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December 2012

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Sandy's Toll

As were going to press, cleanup from Hurricane Sandy was still unfinished and we received tragic news. Mike Leach, a veteran lineman from Sarnia, Ontario, Local 1802, died on Oct. 31. Mike was killed while on the job, tending to a downed power line.

Mike joined the IBEW 21 years ago, first in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Local 1928, then moving to Toronto, Ontario, Local 353 in 2003, and for the past three years he has been in Sarnia. It is a terrible loss for all of us and our hearts go out to Mike's wife, Gwen, their daughters, Jessica and Miranda, and his granddaughters, Bridget and Charlotte.

The hardest hit part of the U.S. was also the scene of a terrible injury suffered by another brother. Imad Ghandour from Cranbury, N.J., Local 94 was severely burned, and owes his life to the members of his crew who performed CPR until emergency medical personnel arrived. We all pray for Imad's full and swift recovery.

Solar Backpacks Light Up Ind. Youth

If you are searching for it, the path to a teenager's heart is through their smartphone. When Terre Haute, Ind., Local 725 ran its first youth electrical camp for disadvantaged high schoolers, they figured what better way to show them the power of the job than by teaching them to power their phones.

Each kid wired up a backpack armored like an armadillo with solar panels called a solar backpack.

"They took it home and charged up their iPhones." said Tom Szymanski. "That was great, a big hit."

Local 725 had never been asked to run a summer camp by the local workforce development agency, WorkOne. Other trades and other unions had been invited to run WorkOne-sponsored camps in the past. Szymanski said this year was different because a concerted community outreach effort led by Business Manager Todd Thacker had successfully raised Local 725's profile in Terre Haute, bringing attention to the IBEW apprenticeship program.

Local 725 received a $20,000 grant from WorkOne and nearby Vincennes University along with the invitation.

They bought hand tools, solar experimentation and the solar backpack kits for the 15 students.

Classes were taught by retired members Norm Cheesman and John McMullen. They took the students to construction sites. They bent conduit and linemen members of sister Local 1393 did a presentation on high voltage safety. Retirees David Walls taught a class on knots and rope tying and Jerry Hooper presented a class on Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety standards.

Cheesman and McMullen even tried to make up for the glaring lack of labor history in the students education with a trip to the house of Terre Haute native son Eugene V. Debs, pioneering union organizer and five-time Socialist Party candidate for U.S. president between 1900 and 1920.

Szymanski says there are already plans to double the number of students next summer and, with luck, run two sessions.

"This was a great way to reach out to a part of the community we need to reach out for and haven't, for whatever reason," Szymanski said. "We have to do a better a job reaching these kids, and convincing their parents. It was showcase of what we can do."


Local 725 retirees Norm Cheesman, far left, and John McMullen, far right, flank the participants in the Summer Youth Electrical Camp.