August 2011

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Nevada Utility Pioneer Leaves Legacy of Activism

When Sylvester Kelley, a 63-year member of Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245 returned from World War II, he applied for a job with Sierra Pacific Power. But the company wouldn't hire him because his finger, disfigured by German shrapnel, would not fit into a work glove. So Kelley went to the Veteran's Administration hospital and had the finger amputated. Then he went to work as a troubleman, a foreman and was elected to the local's leadership in the 1950's.

Kelley, who died on June 3 at the age of 87, exhibited nearly the same determination fighting for worker justice that he demonstrated in securing his job back in 1948.

Last year, Kelley, a Purple Heart recipient, was featured in full-page newspaper ads and TV spots opposing cuts in medical benefits for retirees at NV Energy, Sierra Pacific's successor. His story and his death were posted on the Web site, "Shame on NV Energy" ( and the accompanying Facebook page which has hit a milestone of 40,000 members.

In a series of 2010 interviews in Local 1245's media library, Kelley discussed the highlights and challenges of his utility industry career, including his service in WW II, his decision to join the union and meeting President John F. Kennedy.

He laughed when the interviewer asked why he didn't support former President Richard Nixon for president. Speaking of modern-day members of Nixon's party, Kelly said: "Some of these people advocating doing away with Social Security must be millionaires who don't give a damn about working people. They'd pay you $.50 an hour if they could get away with it."

In an obituary in Local 1245's Utility Reporter, Editor Eric Wolfe wrote, "Kelley struggled with many health problems in his later years. His left arm was badly injured on the job, and even after weeks of physical therapy remained misshapen the rest of his days. He suffered the usual ailments of old age after a life of hard work, but he was too much of a lineman to talk a lot about it or seek sympathy."

The Reporter concludes, "All he [Kelley] wanted was to live outside Silver Springs, Nev., in the well-maintained modular home with the American flag out front, secure in the knowledge that his growing medical needs would be taken care of. In his last years, NV Energy took that security away."

Sylvester Kelley, an outspoken retiree leader of Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245, died on June 3.

Member Ascends 'Top of the World'

Sarnia, Ontario, Local 530 member Gregg Mellon has completed a feat that places him in a league of fewer than 3,000 people. In May, Gregg successfully ascended the 29,025-foot summit of Mount Everest.

Not only did Mellon complete a dangerous and strenuous challenge attempted by few, but with every step to the peak of Everest Gregg raised money for a local charity. The trek was part of LamSar Climb for Kids 2011, a fundraiser whose goal was to raise $300,000 for Big Brothers of Sarnia-Lambton.

"Gregg is a person who likes adventure and seeks it out. What he has accomplished here is nothing short of remarkable and to raise money for Big Brothers just adds to that," said Local 530 Treasurer Wesley Segade.

Mellon has been a member of Local 530 for more than 25 years and is president of Mellon Inc., an electrical and instrumentation contractor. In his free time, he trains to climb some of the highest peaks in the world. He has already conquered the highest peaks on four continents: Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (Africa), Denali in Alaska (North America), Elbrus in Russia (Europe), Aconcagua in Argentina (South America), and now Mount Everest on the Nepal-China border (Asia).

Mellon says he caught the climbing bug at the age of 20 and has been hooked ever since. "There's just no comparison. The sense of accomplishment—even when you get halfway up the mountain—is amazing."

Due to the extreme altitude of Mount Everest, which makes every breath a struggle, Mellon and his team trained for more than a month by doing smaller treks on Everest before actually beginning the climb to the summit.

They also took part in a traditional "puja" ceremony, which blesses all the climbers and sherpas to ensure safe passage up the mountain. "Once the ceremony is over there is lots of celebration with music, alcohol, and food. I can still hear the sherpa celebrating," Mellon wrote on his adventure blog.

His first attempt for the summit was in mid-May, which was aborted due to strong winds. Two days later his climbing party started their upward journey to the summit. After 12 hours of hiking and waiting (that day there were more than 100 hikers, making it a slow journey up) Mellon and his team made it to the highest point in the world on May 20th.

"Everest gave us everything, from the good to the bad: the good was amazing views, teamwork. The bad … I will leave for your imagination. Everything about our summit was simply astonishing."

Sarnia, Ontario, Local 530 member Gregg Mellon atop Mount Everest.

IBEW Members Save Big with New Union Plus Benefits

As college tuitions rise, Andy Hartmann knows that the time to start saving for his daughter's education is now.

That's why the Santa Cruz, Calif., Local 234 president took advantage of a new program from Union Plus that offers grants to children in union families. Now 20-month-old Camille has an additional $500 waiting for her in a college savings plan account when she heads off to pursue a degree.

"That money will have a great opportunity to grow and provide her opportunities in the future," said Hartmann, who wrote about the Union Plus offer in his local's monthly newsletter. "A lot of our members are concerned about saving for college. I want more people to learn about this benefit."

Camille's grant is just one way that IBEW families are benefitting from new savings and discount offers from Union Plus.

Maurice Broussard of Little Rock, Ark., Local 647 received a $500 rebate check for purchasing a "green" appliance as part of the IBEW Union Plus Credit Card Energy Efficient Grant program.

Michael Hennessey won a "Welcome to Your First Home Award" through the organization's mortgage and real estate program, the only mortgage that helps members make their payments when they are out of work. The Kennewick, Wash., Local 112 member and his family now have an extra $500 in gift cards to spend at unionized Safeway stores.

Union Plus also offers more benefits to IBEW members, including:

• Life and accident insurance

• Free credit counseling

• Discounts on AT&T wireless service, college test preparation classes, Goodyear tires and more.

Learn more at

Santa Cruz, Calif., Local 234 member Andy Hartmann and his wife Juel received a $500 Union Plus grant for their daughter Camille's college education savings.