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June 2019

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N.H. Nuclear Security Workers
Making the Most of Membership

The IBEW has represented thousands of nuclear energy workers over the years, usually in either the construction or utility branches.

But in 2016, Manchester, N.H., Local 2320 leaders saw a different group of nuclear workers in need of a voice on the job.

Local 2320 is primarily a telecommunication local, so organizing 126 security workers at the nearby Seabrook Nuclear Plant wasn't the most natural fit. But two years later, those same members are thrilled with their choice. They're also among the region's most visible and outspoken in the fight to keep the Seabrook plant open and serving their community for years to come, Business Manager Steve Soule said.

"There are pressures on power generators because of societal desires to go to alternative forms of energy and the overall need for more power anyway," Soule said. "These members can talk to other community members and remind them these plants provide good-paying local jobs in a very competitive industry. They provide a sustainable power source that's clean."

The security workers are employed by G4S Security Services, a contractor working for plant owner NextEra Energy Sources. They had been represented by smaller unions in the past, but Bob Coffill, a nuclear security officer at the plant who now serves as a chief steward for the G4S employees, said there was little local presence. The security personnel felt like they had little representation if there was a conflict with management.

"We've been beat up every which way," he said. "To have actual representation is kind of new to our members."

They voted to accept Local 2320's representation in January 2017. A first contract was approved by the newly-organized members in January 2018.

"Having that huge international backing that the local gave convinced us this was the best way to go," Coffill said. "One of the best parts of having 2320 is they are 25 minutes away. If anything major happens, it's just a phone call to get some help.

"We went from having virtually no representation to being fully represented," he added. "It's like night and day. I don't know what more we could ask for."

It's also been a huge boost for Local 2320, Soule said. Many of the new members are active in the community and they've been out front in voicing support for the plant, whose future was in some doubt as other nuclear facilities around the country wind down toward closure or have already shut down. Local 2320's new members have been visible at public hearings and speaking to local media about Seabrook's importance.

In March, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued approvals that likely will extend Seabrook's operating license until 2050.

"They can talk to other community members about it," Soule said. "They know that Seabrook is an important part of this region."

IBEW members helped build the plant, located about 40 miles north of Boston and 10 miles south of Portsmouth, N.H., through its completion in 1986, but the IBEW does not currently represent any other workers there apart from the security personnel.

Because of their IBEW membership, the newly-organized workers were able to negotiate access to the NECA/IBEW Family Medical Care Plan. That not only provided quality health care, it cut their average annual medical costs by about one-third, Soule said.

Combined with wage increases negotiated into the 2018 contract, the newly-organized members will see their salaries rise by an average of 16 percent before the contract expires in 2022. They also have a stronger voice at the table.

"Steve and Jim [Golden, an assistant business manager and executive board member] have been very receptive and very thorough in researching whatever grievances they have and taking them to the highest level," Coffill said.

The new members understand the importance of brotherhood, too. They sent gift cards to linemen and members of Manchester Local 1837 when they were on strike against New Hampshire Electric Cooperative in May 2018. [The strike lasted two weeks before both sides agreed on a new 3 ½-year contract.] They also conducted a Toys for Tots drive that raised more than $1,000 in cash and gifts for children in need at Christmas time.

It might have looked like an odd marriage to outsiders at first, but so far, it's been a highly successful one — all because both sides saw that IBEW membership benefits everyone.

"You recognize the member as a customer," Soule said. "That customer service mentality is what brought this group to us, and they've been a fantastic addition to our local."


The Seabrook Nuclear Power Station in New Hampshire is home to a unique set of IBEW members: security workers. They're helping lead the charge to keep the plant open.

Credit: Creative Commons / Flickr user nhskier915

Texas Local Energizes the Next Generation

Last April, Houston Local 66's young members group had four members. Today, they have close to 50 — and they're showing no signs of slowing down.

"The IBEW in Houston is thriving," said Local 66 business representative and organizer Ben Holmes, who runs the group. "Hopefully it'll never end."

The group, dubbed RENEW 66, received its official Reach Out and Engage Next Generation Electrical Workers status in February. RENEW is the IBEW's initiative to get more young members involved in the union. But before that, they were already holding fundraisers, workshops and meetings, all to get more members invested in the Brotherhood.

"When people talk about the IBEW, they're talking about us, too," Holmes said of the younger contingent. "We're the future, and we can't rely on the old guard forever."

The rapid growth of the group is due to a number of factors, says Holmes, among them buy-in from leadership. Business Manager Greg Lucero has nothing but praise for RENEW 66.

"The group has got the young members talking union for a change," Lucero said. "We have given them a spot where they talk to others about their issues and feel like someone is listening."

Local 66's Facebook page and Instagram posts regularly feature members. Sometimes it's a member with a new baby, or someone who's just earned their journeymen card. And Holmes says he makes a video of every event they hold and shares it on social media.

RENEW 66 has helped the local increase participation throughout its 4,300-person membership, for example by having their meetings right before the general membership ones, so more people stay and participate in both.

"A lot of members are stepping up their engagement; some are even becoming stewards," Holmes said.

Last Halloween, the group put on a "trunk or treat" event where people dressed up in costumes and decorated their vehicles and passed out candy for area kids, including those at a nearby women's shelter, an organization RENEW 66 has developed a relationship with. They've also done food and toy drives.

"The folks at the shelter might not know a lot about unions, but they know that they're a little happier because of IBEW 66," Lucero said. "If anything, it's a bit selfish for us because of the feeling we get being able to help."

The group is also applying for a charter to the Electrical Workers Minority Caucus, the Brotherhood's initiative to bring more diversity and inclusion into the union.

"I'm a white guy with red hair and a beard. It's important for me to be part of the EWMC, to be an ally for our brothers and sisters of color," Holmes said.

They're also excited at the prospect of getting more women involved.

"We don't want our sisters to deal with catcalls or any harassment," Holmes said. "This group is about helping people."

Holmes and Lucero also noted the number of travelers they get and how the group has helped in that regard. One way was by holding a collective bargaining agreement study group. On other occasions, they've held meetings where they go over what they call the "12 types of union personalities," asking members which they want to be.

"It's good for character building," Holmes said. "We want to send out not just a lineman but a union member, someone who knows the contract, and how to understand different perspectives."


Members of Houston Local 66's Reach Out and Engage Next Generation Electrical Workers group hold a meeting.

Even in Right-to-Work Era, Northern Michigan Manufacturing Local Grows Membership

Growing membership in a manufacturing local is a challenge under any circumstances. American jobs continue to move overseas at an alarming clip, so growth in a right-to-work state makes it even more of an achievement.

But Iron Mountain, Mich., Local 2221 — in the state's Upper Peninsula along the Wisconsin border — has spurned the trend, using the growth of its two major employers and improved outreach by local officers and officials to more than double its membership since Michigan's right-to-work law passed in 2012.

Perhaps even more impressive is that about 90 percent of the roughly 600 covered employees have remained members, Business Manager Pat Dani said. That hasn't been easy because Dani and other local officers still work full-time for the two main employers, Boss Snowplow and Systems Control.

"I think we've done it by stepping in and representing people," said Dani, a 15-year employee at Systems Control, where he works as a fabricator-welder.

"In years past, we didn't provide a lot of representation. We didn't have a lot of training, especially on how to contest things when we had a problem with management. We got a lot of our stewards trained and we put in a lot more of them. We started paying them something and we gave them a decent wage. Otherwise, you can't get anyone to do the job."

Founded in 1962, Systems Control builds equipment storage enclosures and control and relay panels used in electrical transmission and distribution substations across North America. The company has long been successful, but Dani said less than 100 employees were covered by the agreement with Local 2221 when he joined the company.

Now, they number nearly 450. Systems Control has added an average of six to seven employees a week for the last three years, he said.

"When they started substation work, it took off," Dani said. "With the amount of work they're doing right now, they can't stop hiring."

The work has proven so lucrative the company was acquired by Comvest Partners, a private equity firm, in 2018. Company officials later announced they plan to add another 300 jobs at the Iron Mountain facility.

Boss Snowplow seems to be a perfect fit for Iron Mountain and the snowy Upper Peninsula. The company was founded in 1985 and has remained there through ownership changes. Local 2221 has represented its employees from the start and Dani noted that MJ Electric — an IBEW signatory contractor based in Iron Mountain — built the facility.

The company now has about 175 employees covered in its agreement with Local 2221. Its growth has not been as explosive as Systems Control, but it has emerged as an industry leader. It's expanded beyond snow plows to salt and sand spreaders and plows designed for homeowners. Company officials praise the craftsmanship of its workforce in promotional materials.

Dani said the companies agreed to give Local 2221 officials 30 minutes to meet with new employees during the hiring process, something they didn't have prior to the right-to-work law. In the past, they had to wait until new employees began working in the facilities.

At a place like Boss Snowplow, which has a large base of part-time employees, Local 2221 often finds itself re-recruiting employees when they return to the plant.

The best recruiting tool, however, continues to be negotiating favorable contracts. At Systems Control, salaries are well above the average for other workers in the Iron Mountain area, health insurance is paid for and workers have access to a 401(k) retirement savings plan.

"People see that and realize what we have to offer and that their membership dues are being put to good use," Dani said. "Our biggest lift are young people coming in. A lot of them are just out of high school. They have no idea what the union is all about, so we have to educate them."

Sixth District International Representative Bob Koerschner, who has worked closely with Local 2221, said that while right-to-work remains a threat to organized labor, local unions can minimize its impact by preparing wisely.

"The training the local requested from our office and received has been very helpful, but honestly, the biggest difference-maker is the dedication of the officers and stewards," he said. "They already have tough full-time jobs and then they put in more time to work for the benefit of the members and the good of the union. It's impressive."

Koerschner said it's also led to improved relations with both companies, where management understands that Local 2221 is speaking on behalf of its members with a unified voice.

"The overarching message is that the companies need to know that the members — their employees — believe in the union," he said. "That's when they really listen."


Boss Snowplow employs about 175 members from Iron Mountain, Mich., Local 2221. The manufacturing local has seen explosive growth since 2012.

Credit: Creative Commons / Flickr user Pro-Tech Sno Pusher