The Electrical Worker online
November 2022

index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to
Quick-Thinking Linemen Honored for
Saving Two Co-Workers Lives

In April, two Pittsburgh Local 29 lineworkers were electrocuted on the job when an energized power line made contact with a utility pole's guy-wire.

But thanks to the combined training, experience and cool-headedness of three of their fellow IBEW members, Tyler Rowley and Brad Meyer survived what could have been a terrible tragedy.

The incident occurred around noon on April 13, as the Duquesne Light Company linemen were working as part of a two-truck crew that was transferring lines to a new Verizon-owned utility pole in McCandless Township, about eight miles north of downtown Pittsburgh.

"It was just another normal day," said Joe Dillner, a four-year journeyman lineman who was also part of the crew, working in one bucket. "We started transferring the lines to the new pole." On the ground by Dillner's truck was Trevor Valentic, who had been an apprentice lineman for about nine months at the time.

In the other, adjacent truck, Rowley was up in the bucket with Meyer on the ground below him, near Valentic. While the four men were working on the transfer, something must have bridged the energized lines with the old pole's guy-wire to close the gap, Dillner said: "A big roar happened just above me."

As power from the 13.2kV distribution line went to ground through the guy-wire that Meyer held in his gloved hands, "He took the brunt of it," said Business Manager Josh Ewing, while at the other end of the wire above, "Tyler fell back in his bucket, knocked unconscious."

Meyer, meanwhile, "had tensed up and slumped to the ground," Valentic said.

"There was a loud, like, high-voltage explosion zap," a neighbor told WTAE-TV. "I came running out here to the front yard and there was a gentleman laying down on the ground, in distress. His glove was kind of smoking. The guy up in the bucket by the pole was kind of slumped over."

When Dillner looked at Meyer's bucket, he saw smoke coming from his fellow lineman as well. "It held current for about 8 seconds," estimated Dillner. "There was no response when I called their names."

Valentic said he called 911 while Dillner worked on getting Rowley and his bucket away from the pole and wires. Once Rowley's bucket was quickly cleared and brought to the ground, Valentic and Dillner, now on the ground himself, extricated the semi-conscious lineman and then turned their attention to Meyer. "I did what I could," Dillner said. "I started CPR."

Fortunately, a nurse lived in a house near where they were working. Hearing the commotion, she came outside and took over performing chest compressions on Meyer.

"[Meyer] was just unconscious and on the ground, and the nice nurse neighbor was hard at work on him," a neighbor told WPXI-TV.

"That crew is my typical crew," said fellow Local 29 journeyman lineman Brad Morrow. "I was about 10 to 15 minutes away on another job site when I got a call from Joe that there was an electrical contact.

"I called control and told them, 'Do not reenergize the circuit,' and I was on my way," Morrow said. He confirmed that 911 had been called and let the foreman know that there was a contact in progress.

"Paramedics had just arrived when I got there," Morrow said, and Meyer was still on the ground. "Paramedics were hitting him with their [automated external defibrillator]. Tyler was in the passenger seat of the other truck, semi-conscious but still out of it.

"Once they got Tyler in an ambulance, I went to Brad and watched as they loaded him into a second ambulance," Morrow said.

Morrow also took charge of notifying Meyer's and Rowley's families. "Unfortunately, this was not my first rodeo," said the 10-year journeyman lineman, who noted that he had worked with Meyer for much of his career.

The incident remains under investigation, and although neither Rowley nor Meyer are back on the job yet, the two linemen happily were well enough to attend Local 29's membership meeting in September, where Ewing and Third District International Representative Kris Anderson presented IBEW Life Saving Awards to Joe Dillner and Trevor Valentic, plus a certificate of recognition to Brad Morrow.

"Both injured IBEW members are continuing to make great strides with their recovery," Ewing said. "It was a great evening to recognize these members for their heroic actions in saving their fellow IBEW member's lives."


From left: Local 29 Vice President Ryan Blythe, President Glenn Camp, Business Manager Josh Ewing, Joe Dillner, Brad Morrow, Trevor Valentic, Tyler Rowley, Brad Meyer, and Third District International Representative Kris Anderson.

LA Local Offers Second Chances to
Marginalized Community Members

The Los Angeles community-based nonprofit 2nd Call does a lot for the people it serves, but for John "Big John" Harriel Jr., it all comes down to three words.

"It saves lives," said Harriel, a 25-year member of Los Angeles Local 11, which works with the organization to get its participants into the trades.

Started in 2006, 2nd Call works with at-risk residents from areas like South Los Angeles, Compton, Watts and Inglewood, neighborhoods that are often known more for poverty and gang violence than they are for turning out the next generation of tradespeople. Many have been to prison, but not all. Some are just struggling with other life issues, the result of growing up in an underserved community. It's where Harriel comes from, and it's one of the reasons he's so effective at working with 2nd Call's participants.

"I come from this world," Harriel said. "I've been to prison. I've eaten out of trash cans and slept in alleys before. With this work, you have to be authentic."

Now he's a superintendent for Morrow-Meadows, one of the largest contractors in the area, and chairs Local 11's executive board. And he still teaches classes with 2nd Call — for free.

"Now I'm a civilized, tax-paying citizen," said Harriel, who has spoken before Congress on the challenges facing former prisoners when they're released. "I'm not a wild dog anymore."

It's those classes, and the philosophy behind them, that have helped countless people get their lives back on track, and in a lot of cases into an IBEW apprenticeship.

"We're in the business of changing lives," said Local 11 Business Manager Joel Barton. "It's about supporting the community, and it's the right thing to do."

2nd Call is a lot of things, but one thing it isn't, says Harriel, is a program. Programs have beginning and end dates. 2nd Call is infinite. It's more of a way of life.

"If you want a good employee, you have to have a person who's made themselves whole," Harriel said. "So let's talk about unresolved trauma, about having spent 20 years in prison, about having a mother on crack. Let's have those difficult conversations."

Where a program will teach someone some skills and then send them on their way, 2nd Call works with the whole person to get them through whatever it is they're going through, and then stays with them.

"A program doesn't talk about anger management or trauma. They'll give you a certificate and then tell you to go out there and work hard. How can I work hard when I only eat three days a week? When I've spent time in prison and never had a dad? How do I mingle with others on the job who aren't like me? These are real issues. So we talk about these things."

Harriel is also adamant about getting people ready for a career, not just a job, not to mention one that's in demand and pays well, benefits included.

"I only talk about careers," Harriel said. "I've probably gotten thousands into the trades over the years. And I have gotten people in who are leaders, who end up as contractors, foremen and inspectors. It's not perfect, but I've got a good batting average."

Those who go through 2nd Call have access to classes in subjects like anger management as well as math, to get them fully back on their feet and ready for an apprenticeship. Mentoring is also offered, sometimes with help from Local 11's Electrical Workers Minority Caucus. Participants also get help with things like getting a GED, passing the entrance exam, and interview preparation.

"We teach them effective communication," Harriel said. "We teach them how to listen, how to not get emotional, and specifics like avoiding filler words like 'um.'"

Harriel also offers classes on money management and home ownership, since a career with the IBEW can afford someone those options, something that may not have been on the table before.

"I still live in the community, but now I own my home," Harriel said. "I don't rent anymore."

Harriel says he owes a lot to the IBEW for his success and all that he's been able to do.

"The IBEW is my guiding light," Harriel said. "I learned integrity from the IBEW. It gave me the strength to love myself. If I could, the whole world would be one big IBEW union."

Harriel also started a nonprofit called Big John Kares that works with youth and young adults from underserved neighborhoods. Those who participate and make it into an apprenticeship get a free bag of tools, that's purchased at a discounted rate by Harriel from Milwaukee Tool. It's another way for the former gang member to give back to his community and make it a little better. Because, for him, there are more good seeds than bad.

"I'm not bringing victims. I'm bringing suspects, people who show up with no fear of working hard. They just need someone to show them what to do," Harriel said.

Barton and Harriel both give a lot of credit to contractors like Morrow-Meadows for being open to hiring so many apprentices who've come through 2nd Call.

"Morrow-Meadows has been a leader in diversity and inclusion," says Harriel. "They have raised me to be the leader I am."

According to a video by the National Electrical Contractors Association, members like Morrow-Meadows have hired over 100 electrical workers and supervisors through the organization.

"They have a great attitude," said Morrow-Meadows Director of Corporate Marketing Mark Freedman. "These are people that come from very difficult upbringings. They've battled to get here. They never quit on themselves, and they have been fantastic employees for us."

It's positive for Local 11 in other ways too.

"Local 11 gets good workers from 2nd Call," Barton said. "They're committed, they realize what they have now and they don't want to give it up. And beyond that, we get leaders, people who join the EWMC and who volunteer with our Day of Service. In the end, we get good, involved union members."

Local 11's work with 2nd Call is also an example of what the International's IBEW Strong program aims to do. IBEW Strong is the international-level effort to promote the recruitment and retention of a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

"We need to embrace everyone and increase our ranks, and 2nd Call is a great pathway for doing that. It fits right in with IBEW Strong," Barton said.


Los Angeles Local 11 has been working with the community-based nonprofit 2nd Call to help people from marginalized communities get into the trades.

DOL Apprenticeship Ambassador Program
Taps IBEW Talent

St. Louis Local 1 member Sylvester Taylor has been promoting diversity and inclusion in IBEW apprenticeships for years, so it was no surprise when he was selected to serve as a Department of Labor apprenticeship ambassador.

"Sylvester has a passion that runs deep in many endeavors," said Local 1 Business Manager Frank Jacobs. "From his work with the IBEW to his mentoring of young men, his dedication is always 110%."

The Apprenticeship Ambassador Initiative was established to bring together industry, labor, education, equity and workforce leaders to partner with the department's Office of Apprenticeship to promote registered apprenticeships as a valuable workforce strategy in high-demand industries and to develop and expand opportunities for people who have been historically underserved. The initial cohort of 207 officials and organizations, which includes Taylor, was announced in July.

"Sylvester will be successful as an ambassador because he knows what it takes to be successful in the construction industry," Jacobs said. "He has been through the trenches and knows the road is tough, but if you don't quit or let someone tear you down, you will succeed."

For Taylor, promoting the IBEW's apprenticeship program is nothing new, and neither is doing so in historically underserved communities. It's what he's been doing for 25 years. One of the only things that has changed is that now he has a title: director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the IBEW/NECA Electrical Connection. The Electrical Connection is the partnership between Local 1 and the St. Louis-area NECA chapter.

"Sylvester is a leader and a true motivator. Outside of his impeccable style of dress, I am impressed with how his character and messages transcend age and racial barriers," said Powering Chicago Executive Director Elbert Walters, who is also an ambassador. "I appreciate his ability to communicate with our members on the front lines in the field and at the same time address and speak with purpose to the leaders of the IBEW and the government."

In addition to his director role, Taylor serves as recording secretary for Local 1, president and co-founder of its Electrical Workers Minority Caucus chapter and treasurer of his local school board.

"Being in the room to help my community is what drives me," Taylor said. "You can't paint your house standing on the curb. You have to get inside."

The ambassadorship program can look to Local 1 for an example of successful recruitment efforts, said Jacobs and Taylor. Apprenticeship classes have gone from 10-12% women and people of color to 27-30% in just under two years. And in the EV-charging class they currently have 50% women and people of color. They did it, Taylor says, by being proactive and not reactive.

"Sylvester is opening doors for our industry to a much broader base," Jacobs said. "With his efforts we are not only getting more people interested in our program, but we are getting stronger candidates."

Jacobs also noted that Taylor is talking to schools with large minority populations that don't use union electrical contractors. He points out to the schools that those nonunion contractors aren't talking to the kids about career opportunities, but the IBEW apprenticeship program is.

"He is coaching them and offering many of them a life-changing opportunity," Jacobs said. "And those connections have now secured work in those schools for our signatory contractors, which is work for Local 1 members."

Taylor also works with the EWMC on a mentorship program with the Division of Youth Services. Everyone is under 18 with a felony record and the EWMC works with them on things like getting their GED and eventually moving into a trade.

"If we can get more people into our apprenticeship, just think how many people we can get off the street and into the middle class," Taylor said.

Taylor says he wants to continue to increase the number of historically marginalized community members in the IBEW, but what he really hopes for is a day when jobs like his will no longer be necessary.

"My job as ambassador and DEI director is to make my job go away," Taylor said. "I want to make it so we don't have to do this anymore because we're already an inclusive workforce."

For Walters, the fact that he and Taylor, both Black men, are representing the IBEW in the ambassador program is a positive sign in itself.

"Having Black men as leaders and speaking on behalf of the IBEW, which historically has had an unfavorable connection with our community, is proof that the IBEW sees the benefit of diversity and inclusion," Walters said.

"Having voices from underrepresented groups allows for growth and true representation. As a proud member, it is inspiring to see that the IBEW is again leading the charge of change. There is still much work to be done, though, and both of us are aware of that much-needed work."


St. Louis Local 1 member Sylvester Taylor has been selected to serve as a Department of Labor apprenticeship ambassador.