The Electrical Worker online
March 2020

index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to
IBEW Members Deliver Another
Super Performance on the World Stage

Football fans across the world aren't likely to realize it, but most years IBEW members are as critical to their Super Bowl viewing experience as chicken wings and guacamole.

This year's game on Fox marked the 29th time that IBEW professionals provided the pictures and sound from the big game. The Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium, and the game was broadcast to 102 million viewers around the U.S.

More than 400 IBEW members were in South Florida working as camera operators, sound mixers, graphic artists, replay technicians and other responsibilities. The IBEW has had a relationship with Fox Sports since the early 1990s, when the network was just beginning its sports division. This was the ninth Super Bowl televised by the network.

"We're incredibly proud of our long-standing partnership with Fox Sports and thankful that it gives our talented and hard-working members a chance to work on the biggest stage of all," International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said. "They always do us proud and they did just that during this year's game. They're the best at what they do."

The IBEW has a relationship with another Super Bowl broadcaster, CBS, dating back to 1939, when it was a radio company. Members have provided the behind-the-scenes personnel for the 20 Super Bowls televised by that network. That means IBEW members have worked more than half of the 54 Super Bowls played.

Other IBEW members were in and around Miami working for local television stations and other production companies covering the game and events surrounding it.

"As I visited the stadium the week before the game, I saw firsthand all the hard work and knowledge required to prepare for the most-watched television event of the year," Broadcasting & Telecommunications Director Robert Prunn said.

"Fox Sports is a great partner of the IBEW, and our members contribute so much to the success of all sporting events on the network. The Super Bowl is always fun to watch, and I hope it meant a little more to the rest of our members knowing that their brothers and sisters were bringing the game into our living rooms."

The quality of the IBEW members' work was not lost on Fox Sports executives either.

"The Super Bowl is the day that we all live for as sports television professionals, and none more so than the talented men and women working with us down in Fort Lauderdale," said Michael Davies, Fox Sports senior vice president for field operations and technology. "We are truly grateful for our relationship with the membership and leadership of the IBEW, not to mention the amazing crew that's working the game with us. It's what goes into making Super Bowl Sunday a huge success."

Hard Rock Stadium is in Miami but Fox Sports has much of its operations based in nearby Fort Lauderdale.


New York 1212 members Matt McGahan, top, and Mario Zecca operate the Chapman camera crane, which allows for camera shots above the players on the sideline, during Super Bowl 54. The pair were a part of a 400-person Fox Sports crew.

Code of Excellence Boosts
Safety and Morale at Colorado Utility

The energy running through La Plata Electric Association in southwestern Colorado these days isn't limited to the utility's power lines.

For nearly 70 members of Denver Local 111, which represents workers statewide, a new Code of Excellence agreement is recharging a workplace that had suffered for years from low morale.

"It's starting to heal the divide," said Derek Burns, one of the local's assistant business managers. "People are saying how refreshing it is to see the union and the company working together like this."

Flawed policies, unjust discipline and other mismanagement had long frustrated La Plata workers, leading to high turnover. Meanwhile, their ideas for improving safety and training went nowhere.

But the environment began to change last summer when new CEO Jessica Matlock arrived.

"She's been a breath of fresh air for us on the union side," said chief steward Ryan Peacock, a substation foreman who's been at La Plata since 1998. "There was very little communication between the last CEO and employees. Hopefully now we're fixing some broken bridges."

On Matlock's first day at the cooperative in July 2019, Burns and Local 111 Business Manager Rich Meisinger drove six hours from Denver to Durango to meet her. They'd heard good things from IBEW leaders in Washington state, where she was a top manager at a large public utility. They weren't disappointed.

"She told us her biggest issue was safety — making sure that her people are safe and that they have the tools, equipment and training they need," Burns said.

With that door open, he and Meisinger brought up the Code of Excellence, the IBEW's trademark program bringing management and workers together on issues of safety, professionalism, accountability, relationships and quality.

Matlock embraced it. Growing up with a mother who was one of Colorado's first female firefighters, she said, "safety was just paramount to me. I want to make sure that all my employees, no matter where they're at, are being cautious and that they'll come home safely."

She also saw the broader benefits of the Code. "It's a commitment to each other, how to treat each other and how to act," she said. "We all know that, but having it in writing, making a paper commitment that we're going to do our best for each other and our customers, is really important to me."

Within a few weeks, a core group of managers, union leaders and workers began meeting to hammer out the details, finding common ground in the process.

"There's accountability, honesty and integrity for our membership and the company," Meisinger said of the agreement. "There's no lip service from either side."

Steward Aubrey Gillespie, one of nine customer service representatives, was part of the COE committee.

"Honestly, when I first heard about it, I felt like it was going to be something that was talked about, but that the follow-through wasn't going to be there," she said. "The meetings, the collaboration, really opened my eyes. It was empowering."

Matlock also made the rounds individually, meeting one-on-one with every employee for about 45 minutes. Union leaders encouraged members to make the most of it. "We told them, 'If you have a beef with the company, this is the time to bring it up,'" Burns said.

Fairly quickly, he saw a shift in management's approach. "Driving was a big issue," he said, as an example. "We've got a lot of snow here in the winter, and we've had accidents with vehicles sliding off the road. In the past, it would get written up and there would be discipline. Now the focus is more 'let's learn from this.'"

The morning of Jan. 9, the entire staff at La Plata — about 100 union members and managers — gathered for breakfast burritos and a presentation that made the Code of Excellence official.

After 11 years at the utility, Gillespie said it feels like a new workplace, one with real connections and a shared mission.

"We're more a team now, and that's been so fantastic," she said. "Everyone plays such a critical role, not just the linemen, but customer service, the mapping department — without each other we're not complete.

"This is a great company and we want to have the respect, to let our community know that we care about safety and reliability. That takes all of us working together."


Local 111 members at La Plata Electric Association gather to celebrate a new Code of Excellence agreement that workers and managers say is building morale and a spirit of a teamwork at the Durango, Col., utility.