people in my life.”

Stephenson recalled testimony that Boykin delivered at a hearing at the state capital, where she faced tough questions from anti-labor senators. He says, "She held her composure and answered them with dignity while getting her point across.” A senator who rarely supported labor positions, says Stephenson, approached Boykin and told her he would support the legislation. "He could sense the sincerity in her voice.”

In a press conference following the senate vote, Boykin said, "In court we don’t say anything. We always sit there and everybody else makes all the noise around us, and that’s exactly why we need a voice. We need a union to represent us.”

Originally organized by Chicago Local 1220, court reporters entered first contract negotiations looking for their first raise in 17 years, an increase in transcript rates and an end to working through lunch breaks without compensation.

Their first contract, signed in 2007, raised wages by more than 11 percent and included longevity increases of up to $8,000. "We called the language that provided for those increases the ‘Renia clause’,” says Chicago Local 134 Business Manager Tim Foley. Combined with increased transcript rates and pay for working through lunches, some court reporters saw pay increases of up to $30,000.

Recently, the court reporters ratified their second contract and achieved 90 percent of the improvements they sought.

"Renia’s legacy of determination goes even further than her own bargaining unit,” says Foley, noting that two still-unorganized units of court reporters now benefit from the gains won by Local 134.