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April 2015

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Tim Collins

After more than 40 years in the IBEW, Sixth District International Representative Tim Collins retired effective Jan. 1.

Collins was business manager of Gary, Ind., Local 697 and a trusted advisor to a generation of Sixth District International Vice Presidents.

Most of the men on his dad's side of the family worked in the steel mills. Much of the rest of the immediate family, including Collins' father, were IBEW electricians. Collins' maternal grandfather started his IBEW apprenticeship in 1924, later opening his own contracting business and becoming president of the Gary National Electrical Contractors Association chapter.

Collins began his apprenticeship in 1973, joined Local 697 a year later and topped out in 1977. Within a year he was appointed to the newly formed safety committee, and after its chairman resigned, took it over.

"While I was an apprentice, the local still had two meetings a month and we had to go to one, but I went to all of them," Collins said. "[The local union hall] was where I grew up. It was like an extended family."

In 1978, Collins began classes at Indiana University's Labor Studies Department which, at that time, was a well-funded and ambitious program to professionalize the ranks of labor leaders.

"I went in just to take the labor history class and got sucked in," Collins said. "I simply don't know how anyone survives as a business manager without the kind of education I received there."

Collins graduated in 1983 and, four years later, was elected business manager of Local 697.

Collins said his proudest achievement as business manager was creating and implementing the local's first referral system.

Collins was reelected three years later and in 1991, was appointed to the Council on Industrial Relations by then-International President J.J. Barry.

"I learned that increasing the profile of the union's presence is a huge part of the job and 90 percent of that is just showing up. If you are the only one from the labor community you get appointed to committees and then it is amazing what you can get done if you wear a tie and don't foam at the mouth," he said.

In 1993, Barry appointed Collins to the Sixth District office, where he soon became the administrative assistant for then-International Vice President James P. Conway and continued in that position for Conway's successors, Jerry O'Connor and Lawrence Curley.

"There are more than 140 locals in the Sixth District and I handled a lot of the administrative and operations work for the Vice Presidents," Collins said. "What I loved was the interaction with people from all over the country in all branches. I really saw the strength and diversity of the IBEW in that job."

In 2002, Collins received his final assignment, to service the locals in Chicago and Northern Illinois.

Please join the officers in thanking Brother Collins for his faithful service to the IBEW. We wish him a long and fulfilling retirement.


Tim Collins