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March 2016

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IBEW Vice President Tapped for Indy Leadership Post

David J. Ruhmkorff has had a big year filled with new responsibilities — most notably, his appointment as Sixth District Vice President last June when Lonnie R. Stephenson was named IBEW president.

He added another duty in early January. Ruhmkorff, who lives in Indianapolis and is a former business manager for Local 481, was named to the city's Capital Improvement Board, which owns and operates three major sports venues and the Indiana Convention Center.

Ruhmkorff was appointed by new Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, a longtime friend and ally of working families.

"I talked with him in previous conversations and told him I'd like for the IBEW to have a presence in his administration. I didn't mean for it to be me," Ruhmkorff said.

The board oversees Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the NFL's Colts), Bankers Life Fieldhouse (NBA's Pacers), Victory Field (triple-A baseball's Indians) along with the convention center. It is in charge of day-to-day maintenance and also must approve any upgrades, improvements and new construction at the facilities.

It also is required to sign off on any new lease agreements with the facilities' tenants. Two years ago, the board approved a 10-year, $160-million subsidy to the NBA's Indiana Pacers. The combination of high-profile sports venues and teams receiving public expenditures puts the Capital Improvement Board in the public eye more than other government oversight boards in the state.

"I was concerned about the time commitment and if I would be able to fulfill the obligation," Ruhmkorff said. "But if it's not me, who is it going to be? If it's not a labor person, that's problematic. And I do believe in the call to serve."

Ruhmkorff's appointment received a big thumbs up from Indiana AFL-CIO President Brett Voorhies, a longtime friend and a member of the Steelworkers Union.

Voorhies said Ruhmkorff will work to have union contractors awarded contracts. Voorhies also expects him to urge fellow board members to use American-made products, including the benefit of using American-made steel as opposed to foreign imports, for instance. It's not just because of his influence in the union movement, Voorhies said. It's also because Ruhmkorff is respected by many in the business community.

"It's one of the highest prestige boards you can be on around here," Voorhies said. "To have someone like Dave on it representing labor is huge for us."

Ruhmkorff said he hopes his appointment puts the IBEW and Local 481 in a positive light in a state that hasn't been friendly to labor in recent years. Indiana passed right-to-work legislation in 2012. Republicans currently have the governorship and overwhelming majorities in both the state House and Senate. Hogsett has long been one of the state's top Democrats and succeeded a Republican as mayor.

Ruhmkorff also sees it as an extension of his leadership role with the IBEW.

"It's about being a part of the fabric of the community," Ruhmkorff said. "You can establish faith in your own union by being involved in the community."

Indianapolis has used sports to raise its profile in an attempt to attract new businesses and out-of-town visitors. It is the home of the NCAA and regularly hosts the men's basketball Final Four along with numerous other college sports events and bills itself as "The Amateur Sports Capital of America."

The city has built state-of-the-art facilities mostly with public money to house those pro sports teams and events like the Big Ten football championship game. The convention center was doubled in size in 2011 as the city continues to use its central location to attract more meetings and events. About 41 percent of the U.S. population lives within a 500-mile radius of the city.

Ruhmkorff and the other eight board members now are in charge of making sure the properties remain at a high quality.

"You just can't build these buildings and wash your hands," Ruhmkorff said. "You have to take care of them. That's a big undertaking for a number of years."

Ruhmkorff was initiated into Local 481 in 1979 and is a journeyman inside wireman. He was elected business manager in 1990 and became an international representative in 1994.

He said he hopes his appointment will encourage more labor leaders to get involved in politics in the Hoosier State.

"There's a lot of other committees that we need to have labor leaders on," he said. "That's what our leaders need to step up and understand. It will benefit us in the long run."


Lucas Oil Stadium — home of the NFL's Colts — in Indianapolis is managed by the city's Capital Improvement Board.

Photo credit: Flickr user Matt Doner.

Boston RENEW Chapter Gains Momentum
While Giving Back

Whether it's tailgating at a Patriots game, canvassing neighborhoods for elections or dressing up as a snowman for the local's holiday party, Kevin Molineaux makes sure that his RENEW chapter is there.

"We help out wherever we can," said Boston Local 103 member Molineaux, who heads its chapter of RENEW, or Reach out and Engage Next-gen Electrical Workers. "We want to engage as many people as possible."

Focusing on community, political involvement and fraternity, the group hosts an event a month. These have included a breast cancer walk, making care packages for veterans, neighborhood cleanup, powering a scoreboard for a neighboring town and working with Habitat for Humanity.

Additionally, they help out with Boston's annual Labor Day parade and the local's Christmas party. For the Christmas party, Molineaux and his fellow RENEW members coordinated the toy drive and dressed up as Frosty the Snowman, the Grinch and Mrs. Claus, among others.

Local 103 sent him to a RENEW conference about two years ago. "It was incredible," said Molineaux, a journeyman wireman. "A real eye opener." Fueled with inspiration, he said he and a friend were eager to start their own chapter. It was slow in the beginning, but their chapter now has about 40 members and meetings have about 25 in attendance.

As a steward, Molineaux is in a good position to let members know about RENEW and its significance. It's not just the need to grow the younger ranks, though that is a part. Local 103 Business Manager John P. Dumas says that half the membership will be eligible to retire in the next five years — the same time it takes to fully train a new apprentice.

Molineaux reminds members how much the local has given them and that they need to make sure it's there for future generations. "It's about giving back," he said.

Molineaux sits on the national board for RENEW, representing the Second District, and they are working on getting chapters at every local. The board is also determining its role at the upcoming international convention.

"There is always something to do and not enough time in the day," he said. "I will have to start delegating more, but there are people to tap," he said of the growing number of members eager to get more involved.

"People are starting to bring their friends to events. We're really gaining momentum and growing by leaps and bounds."

The Local 103 chapter is currently working on a mentoring program in partnership with an existing program for women. They are also planning an educational event where leadership will explain their duties and union structure.

For Molineaux, union membership is a family affair. He and his brother are following in their father's footsteps. All are journeyman wiremen.

"He's a great kid," Dumas said. "He lives and breathes the IBEW."


Boston Local 103's RENEW chapter is gaining momentum. Kevin Molineaux, left, Chris Black, Dave McLean, Dan Viennneau, Dave Mastrangilo, Justin Ruiz and Bryan Sisson assemble after powering the scoreboard and pitching machine at a local baseball field in the Boston neighborhood of Charlestown.

IBEW Leader to Serve on Mont. Carbon Emissions Council

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is trying to get out ahead of the Environmental Protection Agency's rule regarding power plant emissions and he is looking to the IBEW for help.

The EPA issued a rule in October that requires states to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from existing power plants. The final version of the rule, also known as the Clean Power Plan, aims to reduce national electricity sector emissions by an estimated 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Each state has its own goal within this and for Montana, this means reducing emissions by 47 percent, the most of any state.

"No matter what one's opinion is of the Clean Power Plan, we can't afford to ignore it," Bullock told the Billings Gazette. "We have far too much at stake."

In an effort to meet the goal without jeopardizing Montana's power grid or anyone's job, Bullock appointed a citizen advisory council to draft the rules for moving forward. And Colstrip, Mont., Local 1638 Business Manager Rex Rogers has been tapped to join.

"Having Rex on the advisory council ensures that the interests of Montana's hard-working citizens won't get lost in the shuffle of bureaucracy," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "It also makes sure that Montana will meet its goal in the smartest way possible without harming its energy resources."

Rogers was also appointed by Eighth District Vice President Jerry Bellah last year to be the IBEW state labor contact for the CPP and related issues in Montana. Each state has a contact person who works with state and local governments as a stakeholder. The IBEW is the only international union to have such a person in every state to assist with crafting a plan for meeting CPP standards, said International Representative Anna Jerry.

The IBEW is also part of a working group established with the U.S. Department of Energy that does educational outreach to state contacts on topics including the CPP and carbon capture and storage, Jerry said.

The 27-member governor's council is composed of representatives from various sectors, including energy, labor, environmental protection, business and the Native American community. Rogers is one of three representatives from labor, the others being Montana AFL-CIO Executive Director Al Ekblad and Montana State Building and Construction Trades Council President John Roeber.

The council will make recommendations to the state Department of Environmental Quality and to Bullock, who must submit a plan to the EPA by Sept. 6, said the Billings Gazette. States can request a two-year extension but must meet certain requirements, one of which is engaging stakeholders.

The Clean Power Plan has come under scrutiny and is facing a lawsuit which the IBEW has joined.

The lawsuit, contends that the EPA does not have the legal authority to create such a policy, and that it threatens grid reliability while doing little to effectively address climate change. The IBEW joins 27 states, several utilities and two other labor unions on the legal action.

"We agree that climate change is a real threat, and one caused by human behavior," said Stephenson, "but we can't expect one sector alone to shoulder the burden of reducing emissions. We need everyone involved, including industries like agriculture and transportation."

Focusing solely on coal-fired power plants also threatens grid reliability since renewable sources like wind and solar are not currently capable of replacing more consistent, base load energy like coal. In 2014, coal provided 39 percent of U.S. electricity generation, while renewables like wind and solar accounted for only 7 percent, said the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Rogers says Local 1638 has more than 250 members, all of whom work at the coal-fired Colstrip Power Plant. The EPA rules have created a great deal of uncertainty for them.

In addition to the EPA rule, neighboring states are reevaluating their use of Montana's coal for their energy consumption. Two utility companies in Washington, which also own shares of the Colstrip Power Plant, are considering substantially reducing the plant's capacity. Add that to below-industry standard wages, said Rogers, and it's not hard to see why Colstrip residents are anxious.

"The problem is, there are no simple answers. It takes time," Rogers said. "We need to come up with a plan that works for Montana."


The EPA's Clean Power Plan targets coal-fired plants like Montana's Lewis and Clark plant, pictured, and the Colstrip plant that employs more than 250 Local 1638 members.

Photo credit: Flickr user Tim Evanson.

'We Still Want to Be Involved:'
Retirees Share Skills, Build Community

When Bill Hagene retired five years ago, he didn't want to completely stop working. So when his local approached him about doing some volunteer work, he was all in.

"This is right up my alley. I'm still in good health and want to give back to the community," said Hagene, a member of Collinsville, Ill., Local 309. "And if I can help 309 too, all the better."

The volunteer work involves ElectricPros, a group of Local 309 members and contractors that provides free electrical work to the community. Some of the work is done by a mix of retiree and active members, but the bulk is done by those who have hung up their tool belts.

The program started four years ago but really hit its stride in 2013, said Local 309 Business Manager Tim Evans. Most recently, they have worked with Habitat for Humanity, area high schools and an animal shelter.

The jobs come from various sources. The animal shelter project was suggested by a member's wife. One of the high school projects came from a community member running into Evans at the grocery store. But Hagene was particularly excited about the Habitat for Humanity project.

"They approached me because they knew I had a passion for Habitat for Humanity," Hagene said. "And the people at Habitat were ecstatic about having us."

Getting good electrical work is usually the hardest part for them, Hagene said. "They were really happy to get people who know the local and national codes and have the expertise."

One of the newer projects will involve working with Collinsville High. The school purchased a lot and will build a house from scratch. It will be auctioned off when completed, but before that it will serve as a learning opportunity for students with an interest in the building trades. Hagene, along with other retirees, will show the students the nuts and bolts of doing electrical work.

"It could be a building block for apprenticeship," Hagene said.

The 60-year-old Hagene often works with fellow retirees like Danny Sodam, 59, and Scott Nicholson, 60, and has a roster of about 15 others. He'll call them up for the house-building project, as well as upcoming work on the animal shelter, which will be on five acres of old farm land. For that, they will do two electrical services and install a new meter and panels. But he wants to get the older retirees engaged too.

"I was thinking of having the older guys come out to the farm for the animal shelter job and do some barbequing for everyone. It would make it inclusive, since they can't do electrical work but still want to be involved," Hagene said.

Hagene, Sodam and Nicholson drive a trailer equipped with tools and painted with an ElectricPros sign, part of a rebranding of the initiative and a way to get the word out. The hope is that as more people learn about them, more work will come in for Local 309, which helps the community as well as the retirees.

"It makes me happy, I'll tell you that," said Hagene of the opportunity to volunteer. And he says it's a sentiment shared by his fellow retirees.

"It's good to keep in touch with the community. And their wives are supportive too," Hagene said. "It gets them out of the house."


Collinsville, Ill., Local 309 retirees are giving back to the community through a partnership between the local and area contractors.