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December 2013

Third District Youth Caucus Rebuilds Homes Damaged by Sandy
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One year after Sandy hit land, many residents of the Jersey shore are still struggling to rebuild their homes left in ruins by the devastating Northeast hurricane.

On Sept. 25, more than 50 members of the Third District Youth Caucus, formed in November 2012 by Third District Vice President Don Siegel, volunteered to assist homeowners.

While attending the Third District Progress Meeting in Atlantic City, they lent their efforts to REVIVE, a group assembled to provide coordinated management in the long-term recovery process in Ventnor, a hard-hit beach town.

They rewired two homes and installed drywall in another.  All wore T-shirts with the district youth caucus's logo, "IBEW 3 DYC," designed by the activists, on the front.

"It was a tremendous day. One of the homeowners—whose husband is legally blind—came out of her house in tears after it was rewired and said she felt like she was being visited by angels," says Third District International Representative Ellen Redmond. She joined with co-chairs Chris Erickson Jr., New York Local 3, and Tara Chupka, Philadelphia Local 98, to organize the effort. Folsom Local 351 supplied boxed lunches and the jitneys to transport members from the progress meeting to the worksite.

Chupka helped bring 45 students from Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter High School, founded by Local 98, to join the work day. They assisted on beach cleanup.

"The IBEW has been a central part of my life for the past 20 years, which is why the IBEW3DYC Community Service Project was very rewarding for me," Chupka said. "To see firsthand the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, even after all these months, was shocking, and reminded all of us of the fragility of life. To be able to help rehabilitate homes damaged by Sandy was very fulfilling and was a proud day for the IBEW."

Redmond says youth caucus members were particularly pleased that one of the homes they worked on was owned by a union postal worker, adding a touch of union solidarity to their effort.

"It felt great being part of an organization where I could give back to those that were affected by Hurricane Sandy," said Nate Peters, co-chair of Long Island, N.Y., Local 1049's young workers caucus. "It also was an opportunity for me to meet with other IBEW youth members that are just as excited as I am in promoting and strengthening the future of my local union and the IBEW."

The volunteer effort was a "wonderful thing to see," says Siegel, who led progress meeting delegates in a standing ovation for the youth caucus after they returned from the shore. Siegel is looking to establish a relationship between the district and a nationally-organized nonprofit organization to help stimulate more community engagement activities in local union jurisdictions.

The Third District Youth Caucus was founded in Philadelphia, where 30 young workers and their more senior mentors—business managers and representatives—came together informally for a bowling party and then developed a mission statement (see sidebar). Only the Third and First (Canada) Districts have youth caucuses organized on a district-wide basis, says International Representative Tarn Puvapiromquon of the IBEW's Civic and Community Engagement Department.

"Most young workers are no longer getting an education about unions at the dinner table, like their parents did," says Chris Erickson Jr., the son of Local 3 Business Manager Chris Erickson and a member of the local's executive board. He says attendees of the progress meeting were encouraged to set up a workshop on engaging young workers inside and outside the IBEW.

Erickson credits Third District International Representatives Redmond and Wyatt Earp for their support in helping build a successful volunteer effort, spreading a positive image of IBEW's young workers.

In a letter to volunteers, REVIVE, which has picked up hurricane recovery efforts where the Federal Emergency Management Agency left off, Erickson said the volunteers "gave a wonderful boost to a city that was hit so hard by Hurricane Sandy."

Since its founding, the third district group has developed a newsletter, a Facebook page and Twitter account. The first issue of the newsletter stated its intention to make the group a positive force in the activist community. "Our goal is to provide one action each newsletter, be it a letter-writing campaign, a phone call to a legislator, or signing an E-petition, which will truly make the IBEW 3DYC a useful group of young workers making a difference in the labor movement."

Youth caucus members participated in the first RENEW (Reach Out and Energize Next-Gen Electrical Workers) Conference in Washington, D.C. in October and are now part of RENEW.

"It was encouraging to see so many invigorated young workers attend our conference," says Puvapiromquan. "The Third District Youth Caucus has shown great potential for making our message come alive—that young workers are energized and mobilized. At the conference, we witnessed incredible inter-generational communication about the direction of our union, and the sharing of creative ideas and solutions. It was deeply inspiring."


More than 50 members of the Third District Youth Caucus volunteered to help victims of Hurricane Sandy at a workday during the district's progress meeting in Atlantic City in September.

Third District Youth Caucus Mission Statement

To engage younger members of the IBEW

To instill the values and further the ideals of the IBEW

To acknowledge the IBEW's past and present leaders and learn from them

To work with the IBEW's leadership to encourage action and participation by the younger members of the IBEW

To encourage the younger members of the IBEW to take an active role in the labor movement

To increase an understanding of the labor movement and foster a more positive perception of labor in our communities

To promote the knowledge needed to face the challenges of the labor movement in today's world.