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May 2017

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'One of the Boys' Remembered

My wife, Sister Teri Nielson-MacDougall, passed on Feb. 28. Of everything Teri did in life, being a union electrician was her proudest accomplishment. She turned out in the early '70s and was the third woman in Los Angeles Local 11.

Teri knew that she had to prove herself and early on had passed on a soft job in organizing to be "one of the boys" working out of the hall. After her retirement when asked what she had done for a living, she always answered that she was a union electrician.

I don't know what I'll do without my "sparky girl."

William MacDougall, husband of Local 11 retiree
Teri Nielson-MacDougall
Rogue River, Ore.

Answering the Call

On March 8, we in western New York were slammed with some of most violent winds ever recorded here. As a result, many trees, power poles and electrical lines and equipment in a large area were severely damaged. The response by power crews from as far away as Quebec and Massachusetts was rapid and overwhelming. I observed the dedication, commitment and teamwork they displayed in our village, which was totally without power due to the loss of a main feeder line that came across a very difficult property to access. Gusty winds and low temperatures presented difficulties, but the crews continued to persevere in their attempts to restore power.

Within several days, they had power restored to most of the village. As temperatures dropped to the mid-20s, they went about restoring the rest of the power outages. We traveled 25 miles to Rochester two days later and observed a large contingent of Quebec Hydro crews who were in the process of helping to restore power to devastated areas there. We talked to a number of people who had been without power and they had high praise for these workers, who had traveled close to 700 miles and worked day and night turning the lights back on to homes and businesses.

I am a retired IUE electrician who comes from a family of several generations of electricians in our village. My paternal grandfather and his brother installed some of the original street lighting here in the early 1900s. I came to know many of the local power crews here before Niagara Mohawk became National Grid and proceeded to downsize crews in the name of profitability. Their attempts to gain profit have resulted in a lack of response time at critical moments.

But as for the workers, their professionalism, skill and dedication to their trade has not diminished. They answered the call and have truly substantiated the respect I and my family have for those hearty souls. Thanks to all who helped in a time of need. God bless the skill of these electrical professionals.

David "Spike" Carmichael
LeRoy, N.Y.

Extending our Reach

As a 35-plus year member of the IBEW, I am happy to see the work situation improve in locals that for years did not have enough work for their own members, let alone for traveling brothers and sisters. Organizing nonunion electricians is one means of solving the need for skilled workers. Another avenue that needs to be pushed is for the International to get back into the school systems and market the trade to high school students. Not every high school student is adapted for college, and yet the curriculum is geared toward testing for educational progress. Most high schools allow 'Trade Days' or other forms of on-campus visits to recruit or show students who could be steered into vocational fields, which are alternatives to college. Sending representatives from the locals to these high schools would garner interest in the trades and get these young people involved in a lifelong career that best suits them. The International needs to rebuild its numbers, and recruiting high school seniors to get started in their apprenticeships at an early age, and teach them the lifelong values of what unionism means.

The IBEW needs the influx of young talent, and I believe reaching out to the high schools is a good place to start.

Robert L Burke, Local 725 member
Terre Haute, Ind.

I read President Stephenson's April editorial on "Filling the Gap" with great interest. Although I do agree that organizing is an important function of the locals, I believe that one of the most important and immediate resolutions to worker shortages is through the local IBEW-NECA apprenticeship committees indenturing of new apprentices to fill the future and immediate needs of the industry. I have served on the local and national committees and have seen that organizing efforts take some time and are not always successful. Our apprenticeship is a sure path to success.

David Lantz, Local 1547 retiree
Anchorage, Alaska