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April 2024

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N.C. Local Helps Electrician, Family
Fleeing War-Torn Ukraine

Ukrainian electrician Dmytro Hrikh and his family had tried to remain in their home country for as long as they could after Russian troops invaded in February 2022. But late last year, when it finally became almost impossible for them to stay, the members of Charlotte Local 379 helped the family settle into a new home in North Carolina.

"It's amazing to hear some of their stories," said Local 379 Business Manager Scott Thrower.

Born in Ukraine when it was still one of the republics that made up the Soviet Union, the 37-year-old Hrikh hailed from Horlivka in the country's Donetsk region. Hrikh's studies at Donetsk National Technical University focused on electrical machinery used for industrial installations.

After graduating, Hrikh had been working as an electrician and power engineer when Russia attacked and occupied Donetsk City in 2014. He then moved his family to Zaporizhzhia, where he and his father eventually started their own contracting company. Their firm worked on local construction projects ranging from grain elevators to supermarkets, with Dmytro serving as a foreman and supporting his growing family.

Unfortunately, Zaporizhzhia became a frequent target of Russian attacks after the 2022 invasion.

"We hoped to stay there," said Hrikh's wife, Kateryna. But by late last year, caring for two children — a teenage daughter and a newborn son — while also dealing with unpredictable power cuts during a Ukrainian winter "was really hard," she said.

"We had never thought about leaving Ukraine," Kateryna said. "We had good jobs. We could travel."

They had visited the U.S. before, touring Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon and visiting relatives in Florida and in Charlotte. When they arrived in North Carolina this time, though, their suitcases were stuffed with as much of their belongings as they could carry.

Once in Charlotte, they were soon struck by a major difference between their adopted land and their homeland. "In Ukraine, we had furnished apartments," Kateryna said. "Here, we've had to buy everything."

Although the members of their extended family helped financially as much as they could, finding a job for Dmytro was paramount. "We sent out so many job applications, sometimes 30 to 40 resumes a day," she said. His employment outlook improved dramatically when he was put in touch with Local 379.

"We spent a whole day with them," said Local 379 organizer Doug McDaniel, noting that the language barrier between them wasn't too hard to breech; while Kateryna would usually translate what Dmytro said in Ukrainian, "he understands everything you say," she said.

One thing that helped make Dmytro's case for IBEW membership is that "blueprints are the same here" as they are in Ukraine, Kateryna said. "There are little nuances, but they're really very common."

There are some interesting differences between the two countries, though, she said. For one thing: "In Ukraine, they never use conduit. They use plastic boxes as pipes."

Fortunately, other electrical workers from Ukraine are among Local 379's thousand-strong membership.

"We're trying to keep [these members] working together. The ability to communicate can be a safety issue," Thrower said.

As this newspaper was being prepared, Dmytro was working with a signatory contractor on 2161 Hawkins, a 22-story, mixed-used residential/commercial building in Charlotte's South End neighborhood. Thrower noted that the project has an IBEW connection: It's managed by the National Real Estate Advisors, the organization that handles the many other such investments that help support the IBEW's National Electrical Benefit Fund and National Electrical Annuity Plan.

Dmytro was recently upgraded from a construction wireman 4 to a construction electrician 2. "He is on his way to being a journeyman wireman. He's doing very well," Thrower said.

And he is taking English classes two times a week. "He's getting better at it," McDaniel said.

Meanwhile, the entire Hrikh family is working through the naturalization process to become U.S. citizens. "We are together," Kateryna said. "For us, it's a great opportunity. This experience is amazing.

"When the IBEW answered, they said they would help with the work, and to tell the truth it was the most invaluable help," she added. "Because without work, adaptation to a new country becomes survival. So, we don't know what we would do without Local 379's help. We are infinitely grateful to the IBEW."


In February, Charlotte, N.C., Local 379 member and recent Ukrainian immigrant Dmytro Hrikh, center, brought his wife and son to a meeting with organizer Doug McDaniel.

Founders' Scholarship Open for 2024 Entries

Applications for the IBEW's Founders' Scholarship, which is awarded on a competitive basis to members continuing their studies, are now being accepted. Rules and a list of required entry materials are available at The deadline is May 1.

Started in 1966 under International President Gordon M. Freeman, the scholarship is awarded annually to members attending an accredited college or university and working toward an associate, bachelor's or postgraduate degree. The area of study must be in a field that furthers the electrical industry overall.

Applicants must be members in good standing for four continuous years or a charter member of a local union. The Founders' Scholarship is for members only. Children or dependents of members are not eligible.

Winners can receive up to $200 per semester credit hour or $134 per trimester credit hour. The maximum award is $24,000 over an eight-year period.

New York Local 3's Jeannie Lockwood and Milwaukee Local 2150's Brian Williams were last year's winners of the Founders' Scholarship.

Lockwood, a journeyman wirewoman and instructor in Local 3's apprenticeship training center, is completing a master's degree in adult learning at SUNY Empire State College this year and will begin work on a doctorate degree in education. She plans to use the degree to strengthen Local 3's education programs.

Williams works as a business customer consultant for We Energies (formerly Wisconsin Electric), working with cities, hospitals and other businesses. He is working toward a master's degree in business administration at Concordia University in Milwaukee with the goal of becoming a right-of-way agent for We Energies. A right-of-way agent represents a utility or government entity when it is planning a real estate transaction. Duties include research and holding initial conversations with the owner of the property.

Application and entry materials should be emailed to or mailed to the IBEW Founders' Scholarship Committee, 900 7th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20001. Call (202) 728-6103 for questions.


IBEW Locals Celebrate Autism Acceptance

Across the country, IBEW locals are lighting up their halls, posting on social media and engaging members in other activities to recognize members of their unions and communities who have autism.

This year marks the 16th annual World Autism Awareness Day, celebrated April 2 as part of World Autism Month. Autism spectrum disorder, as it's medically defined, is a neurological and developmental condition that affects how people interact with others, including how they learn and behave. Some people with ASD, who may also go by the term neurodivergent, are diagnosed as children while others are well into adulthood before it's detected.

Individuals on the spectrum can work any job, including those held by IBEW members. As such, a number of locals participate in Autism Awareness Month. St. Louis Local 1 is lighting up its hall in blue, the color often associated with autism awareness, as it has done in years past.

New York Local 3 and its affiliated clubs also participate in a variety of ways. Last year, its sportsman's club held a walk and fundraiser. And Baltimore Local 24 has created graphics that it is sharing on social media and an LED display outside the hall.

IBEW locals, including Local 3 and Local 24, also support autism awareness outside of April, with walks and other activities held at various times of the year.

"Some Local 24 families have members that have autism or are neurodivergent. Raising awareness helps with acceptance and understanding," Business Manager Mike McHale said. "Local 24 has been promoting awareness for several years, and we are sure many of our members have been doing it much longer. Unions are a place for everyone."


New York Local 3's Sportsmen's Club members donned T-shirts and comfortable shoes for an autism awareness walk in 2023 to support local charity Eden II. It's one of a number of ways that Local 3 supports autism acceptance throughout the year.