The Electrical Worker online
October 2017

After Harvey's Destruction,
IBEW Members Working OT
index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to

David Hawkes is saddened by the destruction he's seen in his native Texas. Yet, there's a sense of honor in knowing that he is being counted on to help get things back to normal.

"I take a great sense of personal pride in all my work," Hawkes, a head lineman for CenterPoint Energy and a member of Houston Local 66's executive board. Hawkes and other IBEW utility-branch members are stretched across the Texas and Louisiana coasts to get electricity restored in areas slammed by Hurricane Harvey.

Hawkes and Johnny Johnson, a lineman for Entergy and recording secretary for Beaumont Local 2286, spent weeks restoring power after the massive storm.

Hawkes lives in Katy, Texas, about 30 miles west of Houston. His home sustained minimal damage, but flooded roads made it impossible to return immediately. Thus, he and other IBEW brothers and sisters lived and worked out of CenterPoint's service center in Katy. His bed was a cot and a sleeping bag while his family stayed with relatives.

Yet he considers himself lucky when he sees what has gone on around him. He is part of CenterPoint's mutual assistance team, first responders who are dispatched to areas that experience an environmental emergency.

Hitting in late August, Hurricane Harvey pounded cities like Houston and Galveston and Port Arthur for several days with upwards of 50 inches of rain.

"It reminds me a little bit of Katrina with the flooding," said Hawkes, referencing the 2005 hurricane that devastated New Orleans.

Johnson lives in Buna, a small town about 30 miles north of Beaumont. His home has escaped damage, but he's seen many not nearly as fortunate. Crews' work sometimes is slowed by people continually coming up and asking when their power will return, he said.

"These are our friends and neighbors," he said. "We understand they want their lights back on, but it makes you feel good when they appreciate you being out there and what you're doing."

Utility Department Director Donnie Colston said IBEW members in Texas pulled 16-hour shifts and slept in their trucks.

"We're very proud of the apprenticeship training we provide and the training by our utilities that prepares them for this situation," Colston said. "We're very proud of the skills they bring and the dedication they bring to our customers in getting their lights turned back on."

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, an IBEW member, noted that fellow members and other unions are doing what's expected: putting their training and superior work skills to use when the country needs them most.

"The labor movement is always the first to respond in these communities," she told Texas labor leaders in Houston in the days following the storm.

Shuler said the national AFL-CIO has donated $100,000 to the Texas AFL-CIO's Workers Relief Fund and committed to raising $5 million more in cash aid. The AFL-CIO's Housing Trust Program will invest $50 million during the next five years to areas affected by the hurricane.

Seventh District International Representative Gary Buresh said that most local union halls and training centers in the areas affected escaped severe damage. But some members were not as fortunate.

Several federal and municipal facilities, including NASA, were damaged during Hurricane Harvey, and skilled workers will be in demand. The challenge for the IBEW will be to provide them during a nationwide shortage of skilled construction workers, he said.

"We've always been able to in the past," he said.

The IBEW Unity Fund is collecting resources to help brothers and sisters in need in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Donations can be made online at


Houston Local 716 members David Vega and Dan Donaldson help to clear flood debris from the home of a fellow member.