The Electrical Worker online
May 2021

The President and the Lineman
index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to

The gravity of what he had to do that afternoon really didn't occur to Pittsburgh Local 29 member Mike Fiore until he was making pancakes for his wife, Julie, and kids, Victor Jr. and Capri.

"I woke up and it didn't cross my mind. But then I was like, "Holy [cow], I am addressing the entire world and introducing the president in three hours," he said. "Little Mike Fiore from Western Pennsylvania — this is what you are about to do."

President Joe Biden was introducing the largest and most consequential proposal of his presidency, a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that would transform the country and put union labor at the heart of that transformation, and he wanted a union worker to be the first to speak about what it would mean to the union trades — of the millions of jobs it would create if passed by Congress.

The White House reached out to the IBEW because electrical work will be at the heart of nearly every project the plan sets in motion. Local 29 Business Manager Kenn Bradley turned to Fiore. He was a lineman, a young father, and the transmission and distribution representative on the local executive board — a perfect fit.

Fiore said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

His dad, Victor, made more sense; the 50-year pin holder and recently retired president of Local 29 had given hundreds of political speeches. But that wasn't Mike Fiore, at least not in his own mind.

"You know that movie 'Talladega Nights,' where Will Ferrell is giving a press conference and he forgets how to talk? 'I don't know what to do with my hands. Car go fast,'" he said. "I was going to be a meme."

But after he talked to his wife, he thought about what it meant. The first voice announcing that this country was going back to what actually worked, back to investing in itself, back to promoting union labor, it could come from a guy with a broad western Pennsylvania accent who missed birthdays and anniversaries to work overtime for his family.

"How do you not get on board with that?" he said.

Once he said yes he said he prepared himself for when word got out. Most of the responses were jokes to keep it from getting too heavy. But there was a definite divide with the people who supported the previous president.

There have been plenty of times when guys in hard hats stood behind the people in suits over the last few years, like they were flags or plants. Symbols.

"When is that last time you saw a union guy like us up there talking?" he said.

That was enough to hold off the nerves, he said, until that breakfast, and then nothing helped. No matter who told him "You got this" or "You'll knock it out of the park," the nerves kicked in.

Not when he got to the Carpenter's local training center, not when he spoke to the IBEW staff, the president's staff. Not when they showed him the lectern where he would speak or the seat he would take when he was done and the president took over for him.

For him, "It didn't work," Fiore said.

It didn't click until he was standing next to the president himself.

"He walked straight up to me, stuck out his elbow and said it was an honor to meet me," Fiore said. "It was — I keep looking for the right word: Surreal? Unfathomable?"

Fiore can't remember the small talk, but he asked Biden if he was nervous about this day when he woke up, because Fiore sure was nervous now.

"He said he would be nervous about doing my job and then he told me a story about how he used to stutter, and I didn't know that, and that he worked through it. I've talked with a lot of politicians and you can tell when they are saying whatever you want to hear and looking for someone else to talk to. This was sincere," Fiore said. "In the whole grand scheme it was the president that put me at ease."

Fiore stood up. Told the world who he was. What he did. About his family and about his union and about a plan that he believed would build a worthy American future.

The president thanked him, told the world that he would be nervous doing Fiore's job and then laid out a plan that will fill history books when it passes.

And some of the hundreds of texts he got in the next few days were from his brothers and sisters who voted a different way, most saying something like, "Like it or not, that was awesome. Thank you."

"That was important," Fiore said. "Like an inkling of hope set into them."

Read more about President Biden's historic infrastructure announcement on and look for many more details in next month's Electrical Worker.



Pittsburgh Local 29 member Mike Fiore, a lineman for Duquesne Light, introduced President Joe Biden and his $2 trillion plan to rebuild America March 31. He was back working three 12-hour shifts Easter weekend.

Detroit 'History-Maker' Featured Alongside Vice President

Detroit Local 58 member Felicia Wiseman joined a diverse set of women recently in the Lifetime special "Women Making History," including Vice President Kamala Harris.

"It was an honor to be included on the same show as so many other accomplished women," said Wiseman, who teaches at Detroit's A. Philip Randolph Career and Technical Center. "Anytime I can represent Local 58 and the IBEW, I will."

"Women Making History" aired on March 30 as part of the channel's celebration of Women's History Month.

"Felicia is a great ambassador," said Local 58 Business Manager Brian Richard. "She embodies the IBEW, and beyond just the duties of the job."

The special included an exclusive interview with Harris about the influence of various women in her life. Interspersed with the vice president were stories of women, including nurses working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, an immunologist who worked on Moderna's coronavirus vaccine, a Nobel Prize nominee, and a Golden Globe-winning actress.

For Wiseman, a journeyman inside wireman and Local 58 treasurer, the experience was a great way to provide some much-needed visibility for women in the trades.

"One of my passions has always been to expose young people, especially inner-city kids and especially females, to the path of, 'This is how you become an electrician; this is how you become a tradesperson,'" she said in the special.

Wiseman credits International President Lonnie R. Stephenson with the opportunity to be included in the Lifetime special.

"It's a testament to all he's doing, in D.C. and elsewhere, that I was even considered for the show," Wiseman said. "I'm grateful for that."

The wide-ranging backgrounds of the women showcased the numerous ways in which women are making history every day. While some of those trailblazers are high-profile politicians and performers, many more are making a difference far outside the spotlight. But a common thread they all share is the experience of being a woman and a strong desire to forge new paths for the girls who are coming after them. As Harris' mother told her growing up, "You may be the first to do many things. Make sure you're not the last."

"Some people just want to go to work and go home, and that's fine," Wiseman said. "But there are so many opportunities available to you, especially in the union, if you choose to get involved. You just need to be bold enough to ask for it."


Detroit Local 58 member Felicia Wiseman was featured in a Lifetime special, "Women Making History," that included Vice President Kamala Harris.