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November 2015

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Hawaii Members' 'Ohana' Given the Spotlight on
Local Television

What started as a 30-second campaign to highlight the work of Honolulu Local 1260 has turned into a monthly segment with a spotlight on the members.

KHON, a local television station and signatory of Local 1260, was set to air a 30-second spot about the local and its positive impact in the community. Then they heard about a volunteer trip one of the members had taken. The executives loved the story so much they decided to air a segment on it. That was the beginning of a series showcasing Local 1260's members.

Each segment in the series, called "Living Local 1260," has a different focus but they all touch on the local's sense of 'ohana,' a Hawaiian word for family in an expansive sense, one that stretches beyond blood ties.

"Being part of this organization, being part of this ohana, is being part of this state," said Local 1260 Business Manager Brian Ahakuelo. "IBEW is out there supporting our members all the time."

The segments air monthly at 8 a.m. on a morning news magazine show called "Living 808," named after the local area code. They are set to run indefinitely.

There are about 40 members who work at the station and about six to eight work on the "Living Local 1260" series itself. Members shoot and edit the video and when the segment airs, another group of members work on the broadcast.

When Mark Staszkow decided to accompany his wife, also a union member, on a trip to Bolivia, he didn't know it would spark a news series. He just knew that his skills would come in handy. Using the expertise he acquired through his job, including his knowledge of water filtration, he was able to provide the South American community they were serving access to clean water and medical aid, some for the first time. He also showed them how to construct a rudimentary water system.

Staszkow knew that the trip would not have been possible if he didn't have the support of his union. As he mentions in the segment, he and his wife self-financed the trip, something they could only do because of their union salaries. And they had three weeks of vacation time to spend, a luxury that not all working people have.

It's stories like this that "Living 808" anchors Trini Kaopuiki and Taizo Braden showcase. The series has aired four videos so far. The others feature member David Finn and his work with the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Joseph "JC" Ventura and Jennifer Deschamps sharing the ways in which their union membership has improved their lives and allowed them to live a middle class lifestyle.

Deschamps, a third generation union member, learned the value of a good union job from her family. It allowed her grandfather, a Filipino immigrant, the opportunity to buy a home and she is able to support her stepson.

"We're not buying yachts, but we're able to live comfortably," Deschamps said.

With Hawaii being one of the most unionized states in the nation, leaders want the series to show the many ways in which unions and their members are not only thriving themselves but giving back.

Ahakuelo said union members are enthusiastic contributors to the local United Way. Members can also be found pitching in at food banks, at various charity events and helping with highway cleanup. Local 1260 was also honored with an award from the Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter where Finn and others volunteer.

Volunteerism provides a positive boost and sense of purpose to volunteers themselves. And being in a place where volunteerism is encouraged only makes the experience better.

"Being a 1260 member and being around other members who share that same vision has definitely helped in being a better employee, being a better husband and being a better community member," Finn said.


Honolulu Local 1260 members share the spotlight for their community engagement and sense of 'ohana.'

Portland's Latest Bridge Welcomes Traffic, but No Cars

Portland, Oregon's newest bridge is a monument to "the people" and a striking addition to the city's skyline, but it won't move a single car from one side of the Willamette River to the other.

The IBEW-wired Tilikum Crossing, which opened on Sept. 12, is exclusively for the use of Portland's light rail, streetcars, buses, pedestrians and bikers. A video produced by the IBEW featured members working on the project [URL:]

The 1,720-foot span, which cost $134 million to build, will light up the city's night sky with a complicated and unique LED-lighting system designed to reflect the rapidly changing conditions on the river below.

"The importance of having a project like this helps highlight who we are and what we do," Portland Local 48 Business Manager Gary Young told the "Electrical Worker" last year.

"It's hard to do that when you're doing a commercial building or a grain elevator," he said, "but when something like this gets so much publicity, and then you can throw 'IBEW' across the face of it, it really helps to get our name out there."

And the publicity hasn't stopped. In September, "The Oregonian" published a video and feature on Local 48 member Camilo Marquez [URL:].

The 29-year-old project foreman was responsible for more than 10 miles of wire that controlled everything from trains and switches to the dazzling light display.

Appropriately, the bridge's name, Tilikum, is taken from the Chinook Wawa word for "people," reflecting not only the multitudes who will cross under its suspension wires each day, but also the hard-working men and women who helped to put it there.


The IBEW-wired Tilikum Crossing connects East and West Portland for pedestrians, bikers, and mass transit users, but leave your cars at home.

Union Volunteers Lend a Hand to Tennessee Paddlers

Visitors to Harrison Bay State Park outside Chattanooga, Tennessee, will find a fancy new boathouse on their next outdoor adventure thanks to union volunteers, including members of Local 175.

The new shed for storing the park's dozens of canoes, kayaks and other watercraft was built over the summer by the Union Sportsmen's Alliance in conjunction with the American Water Charitable Foundation. It was dedicated on the shores of Chickamauga Lake on Sept. 3.

The 63 foot by 18 foot structure is the product of countless hours of volunteer work by members of Chattanooga's labor community, including Local 175, Ironworkers Local 704, Utility Workers Local 121, Insulators Local 46, and Communications Workers Local 3802.

Michael Starling, an eight-year veteran of Chattanooga Local 175, spent time at the park cutting wood, hauling supplies and lending a hand wherever it was needed.

"We got word they needed help," said Starling, who is active in Local 175's RENEW chapter, "so I spent some time there with 10 or 12 other volunteers. It's a great resource for the community, so I plan to use the new boathouse as often as I can."

The project was one-third of a $25,000 grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation's Building Better Communities initiative, aimed at improving public access to water-based recreation activities in Chattanooga, Peoria, Illinois, and Charleston, W.Va.

The grant was made to the Union Sportsmen's Alliance's Work Boots on the Ground volunteer conservation program, which is focused on conserving wildlife habitat, restoring America's parks, and mentoring youth about the outdoors.

"We are thrilled to celebrate the completion of our first joint project with American Water," said USA CEO Fred Myers. "I'm certain this partnership will continue to grow and, together, we will tackle many more community projects."


A new boat shed stands on the shores of Chickamauga Lake thanks to the hard work of union volunteers.

RENEW: Continuing Traditions, Building New Ones in Iowa

Jeff Cooling views his role as a member of the RENEW Committee at Local 405 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as a necessity more than a choice.

"We have a labor movement that is dwindling from its high point," he said. "It used to be 35 percent of workers in private industry were unionized. Now, it's more like 10 percent.

"I've got another 40 years left in this thing. A lot of people have more than that. Making sure it's as good or better than what it's been is important to me."

Cooling, 28, has been active in his local RENEW (Reach Out and Engage Next-Gen Electrical Workers) chapter since 2011. He grew up in a union family. His father was a member of the millwright's union and his mother was part of the machinists and aerospace workers' union. His grandmother was a member of Cedar Rapids Local 1362 when he she worked the assembly line at a Rockwell Collins plant.

He decided during high school he wanted to work in a trade and quickly sought out an apprenticeship program. Getting involved with RENEW was a natural from the time he became a journeyman inside wireman in 2011.

"It really helps a lot of the younger members understand the structure within the IBEW, how things work locally, and also gives them a broader idea of the impact our movement can have," Cooling said of RENEW. "It can make not just union members, but everyone's life, more prosperous."

He's convinced it's paying off.

"We have younger members paying attention to what the union does for them and what it does for their quality of life," he said.

Local 405 Business Manager Bill Hanes said that even in a tradition-rich union city like Cedar Rapids, younger members are coming from first-generation union families. He credits Cooling and others on the RENEW committee for emphasizing the importance of getting involved.

"He has a lot of support from his peers," he said. "They do everything together. He's got a big job in front of him."

Hanes said he's encouraged Cooling to speak to other locals about starting a RENEW committee when the schedule allows it.

"He's able to communicate with anyone he comes in contact with," Hanes said. "He's just a natural."

Cooling said Local 405's committee works closely with the AFL-CIO's Next Up program, which also encourages union activism by younger members.

"Being part of the broader labor movement, and bringing people from other trades and other professions together, has given us a better look at labor in our area," he said. "They've been effective in making us help everyone out."

He also thinks the strong ties to the local AFL-CIO have paid dividends in charitable endeavors. Local 405's RENEW Committee is actively involved in Operation Backpack, which sends single-serve food items home with children at the end of the school day with enough food for dinner that night. The AFL-CIO's local Next Up chapter has been a long-time sponsor.

The Local 405 Renew Committee also provided back-to-school supplies and clothing for a family this summer and took part in a fundraiser organized by Omaha, Neb., Local 22 to provide assistance to families of members who were killed or injured while on the job.

Cooling said his RENEW committee will be active in the Iowa caucuses, one of the first major electoral events leading up to the presidential election.

"We're encouraging people to participate and make sure they're supporting candidates with policies that are friendly to working families and union families," Cooling said.

The ties to Local 405 don't end with Jeff in the Cooling household. Wife Amanda currently is an apprentice. She also is scheduled to give birth to the couple's first child in late November.

"She's been a big supporter the entire way," he said.


Jeff Cooling, Local 405 RENEW committee member