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June 2015

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Motorcycle Clubs Fly the IBEW Flag, One Vest at a Time

Winter's grip is now a distant memory for most people in North America and with it comes the greatest season of all for many IBEW members. For some people that may be the season of summer sun and swimming pools, or the springtime return of the robin from lands to the south and the smell of flowers on the breeze.

But for others, the greatest season of the year begins with the return of black leather from darkened closets and rises with the smell of 10,000 tiny explosions rumbling out of the beating heart of mechanical freedom, the twin-cylinder "V-for-victory" motor at the heart of the American motorcycle.

Every week, more of those Harleys, Indians and the odd (very odd really) BMW or Honda, head out on the highway flying another sign of freedom and possibility, the rising electric fist of the IBEW. Across the nation, nearly 30 locals have formed official motorcycle clubs.

There is nothing in the IBEW Constitution about motorcycle clubs. Nothing in the bylaws either. Clubs vary in their level of organization from just a few guys wearing leather vests with a patch on the back to the unquestioned colossus of roads, the Local 3 Motorcycle Club in New York City, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Many locals looking to start their own clubs have turned to Local 3, said Stan Stade, a retired Local 3 member and the self-described IBEW leather haberdasher. Stan is the man who holds the key to the cuts, the black leather vest and patch that separates a couple of dudes out on a ride and a chrome-covered organizing drive broadcasting the benefits of membership to everyone they pass.

There are clubs with their own vest designs, like Pittsburgh Local 5, which sports a bold "5" in a circle. But the Local 3 design, with that iconic fist haloed by 10 silver bolts, "Electrical Workers" arched above and the hometown bending underneath like a smile, something about that design seems to call to the newer clubs.

"I get calls all the time from everywhere and I tell them the same thing. There is nothing like going down the road and seeing a line of those rising fists in front of you and the glow of headlights in the mirror," Stade said.

There are big city inside clubs outside of New York in Boston, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Rich Kremsner is working hard to get one started up at Chicago Local 134. The local already has charity fundraising rides, including one to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, but Kremsner says there is nothing organized. Yet.

"I'm going to get a chapter going here. Even if you have six guys, it'll start rolling." Kremsner said. "I'm not sure if people are aware of the brotherhood you see on these rides. You get to a ride [with a local motorcycle club] and think. 'Man look at all these guys. They all do what I do. And that guy, he's cool. He knows what it is all about.'"

Of course, it isn't just wiremen. Boston Local 104 has jurisdiction over nearly all of New England, and has rides all over the Northeast once the mud clears each spring.

"We couldn't leave it to just the narrowbacks," said Local 104 member Brad Curley, using the lineman's gently disparaging nickname for wiremen. "They wouldn't have any fun without us there."

Smaller city locals are well represented, especially in the northeast, from York, Pa., Local 229 to Hartford, Conn., Local 42.

But in recent years, new clubs are popping up all over, from Shreveport, La., Local 194 to Las Vegas, Local 357.

"I went through the business agent and made sure he was onboard, then put out feelers in the newsletter," said Gary Oneida, president of the Pocatello, Idaho, Local 449 motorcycle club, membership: five.

Oneida said they ordered their vests and patches through Stade.

"Everything is set up and they use a union shop for everything," he said. "It made more sense than winging it out here."

Randy Stainbrook and Dallas Deranleau started a club at Rapid City, S.D., Local 1250.

"You work every day and do your job, and the union sometimes doesn't feel as real as it is," Deranleau said at the annual IBEW motorcycle rally last year. "Then you come here and see all this and it is absolutely amazing."

This year's IBEW ride is July 17 and 18 and all money raised will go to support cystic fibrosis research and awareness. More than 400 members from all over the country are expected to meet up in the Canaan Valley, in West Virginia for a weekend of tall tales, loud bikes and good times. For more information, check out

"It's always amazing how many of the people I see I know," Deranleau said. "Some I know from years past and jobs I've done."

Patch or not, everyone is welcome. All it takes is a union card and a motorcycle.


Hundreds of motorcycle riding IBEW members now ride with their local's motorcycle club and — like President Hill — wear their membership for all to see.