Lawrence C. Farnan
The IBEW regrets to report that Lawrence C. Farnan, former Eighth District vice president, died Dec. 16. He was 92.
A Colorado native, Brother Farnan was initiated in 1948 into Denver Local 68. The inside wireman was elected business manager in 1957 and in that same year was appointed to the National Joint Apprenticeship Committee for the Electrical Industry. He served in both roles until 1963 when he was appointed Eighth District international representative, a position he held until he was appointed vice president in 1976.
"He was very supportive as a vice president," said Blaine Newman, former business manager of Salt Lake City Local 57. "Whenever he was in town, or we were in his, he always made himself available, joining us for football games or taking us out to dinner. I always enjoyed being around him."
A decorated war hero, Farnan served in the 103rd Infantry Division during World War II. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, going behind enemy lines twice during the fighting in Europe and earning two Bronze Stars. In 1994, he recounted the missions that earned him the decoration to the IBEW Journal.
"In November of 1944, 20 of us, carrying explosives, roped ourselves down the cliff and went several miles behind German lines, and blew up a gasoline and ammunition dump. A month later, we carried six machine guns over a mountain and wiped out an enemy garrison. We did not lose a man in either operation."
In 2014, he was knighted by the French government for his service, the highest honor a foreign national can receive.
"Believe it or not, I was never scared," he said in an interview produced by IBEW's Hour Power in 2014. "I don't know why, but I wasn't."
Farnan served as vice president of the Colorado Labor Council, president of the Colorado State Conference of Electrical Workers and co-chairman of the Council on Industrial Relations for the Electrical Industry.
"Everything I have, I owe to the IBEW. Everything," he said in the 2014 interview. "I'm proud to have been a member."
In his spare time he enjoyed photography and was an avid outdoorsman, said Pete Keenan, retired IBEW personnel director.
Brother Farnan was preceded in death by his wife Roberta, with whom he had three children: Mark, Charles and Nancy. On behalf of the entire IBEW, the officers extend our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.
AFL-CIO Midwest Regional Director Austin Keyser was appointed director of the Political and Legislative Affairs Department, effective March 1.
In his new position, Keyser will lead the IBEW's political outreach and grassroots programs as well as manage the Brotherhood's political action committee and lobbying efforts in Congress on issues important to members and working people.
He comes to the IBEW after nearly six years with the AFL-CIO, where he worked to advance the goals of the labor movement in Ohio and the Midwest region.
Prior to joining the AFL-CIO, Keyser, then 29, was the youngest construction local business manager in the IBEW, serving Portsmouth, Ohio, Local 575 from 2008-2011. During that time, he led the local in organizing several new electrical contractors, significantly increasing local market share, and spearheaded a citywide community workforce agreement guaranteeing job quality standards for large construction projects.
Before his election as business manager, Keyser held numerous other positions at Local 575 and with the district AFL-CIO. From 2005-2008, he was assistant business manager, treasurer and membership development coordinator for the local, where he worked closely with the local building trades and central labor council, and coordinated member education, especially around organizing and identifying new opportunities for work.
As a fifth-year apprentice, he was appointed to serve in several leadership roles traditionally reserved for journeymen, including serving as a steward and on a standing committee at the local. He was initiated into the IBEW in 2001.
He has served as president of the Scioto County, Ohio, planning commission and as a board director for the fourth district of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
A third-generation IBEW member, Keyser said he is excited about the opportunity to return to the union and to lead an effort he considers critical to its future.
"It's an honor to have the support of International President Stephenson and to be entrusted with this important role," he said. "The IBEW is home for me, and I'm excited to get started."
The job comes with a lot of challenges, he said. Bills are already working their way through Congress to eliminate prevailing wage requirements on federal projects and to enact right-to-work on a national level.
"We are going to fight every day to preserve the ability of working people to organize and bargain for better wages and work conditions," Keyser said.
That work starts with members, and Keyser has plans to strengthen worksite programs and to make sure IBEW sisters and brothers are engaged in the fight for the values they hold dear.
The officers, staff and entire membership of the IBEW wish Brother Keyser the best as he takes on his new position.
Ninth District International Representative Mike Grunwald retired on Jan. 1, capping off a 42-year IBEW career during which he held a remarkable five different job classifications.
Grunwald was initiated into Tacoma, Wash., Local 76 in 1974, where he started out at an electrical manufacturing plant. When an opportunity at the Port of Tacoma presented itself, he jumped at the chance, spending the next three years working as a shipyard apprentice and then journeyman.
But his calling was construction, and in 1977, Brother Grunwald enrolled in Local 76's apprenticeship program. He topped out as a journeyman inside wireman in 1981, working with the tools for the next nine years, a period that included stints as a foreman and general foreman.
In 1990, then-Local 76 business manager Bill Zenk hired Grunwald as the local's first full-time organizer. "Bill really went out on a limb for me. It was a direction I never anticipated, but that made all the difference for my career," Grunwald said. Zenk's leadership, he said, let him build the organizing program from the ground up and allowed to him to go for training he'd never have gotten otherwise.
"He really took a chance, and I'm so grateful for that," Grunwald said.
In 1995, Grunwald was appointed business manager when Zenk retired. Much of the shipyard work had disappeared, so Grunwald's organizing experience was an important asset. "We focused on growing the local," he said. "The goal was to get a fifth delegate at the international convention, and we made it happen."
During his 11 years at the head of Local 76, membership grew more than 30 percent. During that time, he also served nine years as president of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council and 11 years as a trustee for the Bates Technical College in Tacoma, where he was appointed by three different governors.
In 2006, the international came calling, and Grunwald was appointed international representative for the Ninth District, servicing construction locals all over the state of Washington. "The recession hit us hard in 2008," he said, with some locals experiencing up to 50 percent unemployment.
"It was frustrating, especially because a lot of good local leaders took the blame from their members and lost elections all over the state," he said. But in the turmoil, Grunwald was able to find a new passion, helping to identify and nurture new leaders. "It's important to the Brotherhood to foster that next generation of leaders, and it was rewarding to be able to contribute to that where I could."
In retirement, Grunwald plans to spend more time on the golf course and following his beloved Seattle Mariners. He and wife, Peggy, have a home in Arizona, so they were heading to spring training in March. He's also a season ticket-holder for Major League Soccer's Seattle Sounders, where he plans to spend even more time in retirement.
The officers, staff and entire membership of the IBEW wish Brother Grunwald and his family the best in this next phase of their lives.