July 2011

Ore. 'Market Advancement Initiative' Nets Small Commercial Jobs
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When the Daily Journal of Commerce reported on Portland, Ore., Local 48's efforts to increase electrical construction market share on small commercial jobs like gas stations, restaurants and stores, Local 48 Business Manager Clif Davis told the paper, "I'm not going to sit here and lie and say I didn't get push-back from the members." But, explained Davis, "I don't like failure as much as the next person. In this business, you've got to take calculated risks."

Those risks are paying off as Local 48 journeyman inside wiremen, apprentices and workers in the new classification of construction electrician are gaining work on projects for Starbucks, Target and Ruth's Chris steakhouse.

Member Chad Campbell, a journeyman wireman foreman, had his doubts about Local 48's "Market Advancement Initiative." When his employer, Stoner Electric, picked up work on a local Starbucks, he thought market recovery funds would be used to subsidize the pay of workers assigned to the new job title of construction electrician.

"I was torn about what to think about the program until the misunderstanding was cleared up," says Campbell, who learned that market recovery funds were used only during the first month of implementation of the initiative to facilitate a smoother start-up.

Davis knows the only way that new program will work is when all members like Campbell and signatory contractors are working from the same base of information. In 2010, after the Ninth District rolled out the concept of making IBEW labor more competitive by bringing down composite costs using new classifications, he immediately put the plan before his members. With a wide jurisdiction, Local 48 is signatory to four separate regional recovery agreements. Last March, Local 48 members approved the concept of employing composite crews.

Davis developed an informational presentation on recovery agreements, borrowing some of the materials from a video sent out to members by International President Edwin D. Hill. He assigned Business Development Manager Mike Dutton to meet with estimators and project managers and deliver the information. "The presentations took 20 minutes," says Dutton, "but the discussion took two hours."

By September, the local's recovery plan was ready for implementation. With Target remodeling dozens of stores in the West, Local 48 and signatory contractors seized the opportunity. Three contractors were successful bidders on some of the stores' electrical upgrades. Work has been completed on eight stores, putting 20 inside wiremen, 25 construction electricians and seven apprentices to work.

Without the Market Advancement Initiative, says Davis, "We would have had no chance of getting this work." The program has put other members to work on Starbucks coffee shops and a Ruth's Chris steakhouse.

"These construction electricians are good guys," says journeyman inside wireman John Convery, who is working on the steakhouse project. Chip Onslow, an apprentice fresh out of boot camp, says he relies upon Convery and experienced journeymen to learn the trade. And he works side by side with construction electricians to get the job done.

Fifteen unemployed members of Local 48 have returned to work since the recovery agreements were adopted and 12 new members have joined the local.

Davis told the Journal of Commerce, "You know, I don't think it's the ultimate solution. But this is a start and we've gotten a positive response from members and good reports about the performance of the new workers."

Members of Portland, Ore., Local 48 are benefiting from competitive bids utilizing composite crews on small commercial jobs.