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February 2015

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Frank J. Carroll

After more than 50 years of distinguished service to the IBEW, Second District International Vice President Frank J. Carroll retired Jan. 1.

Brother Carroll was initiated into Bridgeport, Conn., Local 488 in 1966. In the late '60s he worked construction and maintenance jobs at American Can in Greenwich and later at Co-op City in the Bronx, still the largest single residential development in the United States. Starting in 1971, Carroll was the superintendent of a team of electricians at Sikorsky Aircraft's Stratford headquarters.

He took on leadership positions in Local 488 soon after joining, first as vice president in 1969 and then president in 1977. When the business manager/financial secretary retired in 1978, Carroll was selected by the local's executive board to finish the term. He was re-elected six times.

Carroll said one of his proudest moment at Local 488 came soon after he was elected president in the winter of 1977. At that time, unemployed members had to pay more than $130 a month to keep their health care coverage. With work slow, it left many members in a terrible position and Carroll said he worked for months with the providers and insurers to remove the burden. Only a few weeks before Christmas, Carroll said, they found a way to do it.

"I remember thinking that some kid might get a wagon or a bike, something, for Christmas now, and I'm there on my couch crying I'm so happy," Carroll said. "My daughter, 5 years old at the time, she still remembers that day too."

While business manager, Carroll was also elected to the International Executive Council during the 34th International Convention in 1991 and re-elected at the 35th International Convention five years later.

Over the years International Presidents turned to Brother Carroll many times to represent the IBEW, starting with former International President Charles Pillard, who appointed him to the Council on Industrial Relations in 1981. Carroll said being a member of CIR was — next to being business manager — the best work he had in his career.

"CIR is the greatest creation between labor and management of any labor organization in the country, hands down," he said. "We are able to handle grievances without a strike, have both parties unanimously come to an agreement and get back to work the next day like nothing happened. I was able to help our industry and represent our brothers and sisters. That meant everything to me."

A committed labor activist, Carroll's most public and lasting impact may have come after one of the deadliest construction accidents in American history. Twenty-eight union members were killed in Bridgeport April 23, 1987, when the L'Ambiance Plaza hotel collapsed.

"That was a terrible tragedy. Two-hundred-and-eight hours it took to find the last brother," he said.

National legislation was soon passed to ban the lift-slab construction method faulted for the disaster. Carroll played down his own involvement in the law's passage and gives the credit to the politicians, even to the heads of other local unions. But one of those politicians disagrees.

In 1997, when former International President J.J. Barry appointed Carroll to lead the Second District, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut went to the floor of the House of Representatives to congratulate him and to set the record straight.

"Frank's testimony was pivotal to passing this legislation and this method of construction is no longer in use," DeLauro said. "I applaud Frank's efforts on this and other safety issues that are so crucial to our nation's workers."

Carroll has remained a high-profile booster of Bridgeport. He was named the grand marshal of the city's 2011 St. Patrick's Day Parade and in 2012, he was chosen to be the ringmaster of the annual Barnum Festival, honoring the great showman who was also elected Bridgeport's mayor in 1875. He was also chosen of one the Irish Echo newspaper's "Irish Labor 50 honorees" for 2011.

"I know that's not about me," Carroll said. "I'm in the parade, I'm in the picture with the president, the governor is coming to my house not because Frank Carroll is so special but because the IBEW and our hundreds of thousands of members are special," he said. "Without that I'm just 'Frank who?'"

International President Edwin D. Hill and International Secretary Treasurer Salvatore J. Chilia oversaw the grand opening of the Frank J. Carroll Jr. Building, Local 488's new home in late spring 2013.

"I dedicated my life to the IBEW and it has been a blessing," Carroll said. "If I have one suggestion for members, its pay your dues before you eat. The greatest gift is to have that card."

The IBEW members, staff and international officers wish Brother Carroll a long and happy retirement.


Frank J. Carroll

Michael Monahan

International Representative Michael Monahan was appointed Second District International Vice President effective Jan. 2. Monahan replaces Frank Carroll, who retired.

Monahan, a native of Dorchester, Mass., became a journeyman wireman in 1986, joining Boston Local 103.

He is a fourth-generation Local 103 member, with his great-grandfather George joining the IBEW in 1912. "2015 will be the 103rd year a Monahan was a member of Local 103," he said. His grandfather Walter J., and his father, Walter R., were both Local 103 business managers and international representatives.

"As kids, we grew up around the labor movement," he said.

With the IBEW in his blood, Monahan was active in the local, and was appointed business agent in 1995.

In 2003, he became business manager. Presiding over one of New England's largest inside locals, with more than 7,500 members, Monahan was the driving force behind Local 103's rebranding and organizing efforts, making it one of the most influential labor organizations in the region.

"He voluntarily signed 164-plus previously nonunion contractors during his tenure — the region's highest organizing success rate ever," said International President Edwin D. Hill.

Monahan was particularly instrumental in recapturing public spending market share, which had lagged in recent decades.

"When we first looked at the problem in 1999, we were only doing 12 percent of public works," he said. "By the time I left office in 2014, we were doing more than 70 percent of it."

He also worked to build positive relationships with area contractors, following the philosophy of the Code of Excellence, which promotes on-the-job quality and skill.

"I wanted to create a culture of respect between the IBEW and contractors," he said. "When we sat down with them, I would talk about the value the union can offer. Because it's the value the IBEW brings to their company that leads contractors to join us in the first place."

In addition to his IBEW duties, Monahan serves on the Boston Redevelopment Authority as a mayoral appointee.

In 2014, he was appointed Second District international representative.

"It is a tremendous honor to serve my union in this heightened role," he said. "My title is changing, but my devotion to union families will not. I won't rest as the IBEW creates more socially responsible career opportunities for New England's middle class."


Michael Monahan

Joe P. Smith

Former Sixth District International Executive Council member Joe P. Smith was appointed to serve as international representative for the Seventh Vice Presidential District.

In taking the new position, Smith, the former business manager of Oklahoma City Local 1141, resigned from the IEC effective Dec. 1. The third-generation IBEW member and inside wireman served as business manager for more than 10 years.

"When President Hill called and asked if I would be interested in an international representative job, I was humbled and honored," Smith said. "But I was also torn, because I wouldn't be able to complete my term on the council. Every IBEW leader has his or her own path, and I think this is my path for union service. I look forward to this new chapter, and I was honored to serve the Sixth District as their IEC member."

Smith was elected to the council at the 38th IBEW Convention in Vancouver, British Columbia, in September 2011.

In his new role, Smith will work under the direction of International Vice President Steven Speer to service five inside construction local unions in Oklahoma and Texas. "Four of the five have new business managers," he said. "Working with new, young leadership is exciting. It's a great time for opportunity, growth and organizing in the Seventh District," which also includes Arizona, Kansas and New Mexico.

While excited about the future, Smith says he will miss the camaraderie of the IEC. "The members who represent the council are experts and a strong group of leaders. It was a great education."

Brother Smith was initiated into Local 1141 in 1994. He served on the state AFL-CIO's executive board and was a trustee of the Oklahoma Building and Construction Trades.

A Navy veteran, Smith served during the first Gulf War. He attended Rose State and Garden State Community Colleges and was the Oklahoma Democratic Party's nominee for state Senate in 2002.

He and his wife, Danielle, have three children. Smith enjoys golf, gardening and reading in his free time.

On behalf of the entire membership and staff of the IBEW, the officers wish Brother Smith great success in his new position and thank him for his service to the International Executive Council.


Joe P. Smith

Chris Wagner

Austin, Texas, Local 520 Business Manager Chris Wagner was appointed Sixth District International Executive Council member effective Jan. 1. He replaces Joe P. Smith, who has been appointed Seventh District international representative.

"Words escape me. I'm still in shock [about the appointment]. It's such an honor and a surprise, because I didn't seek the job. I look forward to working with and learning from the other members of the council," says Wagner, who serves as president of the Central Texas Building and Construction Trades Council.

Brother Wagner, a graduate of the National Labor College, began his IBEW career as a residential wireman trainee in 1982. He says he came to appreciate the union's camaraderie and brotherhood long before at the age of 10 cutting up sausages for the local's annual picnic beside his father, Jimmy Wagner. The elder Wagner chaired the local's picnic committee and served on its executive board before his death in 1999.

"I knew that my father's four-wheel drive pickup trucks, our nice family vacations and comfortable life were all available to us because of the union," says Wagner, an Army National Guard veteran.

Completing his journeyman inside wireman apprenticeship in 1987, Wagner was elected president of Local 520 10 years later. In 1999, he served his first term as assistant business manager, elevating to business manager of the 1,000-member local in 2011.

"We were going through tumultuous negotiations with a lot of acrimony and animosity between labor and management," says Wagner. Persistent negotiations paid off when, under Wagner's leadership, Local 520 brought together nine separate inside wireman agreements in 2014, negotiating a single five-year contract providing yearly cost-of-living increases.

While Local 520 enjoys near full employment, says Wagner, Austin's labor market for electricians is severely undermined by contractors who misclassify workers as independent contractors, leaving them without unemployment insurance, minimum wages, overtime pay, Social Security and National Labor Relations Act protections. Many of the workers are recent immigrants.

Wagner and Local 520 have played a leadership role in the city and beyond, challenging the payroll fraud that saves scofflaws more than $54 million a year while making it harder for honest signatory contractors to compete.

Wagner worked with Austin's Workers Defense Project, a nonprofit organization, marshaling efforts to monitor contractors who cheat on taxes on many of the 12 high-rise construction projects around Austin. These efforts were instrumental in winning an ordinance requiring electricians who work as "independent contractors" have a Texas contractor's license. (See "Labor, Lawmakers Take on Payroll Fraud," Electrical Worker, May 2013).


Chris Wagner