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November 2017

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IBEW Member Elected Michigan Building Trades President

Steven Claywell was unanimously elected to the second-highest position in the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, the first IBEW member to hold that post in almost 20 years.

"It's a great honor to have the support of my brothers and sisters," said Claywell, who served for 12 years as Battle Creek, Mich., Local 445's business manager and stepped down to assume the full-time presidency.

Claywell was elected president at the council's 51st convention in August along with Sprinkler Fitters Local 704 member Patrick Devlin as secretary-treasurer. Both are four-year terms.

A journeyman wireman and IBEW member for more than 20 years, Claywell earned the confidence and respect of his fellow trades members through years of hard work and activism, said Detroit Local 58 Business Manager Michael Richard. Claywell chairs Kellogg Community College's board of trustees and previously served on the council's executive board. He also chaired the IBEW Michigan State Conference, a position now held by Richard.

"Steve will do an amazing job, both for the trades as a whole and for the IBEW," Richard said.

Part of the president's duties entail traveling the state and lobbying legislators in Lansing, Michigan's capital, Claywell said. He'll also handle political affairs.

"It's important to have someone like Steve in that position," Richard said. "He's got a lot of experience and knows the players in Lansing."

A major priority for the building trades is fighting back a petition effort to repeal the prevailing wage. If enough signatures are gathered, about 250,000, the petition will go to the Republican-led legislature which can either vote on it — and circumvent the need for the governor's approval — or let it go before the people for a vote in the 2018 election.

"It's a huge issue for us," Claywell said. "The opposition is using any and all means to gather those signatures, including deception."

In the 1990s, Michigan suspended the prevailing wage on school projects. Despite pro-repeal claims of saving money, the projects were poorly executed, worker injuries increased and it ended up costing the state more than anticipated. The law was reinstated three years later.

The forces behind the initiative include the Michigan chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors — a well-funded group known for being aggressively anti-union. It has already spent more than $600,000 toward the repeal effort, reported the Detroit News.

Claywell says another priority is promoting union apprenticeships. The council commissioned a study, released in April which found that without any state funding, these programs train 80 percent of the Great Lake State's apprentices and have completion rates that are almost double that of nonunion apprenticeships.

Unbeknownst to the council, the governor's office also did a study which largely mirrored the Building Trades'. Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, supports both apprenticeships and the prevailing wage, likely a reason for the ABC to choose a repeal route that locks out his pledged veto.

"I don't see the point of sticking them in the eye or picking a fight with good people who have been good partners who have done good things that really care about bringing our state back," Snyder said. "…I want to see them increase apprenticeships."


Battle Creek, Mich., Local 445 member Steven Claywell, center, was sworn in as president of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council in August along with Sprinkler Fitters Local 704 member Patrick Devlin as secretary-treasurer. Pipefitters Local 636 Business Manager Frank Wiechert administered the oath.

Photo credit: Marty Mulcahy

Memphis Local Celebrates New Training Center

Since Memphis, Tenn., Local 474 received its apprenticeship charter in 1947, instructors have trained well over 1,000 apprentices. But it wasn't until this year that they finally got a building of their own in which to do it.

"It was a long time coming," said Local 474 Business Manager Paul Shaffer. "I'm very proud of all the work and collaboration that made this happen."

Prior to the new training center, classes were held in the union hall's basement or at local high schools, said Clovis Brown, Memphis Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Center director. Instructors shared classrooms with other adult learning programs, making it impossible to leave the rooms set up for the next night if a topic or lab wasn't completed.

Now, they have 10 state-of-the-art classrooms and six dedicated labs, including one for conduit fabrication and one for motor control. Another, a transformer, grounding and bonding lab, comes with eight workstations. The 20,000-square-foot building can hold more than 200 students.

"Our instructors have always provided the best training, but with this new facility they can make it even more meaningful," Brown said.

Local 474 hosted a grand opening ceremony on Sept. 8, attended by more than 100 people, including International President Lonnie R. Stephenson, Secretary-Treasurer Kenneth W. Cooper and 10th District Vice President Brent Hall.

"It's not just a building, it's a testament to the hard work of everyone involved," Hall said. "They've got a reason to brag."

The opening was a great success, Shaffer said, but it was overshadowed by the sudden death just weeks before of training committee member Allen Andersen. He was involved in every aspect of the facility, from the purchasing and renovation to the selection of furniture and the photos on the walls, said Local 474 President Glenn Greenwell.

"I cannot walk the halls of this building and not see Allen's personal touch," Greenwell said. "This school was a source of great pride to him."

The building was previously leased by a business school, which allowed instructors to hold classes soon after the purchase in 2014 since the teaching space was already there. Full renovations were completed earlier this year.

The local membership elected to contribute part of their wages toward the cost of the building, and the National Electrical Contractors Association matched the amount, Greenwell said. Local business partners also donated supplies.

There's a huge void to fill in terms of highly-skilled, well-paying jobs, Shaffer said. At a recent career fair held by the local, more than 50 people attended, and some applied that night.

"Union work is booming in Memphis right now," Greenwell said. "With this center, we can train people in a usable skill that provides an excellent wage and benefits. That's an opportunity a lot of them wouldn't have if it weren't for our apprenticeship program."


Memphis JATC instructors Ben Jones, left, and Tommy Flowers celebrated Memphis Local 474's new training center at a grand opening on Sept. 8.

Photo credit: TR Lenz Photography

Baton Rouge Local Sends Dozens of
Young Burn Victims to Summer Camp

Baton Rouge, La., Local 995 donated $15,000 to send children to Camp I'm Still Me, a traditional summer camp in Texas for children who have suffered burn injuries.

Local 995 Business Manager Jason Dedon presented the check to Baton Rouge General's CEO Edgardo Tenreiro and burn center medical director Dr. Tracee Short in September. In 10 years, Local 995 has donated nearly $140,000 to the cause.

"The IBEW's generous donations give children with burn injuries the opportunity to enjoy summer camp with others who have similar experiences," said Tenreiro. "We are grateful for their longtime support of our regional burn center."

For one week, children who want to run, swim and play but are often stopped by shame, fear and medical complications, are set free to be kids under the careful supervision of specially trained counselors, nurses and doctors.

"Physical recovery is only part of these kids' journey and this camp is about healing their hearts and their souls," Dedon said. "They don't have to explain, hide or be ashamed of their burns. They can take their shirt off and go swimming and not be judged. One week a year, they get to be kids."

There is no cost to the kids or their families, but providing the care the campers need runs nearly $1,000 per child for just a week, Dedon said. Few of the burn victims could afford it in any case, Dedon said, since most burn victims, both nationally and in the Texas-Louisiana border area served by the camp, come from poor families.

"They tend to be unsupervised longer while parents are out working multiple jobs," Dedon said. "So not only are poor kids more likely to get hurt, they are less likely to have the resources they need to get better."

The proceeds came from the local's annual golf tournament, a weekend long contest between members, signatory contractors and friends.

For years, the Local 995 golf tournament was a low-key event and the money raised went to a fund to buy 50-year watches for members and retirees. When a new source of money was dedicated to the watches, the membership still wanted to hold the event. They just needed to find a new beneficiary.

One of Local 995's signatory contractors who always came for the tournament, suggested a donation to Baton Rouge General's regional burn center, one of the nation's oldest and most decorated burn wards.

The leadership of the burn center suggested using the annual contribution to send burn patients to the camp, Dedon said. For years they had wanted to send their patients, but they lacked a sustaining donor. Hospital officials said that if they could get a commitment from Local 995, they would be able to match it with support from foundations and other donors.

Dedon said the membership was easily sold on the idea.

"Burns are one of the fears of our industry. It hits close to home. You throw children into the mix, if it doesn't pull your heartstrings, you have no soul," Dedon said. "It was a very easy decision. It didn't take much prodding for people to buy in."

When the first donation arrived in 2007, only five or six kids out of 50 at Camp I'm Still Me came from Baton Rouge. This past summer it was nearly 30.

One day each session, members of Local 995 drive out to meet the campers they help support. They stay all day and host a dinner that night.

"Sometimes you give money and all you can do is assume it is helping. Not here," Dedon said. "You can look at that one kid and say, 'I am doing this for you.' Nothing beats it."

More information about Camp I'm Still Me can be found at Donations can be made directly to the Percy R. Johnson Burn Foundation at


Baton Rouge, La., Local 995 Business Manager Jason Dedon, center, donated the proceeds of the local's annual golf tournament to Baton Rouge General's pediatric burn unit.

'I Earn a Good Living Doing Something I Love'

The gender pay gap is shrinking, but it's happening at a glacially slow pace. One place where it's smaller than average though, is the unionized trades. And collaborations like that between Oregon Tradeswomen, a nonprofit that supports women in the trades, and Portland, Ore., Local 48 are bringing great career opportunities to more and more women.

"We are completely committed to supporting women and minorities in the trades and have been for years," said Local 48 Business Manager Gary Young. "Oregon Tradeswomen has been a tremendous partner in that effort."

Only 3 percent of tradespeople nationwide are women, though in Oregon it's 7 percent. Kelly Kupcak, Oregon Tradeswomen executive director, credits that in part to the construction boom, but also to their partnerships with trade unions.

"Working with locals like 48 is critical," Kupcak said. "Without it, we're working in a vacuum."

Local 48 was a sponsor of Oregon Tradeswomen's annual career fair in May, offering financial support as well as the use of its training center to the 2,000-plus attendees. Members also led workshops on how to wire a light and build a transmitter and light display.

Both organizations recognize the need to grow the workforce, said Bridget Quinn, workforce development coordinator with the NECA/IBEW Electrical Training Center.

"This job is the reason I can buy a house," said Kara Edwards, an inside wireman and member of Local 48. "The chance to earn a good living doing something I love, why wouldn't I want to do that?"

Too often though, women and girls don't even consider the trades, she said.

"It never even enters their minds," Quinn said. "It's not until they get an opportunity like the career fair and meet a woman in the trades that it seems like something they could do."

Usually if a girl is interested it's because her parents encouraged her, Quinn said, which doesn't happen often.

"Parents are terrified their kids won't go to college. They equate it with failure," she said. "They do it with sons as well as daughters, but daughters are also dealing with gender norms where counselors and teachers won't even talk to them about the trades. That makes it harder for them to break out."

If the career fair is any indication, once girls are given the chance to explore the trades, they take to it just as eagerly as boys do.

"The volume in the building was insane," Quinn said of the training center during the career fair. "There was a lot of laughing and smiling."

And when people do enter the trades, they do so without having to repay student loans.

"A job in the trades, with wage parity and no student loan debt, is a ticket to the middle class," said Ninth District Vice President John O'Rourke. "It's important to promote this opportunity to everyone in our community, including women and minorities."

Quinn and Kupcak both noted the need to not just recruit but retain women and girls. That means promoting mentoring. It also means getting men on board and decreasing harassment. All Local 48 apprentices get sexual harassment and diversity training, Quinn said. They're also in the process of implementing the Green Dot program, a bystander training that focuses on reducing bullying and sexual harassment.

"If you speak up, it slowly starts to change the culture," Quinn said. "It's like what happened with safety. You used to have this macho culture where safety gear wasn't manly or cool. Now it's totally different."


Middle and high school girls got hands-on electrical experience at the Oregon Tradeswomen's career fair, an annual event sponsored in part by Portland, Ore., Local 48.