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September 2015

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Excellence Shines at Florida Power

I was in Florida on Aug. 31, joining local union and company leaders to celebrate the success of the utility Code of Excellence adopted four years ago by the 11 local unions of System Council U-04 and Florida Power and Light.

There's no better place than Florida to demonstrate the transformative power of IBEW's commitment to excellence on the job.

But the Code of Excellence was never meant to be a secret weapon. So, IBEW and FPL came together to show the Sunshine State's citizens, including FPL ratepayers and unorganized workers, what the Brotherhood's skill and commitment is all about.

Our locals and FPL have come a long way. Hurricane season just might be a metaphor for the stormy relationship between the parties before the adoption of the Code of Excellence in 2011.

Negotiations on a new contract had dragged on for 16 months before it was signed in 2009. Then unilateral company staffing changes and layoffs led to plummeting morale.

Locals filed over 1,500 grievances. Tragically, job safety deteriorated. Things needed to change.

The distrust that resulted led IBEW to initiate the Code of Excellence on its own, training officers, job stewards and members in the program. In time, FPL saw the success of the program and its potential to reduce accidents. The company agreed to enable training during working hours.

Four years later, the grievance backlog has fallen below 150. And OSHA reportable accidents have fallen by 50 percent. Morale is enhanced. Lives have been saved.

It was an honor to see this progress firsthand and salute the men and women who made this happen, the folks on both sides who held one another accountable to the highest standards of their industry.

I joined them in proudly affixing our Code of Excellence stickers onto their service trucks and their hard hats. Now, I look forward to hearing about new waves of goodwill and respect that will roll across the state letting citizens know what we have known all our lives: IBEW workers are the customers' very best choice and the workers' strongest advocate in everything we do, everywhere we go.


Also: Chilia: Respect Apprenticeship Read Chilia's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President