The Electrical Worker online
March 2015

From the Officers
index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to
Tree Trimmers Rise Up

When it comes to dishing out common sense, Texas populist and worker advocate Jim Hightower has one of the best examples. It's something that his father repeatedly told him while growing up: "Everybody does better when everybody does better."

Tree trimmers working under more than 80 IBEW bargaining agreements with Asplundh Tree Expert Co. have known this for years. With nearly 7,500 members across the U.S. and Canada employed at the family-owned company, workers have been winning better wages and conditions in a profession where the fatality rate is 10 times the average for all industries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Now, more workers are getting even bolder. Since last July, nearly 800 Asplundh employees throughout the Fourth and Sixth Districts — in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia — voted overwhelmingly for a voice on the job with the IBEW. A handful of these votes were unanimous. And with about four in five workers voting, the "yays" total nearly 90 percent. As of this writing, six more NLRB votes are on the horizon, with more likely to follow.

While it's not always been easy for the employees, company attitudes toward the organizing drives are changing. CEO Scott Asplundh told Transmission and Distribution Magazine, "We put our heads together with the IBEW people and started training crew personnel to be crew foremen. I was surprised at the impact it had. Of course, all partners must work together. That's the theme of the entire operation."

For the IBEW's continued growth, this campaign is incredibly significant. About 20,000 more Asplundh employees are without a union contract. If even a fraction of those continue to vote "union yes," the IBEW will be closer to reaching its 2015 organizing goals, strengthening the Brotherhood.

But this isn't really about numbers. It's about people: men and women who know what it's like to pull marathon shifts doing emergency storm repair, working in trees or bucket trucks high above solid ground with chainsaws and other powerful equipment. You have to be careful. You have to trust your crew. You have to look out for one another.

Now that we've begun negotiations in Michigan and Ohio, I feel strongly that members and management can take Hightower's maxim to heart and recognize the mutual benefits we can offer each other. Let's keep up that momentum for even more brave workers who want to ensure the prosperity of their families — and their company.


Also: Hill: Building Bridges? Or Slamming Doors? Read Hill's Column

Salvatore J. Chilia

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer