The Electrical Worker online
February 2015

2014 Founders' Scholarship Winners
Channel Worker Advocacy
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Both San Diego Local 569 member Kathleen Sax and Minneapolis Local 292 member Jeff Heimerl have logged years on construction jobs. Now, as IBEW Founders' Scholarship recipients, they say they are ready to expand their leadership skills on behalf of working families in the trade.

Sax, a 22-year member who works as a journeyman wireman, has experience phone banking and precinct walking for local elections in the San Diego area. She is planning to use her scholarship to pursue a degree in political science.

"I will be able to retire from the field in three years, so I hope to work for the IBEW full time helping to elect labor friendly candidates as a political organizer," she said. "With the degree, I think there will be many more options to help advocate for labor."

Sax recently spent five months on assignment as an organizing lead for a member-to-member outreach and education program.

"I strongly believe that unions are a key factor in providing training and good paying jobs for working people," she said. "Without unions, workers have no representation at the negotiating table."

Sax and her husband Steve Wilcox, a fellow Local 569 member, have four children. Their son Devin will graduate from the local's apprenticeship in June.

"I am excited to get started," Sax said, expressing special thanks to Wilcox, Local 569 Business Manager Johnny Simpson, retired local president Emily Davis and environmental organizer Micah Mitrosky.

Simpson said that Sax has been a positive force during her decades of membership. "She continues to be a great asset to Local 569."

Heimerl said after graduating high school in 1995, once he discovered the electrical industry he knew he had found his career. After completing a degree in electrical construction and maintenance from Dunwoody Institute, Heimerl joined the Brotherhood in 1999 and quickly got active.

While serving as a business representative and president of the local, Heimerl received his bachelor's degree in organizational management and leadership from Concordia University in 2013. There, he said most of his education came from a management perspective.

"I was happy to make an attempt at educating my classmates on the finer points of the American labor movement," he said.

Heimerl is using his scholarship to complete his law degree from William Mitchell College, where he enrolled last fall.

"I have a passion for representing blue-collar workers and would like to explore the area of labor law more," he said. "Eventually, I would like to become a judge. I think this country needs more labor- and worker-friendly judges appointed to the bench.

"I've had a dream to go to law school since I was in the fifth grade," he said.

Local 292 Business Manager Rodger Kretman said that Heimerl has always shown high respect for the membership and values the enduring importance of the labor movement. "Knowing firsthand his dedication, I see great potential for the IBEW," Kretman said.

Heimerl and his wife have two sons. His brother Mike is a fellow Local 292 member, and some other family members belong to the American Postal Workers Union or have been unionized nurses.

"I would like to thank the Founders' Scholarship Committee and the entire IBEW body for this scholarship," he said. "I will try to make you all proud."

As scholarship recipients, Sax and Heimerl have each earned $200 per semester hour toward their degrees with a maximum amount of $24,000, not to exceed an eight-year period.

The Founders' Scholarship fund was established in 1966 by International President Gordon Freeman to help IBEW members obtain higher education degrees. Awards are given each year to exemplary members based on academic achievement and potential, character, leadership, social awareness and career goals.

Applications for the 2015 awards are being accepted until May 1. An independent panel of judges representing academic, professional and community groups will review submissions, and winners will be announced in late summer.

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Local 569's Kathleen Sax and her husband


Local 292 member Jeff Heimerl