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June 2018

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Boston Local Casts a Wider Net

Boston Local 103's "Opportunity Campaign" is working to extend the prospect of a better life through union membership to an increasingly diverse selection of Bostonians.

"Boston is a very diverse city," said Local 103 Business Manager Lou Antonellis. "It's important for our organization to not only represent, but resemble, our neighborhoods and our membership."

Local 103 partnered with developer Millennium Partners Boston and 617MediaGroup, a communications firm, to create an outreach campaign using ads targeted to women and communities of color, two groups historically underrepresented in the building trades.

Using zip codes to geo-target their ads, which ran online and elsewhere featuring women and people of color, the campaign aimed to increase the diversity of Local 103 by increasing awareness of its apprenticeship opportunities.

It worked — really well.

"Local 103 is already the most diverse among the building trades in Boston," Antonellis said. "This campaign doubled our applicant numbers."

The roughly 8,000-member local received a record-breaking 687 applicants from the city of Boston, a 95 percent increase from the prior year. Among those, 452 were people of color — the largest number of minority applicants for a Boston construction apprenticeship ever, Antonellis said. Eighty-five of the applicants were women, including 57 women of color.

Of 2,100 total applications received from all over the region, Local 103 will choose about 250 for its apprenticeship program.

"I'm looking forward to welcoming our new apprentices to our training program and to our union," said Local 103 business agent Kenell Broomstein. "We're growing stronger and more diverse every day."

Broomstein recently achieved a milestone herself when she became the first woman-of-color business agent at a major Boston area construction union.

"I'm extremely honored to take on such a high-profile job," Broomstein said. "People need to be able to see themselves in these leadership roles. Then they can say, 'Wow, if she can do it, then I can do it.'"

Broomstein also spoke at the annual Massachusetts Girls in Trades Conference and Career Fair, hosted by Local 103, for girls and educators in the area. Now in its third year, the March 20 event attracted more than 500 students from 28 schools.

At a time when the construction industry is dealing with a labor shortage, efforts such as Local 103's can take on an increased importance. And the benefits go both ways. Union construction jobs have been shown to reduce racial and gender pay gaps.

On average, women make around 80 percent of a what man does in a comparable position. But in construction, the pay gap shrinks, with women making 96 percent of their male counterparts, according to the National Association of Women in Construction. Nationally, about 2 percent of construction workers are women. In Massachusetts, it's closer to 7 percent, according to The Boston Globe.

A study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute found that when prevailing wage laws are in place, African-American workers earn an average of 88 cents for every dollar their white counterparts earn. In states without prevailing wage regulations, African-Americans make only 74 cents for every dollar white workers are paid.

The campaign is notable not just for its impressive recruitment numbers but also for its use of social media, running ads on major platforms like Facebook, Google and YouTube, as well as those popular among younger, more diverse groups, like Instagram, Snapchat and Pandora, a popular internet radio site.

The campaign also ran ads on billboards and on television, both online and traditional, and in local print publications.

Antonellis says it's the first time he knows of that a major Boston-area union has run such an aggressive social media campaign.

"Social media is the best tool to reach younger workers," Antonellis said. "And platforms like Pandora, Snapchat and Instagram are where they're spending a lot of their time right now."

According to the Pew Research Center, 69 percent of all Americans use some form of social media. For people aged 18 to 29, the number grows to 88 percent.

Among the platforms used, Antonellis said Pandora was the most successful, along with Facebook.

The success was noticed by others in the building trades, Antonellis said, with some reaching out to see how they could replicate Local 103's success.

"If you want to increase diversity in your local union, there are many ready, willing and able applicants out there; you just need to reach out to them," Antonellis said. "And social media is one of the quickest, cheapest and most effective ways to reach your audience. I say jump right in, the water is fine."


Boston Local 103's campaign to recruit more women and people of color from the Boston area brought in a record number of applications.

Credit: 617MediaGroup

Georgia Members Make Masters Magic

Every April, members of Augusta, Ga., Local 1579 work at nearby Augusta National Golf Club during The Masters, providing world-class electricians during one of the golfing world's highest-profile events.

This year, their contributions were a little more noticeable to the nearly 40,000 fans who attended the tradition-rich tournament. Over the last year, 64 Local 1579 members worked on a new $40 million club store for patrons near the first fairway. The new three-story structure replaced an old merchandise building and media center, which were torn down.

As one might expect from Augusta National, it's an impressive structure, Local 1579 Business Manager Will Salters said. The store boasts 64 cash registers and twice the square footage of the previous space. It took about 20 weeks to complete and officially opened on April 1 and was packed throughout the tournament.

"It's got some nice finishes," Salters said. "The floors have really heavy molding. You name it, it's got it. Money did not seem to be a problem."

Salters first inquired about the project when he learned that Allison-Smith, an IBEW signatory contractor based in suburban Atlanta, landed the contract to perform the electrical work.

Like many areas of the country, Local 1579's jurisdiction has a shortage of experienced, skilled construction workers and electricians. Its members currently are working large construction jobs at the Vogtle Nuclear Plant, the Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center and a minor-league baseball stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets.

Salters worked with Allison-Smith officials to help address that shortage and to get the Masters project completed in time for the club's signature event, held April 5-8. Part of that meant offering workers a higher wage than on typical construction projects in the area.

"When we first met, I mentioned to them that if you want to attract and retain the manpower, it would be beneficial to work out a pay scale that pays people a little extra," he said. "Happily, they did that and it turned out to be a really good project."

The lure of Augusta National isn't just a big deal for golf fans. Salters said Local 1579's members and a handful of travelers involved in the project were thrilled to be working on the hallowed course. A ticket to The Masters is considered one of the toughest to get in all of sports.

"A lot of the members who worked out there had never been there before," he said. "It was a dream job for them. But I would have to say after three, four or five weeks, it was just another job. Like any place else, you just got used to it."

Interestingly, Local 1579's work began after most of the building and landscaping was complete. That was unusual, but Salters said Augusta National officials informed the contractor they wanted to plant the already mature trees and shrubbery around the facility first.

"I would say Augusta National probably was the most unusual construction job we've ever done" because of that, he said.

Local 1579 has a history with The Masters, but in a different role. About 40 members work for CBS during the tournament, assisting camera operators and technicians — who also are IBEW members — to ensure the network's equipment is working properly. A few members work in the studio.

The chance to be up close to one of America's premier sporting events is quite a draw.

"A lot of our members are always trying to figure out ways to get that work and to get that job," Salters said. "It's a tradition nearly as strong as The Masters itself."


Augusta, Ga., Local 1579 members helped build a new $40 million merchandise facility at Augusta National, the site of The Masters.

Credit: Creative Commons / Flickr user Ryan Schreiber