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March 2023

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New England Members Upgrade Nuclear Station

It's been decades since the Seabrook Nuclear Generating Station went online, providing clean baseload energy to customers in New England. And thanks to the work of IBEW members who navigated a long, complex project, the plant now has decades more to go.

"We have safe energy for the next 40 years," said William Perry, membership development manager for Dover, N.H., Local 490. "We are so proud to have this in our state to add to the power grid."

When the Seabrook management team determined that it needed to do an equipment upgrade, it was looking at a costly, yearslong project that could afford no errors. As with anything that is going on 40 years old, there were parts of the facility that had run their course and needed to be replaced. So they went with IBEW signatory contractor State Electric.

"It had nothing to do with who was the lowest bid. They went with the highest qualified," Perry said. "There's a lot of trust there."

For the last five years, roughly 50 IBEW inside wiremen from Local 490, as well as Boston Local 103 wiremen, Boston Local 104 linemen and some travelers, were busy upgrading the remainder of Seabrook's 345-kilovolt switchyard. They installed new circuit breakers, gas-insulated bus systems, relay protection systems, and new structures and foundations as required. And this wasn't work for just anyone off the street. This is a nuclear power plant, where everything is regulated and safety is paramount.

"Safety was always the first step," said Local 103 member Chris Hemenway, who worked as the general foreman on the project. "There was no cutting corners."

And because of that mindset and all the safety measures, they got through the whole project — some 130,000 electrical work hours — without a single accident or service interruption.

"That's very rare," Hemenway said of their achievement. "It's almost nonexistent."

Part of the reason for the impressive safety record was all the training that members received.

"There was a lot of training before you even set foot on site," said Hemenway, who worked on a similar project with State Electric in Ohio, albeit on a smaller scale. "You had to buy in to some seemingly extreme safety measures. It was a pretty significant mindset."

The workers got training in all the do's and don'ts of working at a nuclear facility, where something that might take just a few people on a regular construction site takes two or three times that many to make sure it's done properly. Even something like loading materials onto a truck required multiple spotters to make sure everything was being watched — the equipment, the tools, the people.

"You could have as many as six people spotting you to make sure no one fell," Hemenway said. "It was about making sure no one was in harm's way."

Perry noted that the workers, some of whom may not have even been born when Seabrook was last under construction, got a generational opportunity.

"This new generation had a hands-on chance to do these installs, and now they can pass that knowledge on to the next generation," he said. "It's very rewarding to hear and see."

An unexpected hurdle that came up after the project started was the COVID-19 pandemic. IBEW members were considered essential, so they had to figure out how to work through protocols like social distancing, the daily cleaning of work areas and masking.

"It added another twist to the whole setup," Hemenway said. "It was logistically more difficult, but we got through it."

In all, IBEW members, working in composite crews, installed four new circuit breakers, 68,000 feet of new cable and 4,400 new wire terminations. They also installed, gassed and tested 9,000 new feet of gas-insulated bus and completed 5,200 existing wire determinations.

"This is one of the largest projects that 490 has worked on in a long time," Perry said of his 325-member local.

For a project that clocked a total of 350,000 manual and non-manual work hours with zero accidents or first-aid cases, it's certainly something to be proud of.

"It's an impressive set of statistics," Hemenway said. "The scope and scale of the project can be overwhelming to look at as a whole, but when you step away it's really impressive. I'm proud to say I was a part of it."

Another example of the high level of IBEW craftsmanship could be seen early on, said Local 490 member James Casey, who worked on a preliminary stage of the project from its earliest days in 2009. The first phase, he said, was to construct a building 52 feet above an existing energized 345-kilovolt switchyard. The building housed multiple breakers, buses and control power, and it was all to be completed and connected to the power plant's existing system, which they would eventually replace in its entirety.

"I do not think that this had been attempted at any nuclear facility in the country or has been since," Casey said. "The fact that this very complex project was completed as safely as it was is something that all the men and women of Local 490 can be very proud of. The craftsmanship was second to none."

There's even new work on the horizon. Perry says the plant has a 345-kilovolt capacitor bank project that went out to bid in the fall of 2022. This is in addition to the work that members get from the yearly scheduled outage for facilities maintenance.

"Our members have a familiarity with the plant that makes them well-versed and well-seasoned," Perry said. "And Seabrook values our workers."

Casey, Hemenway and Perry give credit to the full team for the project's success, including New Hampshire Transmission, the company that hired State Electric.

"NHT is good at hiring people," Hemenway said. "A lot of companies might have gone with the lowest price, but that's not always the best fit. To get the skill, and the personality, you have to pay more, but in the end you're paying for success. You're paying for that professionalism."

As for people who think that unions don't work, Hemenway says just look at what they accomplished.

"It speaks volumes to how the IBEW can take a task that sizable and be successful," he said. "Now the customer is happy, and everybody went home safe."

Local 490 Business Manager Marco Lacasse added: "We know that the resiliency and reliability of the electrical grid is essential and nuclear plants contribute to that by having a baseload that is always available and doesn't fluctuate. Having the best-trained and reliable work force that the IBEW offers is also an essential component to reliability. Reputation is everything in this business. Do what you say and say what you do. It's not an accident to have State Electric along with the IBEW complete this part of the job. Quality is never an accident."


IBEW members from Dover, N.H., Local 490, as well as Boston Locals 103 and 104 and travelers, worked on a yearslong equipment upgrade at the Seabrook Nuclear Generating Station.

Training Program for Foremen Helps Fill Education Gap

The job of a foreman may come with a bigger paycheck, but a key downside to the job has been that it hasn't historically come with an instruction manual.

That's been changing, though, thanks to the decision by the IBEW's Seventh District to create a foreman education and training program called the Foreman's Development Series.

"When you become a foreman, too often you learn on the job, getting tips from here and there," said FDS Executive Director Tom Ross, a retired longtime member of Albuquerque, N.M., Local 611. "You make a whole lot of mistakes and hope you get better at it."

"Our hope is that FDS shortens that learning curve," added Ross, who for many years has worked with the New Mexico JATC and has been overseeing FDS since 2020.

Inaugurated in 2010 and continually updated and refined, FDS stresses active learning via group problem-solving and role-playing exercises. Its training modules are meant to prepare candidates for a variety of real-world construction job scenarios by covering such topics as the foreman's role, material and production management, and labor relations, with current and potential foremen participating alongside experienced journeymen.

The seeds of FDS were planted in the mid-2000s. The Seventh District, which services members in Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, had implemented several programs to aid in expanding market share in the Construction branch. One of these was a comprehensive Code of Excellence program, adopted by all construction locals in the district, that stressed the need for qualified supervision in addition to improved worker productivity. At various Code training sessions, members reported hearing complaints, verified as valid, from contractors about a lack of qualified foremen, something that too often prevented them from staying competitive or bidding more work. "A situation like this affects all of our livelihoods," Ross said.

A study, commissioned in 2004 by the IBEW's industry partners at the National Electrical Contractors Association and conducted by the Electrical Contracting Foundation, backed up the contractors' complaints. It showed that, in a typical union shop model, labor in the field controls productivity and profitability. Yet, more than 90% of construction foremen working in the industry reported having almost no management or professional leadership education and training. Further, barely half of electrical contractors were offering any in-house management training, often because they weren't large enough to have the resources for it.

The study, whose findings were supported by reports from members and contractors, prompted then-Seventh District International Vice President Jonathan Gardner to determine that his district should develop a foreman education and training program. "If we can't expand our market share due to a lack of qualified supervision, we can't go anywhere," he said.

Gardner knew that NECA already offered a lecture program called Electrical Project Supervisor, but the vice president wanted something more widely available, dynamic and interactive that stressed industry best practices. He determined that creating an IBEW-led, best-practices-based education program for foremen would help make contractors more competitive and open to expansion.

"We needed to address these problems with practical solutions," said Gardner, who retired in 2013. "Education and training also improve our image with owners and users."

Working with Rosendin Electric, which offered the use of its training department, Gardner in 2009 formed an FDS committee consisting of Rosendin employees working alongside IBEW members from throughout the district, all of whom had experience as foremen, general foremen, or educators.

"We decided that we had so much work coming in the Seventh District that we couldn't wait," said Gary Buresh, then an international representative with the district office who helped lead the committee and later conducted many FDS sessions. "FDS could enhance labor-management partnerships and change the culture of construction."

By year's end, the committee had drafted FDS's first set of class modules, and the program officially rolled out in 2010. Since then, FDS train-the-trainer sessions have been conducted at the Austin Electrical Training Alliance in Texas for IBEW members from all over, usually with 40 to 50 participants in each session. Instructors are a mix of trained active and retired IBEW members, and classes are open to anyone interested in the foreman's program.

Over time, Rosendin departed the committee while various IBEW members from around the country have regularly swapped in to continue teaching these train-the-trainer sessions. It's a "labor of love" for them, Ross said, with staffers spending weeks on the road conducting these sessions and teaching FDS in their home locals.

FDS is made up of 16 modules, 12 standard and four advanced. Anyone wanting to teach these classes at their JATC, union hall or company is required to take the three week-long train-the-trainer sessions, typically held in February, June and October. At last count, 129 locals representing every U.S. district boasted certified FDS trainers.

Programs and personnel are coordinated by Angie Burris, the Seventh District office's executive assistant.

FDS is set up so that students in their home locals can enter training at any point in the multi-module cycle. "It's a perfect complement for any employer's in-house training program," said Buresh, who retired in 2020. "It's modular, so they take only what they need."

Program materials are updated to account for data and technological advancements. "In the beginning, modules talked about paperwork," Ross said. "Now, we're talking about using software on the job, since every foreman has a laptop or tablet."

"We recognized early that we had to continually monitor the program, and make improvements to accommodate technologies and industry changes," Gardner added. "Tom was the driver; he put the nuts and bolts to it. He really understands productivity."

"We're helping the right people take on more leadership," Buresh said.

As word of FDS continues to spread, its positive effects are increasingly noticed. Notably, FDS has been adopted by the National Training Institute.

"We have more confidence in our field and the ability to get the job done," said Guy Katz, director of manpower and safety at Alterman Inc. in San Antonio. "It's not a perfect world on the jobsite, and if you can smooth out some of the hurdles, which this class is doing, it makes it a lot better for everybody."

Learn more at or call the Seventh District office at 817-557-1611 for information on participating locals and enrollment. FDS also will have a booth at the Construction and Maintenance Conference in Washington, D.C., April 20-22.


The Seventh District's Foreman's Development Series uses active learning to prepare current and future foremen for real-world construction job scenarios. Pictured above are FDS trainer candidates after a weeklong training session at the Austin JATC last summer.

Alabama Power Members Build House
With Habitat for Humanity

IBEW members who work for Alabama Power joined a team of more than 100 volunteers to build a Habitat for Humanity home, a project that was completed in just 10 days.

"We were thrilled to have the IBEW participate," said Alabama Power Service Organization Magic City President Anna Chandler. "It was a wonderful experience, and we could not have done it without their support."

The home was the 25th for APSO Magic City, which partnered with the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Birmingham chapter on the build. APSO is the charitable arm of Alabama Power, which employs IBEW members represented by Utility System Council 19.

"I wanted the IBEW out there," said Keith Gilliland, assistant business manager for U-19. "Our folks have a charitable spirit about them and I'm proud of that."

The build, which they typically do every two years, is the first in four years because of the coronavirus pandemic. The home was built in Pleasant Grove, which was hit hard by a tornado in 2011.

"Alabama Power is big on service," Gilliland said. "They're a good employer. They invest in their community."

Families who qualify for a Habitat home are required to repay a no-interest mortgage, complete 300 hours of sweat equity on their house or another home, and complete 20 hours of home ownership education workshops. The homeowner in this case worked alongside the volunteers, who completed the three-bedroom home at the beginning of November.

"As a volunteer, you get to see someone get the opportunity to experience the joys of homeownership. That's a pretty powerful thing," said Gilliland, who used to work as a carpenter before joining the IBEW and who volunteered on the build for the first two days. "You get to know them and their children."

As with most Habitat homes, it was built from the ground up.

"You literally start from a concrete floor, and two weeks later it's a lock-and-key move-in house," Gilliland said. "They even had shrubs outside."

Gilliland noted how labor unions can have a reputation for taking care of their own, so working on projects like this gives members a chance to show their commitment to bettering the community as a whole.

"There's so much more to us than that," he said. "We jump at the opportunity to put ourselves out there in the community. It lets folks know we do good things, that we care and can be of service."

Doing projects like these can also serve as a reminder that not everybody is as fortunate as the average IBEW member.

"We're in a good trade. We have good jobs with good wages and benefits," Gilliland said. "We understand that not everyone is in that situation."

Gilliland said he expects the relationship between the IBEW, APSO and Habitat for Humanity to continue with the next build in 2024.

"We're always looking for opportunities to put the IBEW in a positive light," he said.


IBEW members volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and Alabama Power to build a new home in just 10 days for a family in need.

Detroit Tree Trimming Program Brings in New Workers, Garners International Attention

Detroit Local 17's tree trimming program is one of only two Labor Department-certified apprenticeships in the country for that line of work. The relationship it has with the Parnall Correctional Facility in Jackson, Mich., makes it even more special.

The IBEW designed a special curriculum and built a climbing structure for the six-to-nine-month program at Parnall, where inmates learn to safely climb trees, use tree trimming equipment and obtain a commercial driver's license.

Participants can join Local 17's apprenticeship class after their release and work as union contractors, reducing their chances of returning to prison. It also provides a needed talent pool for an in-demand job. About 70% of power outages are caused by trees being damaged or falling, and many of today's trimmers are reaching retirement age.

The program is so successful that it attracted international news attention. The Associated Press recently published a story, photos and video featuring Local 17's work at the correctional facility.

In addition to the program at Parnall, Local 17 runs a Tree Trimming Academy with local utility DTE that focuses on hiring local residents.

"We strive to build an empowered and diverse workforce and are excited to help develop more well-trained and well-paid workers who put safety first," Local 17 Business Manager James Shaw said. "Growing and developing local talent has to be a focus to best maintain safe, reliable energy."

Visit to see the Associated Press' feature package on Local 17's tree trimming outreach program, including a feature article, photo gallery and video.


Local 17's tree trimming programs got the attention of The Associated Press, which published a news article, photos and video.