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May 2024

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Los Angeles Local 18 Program Expands Career Opportunities in Civil Service

For more than a decade, Los Angeles Local 18 has provided area residents with a much-needed path to civil service jobs with the city's Department of Water and Power, and a ticket to the middle class.

"I didn't want to start a program that didn't end with a job," said former Local 18 Business Manager Brian D'Arcy, the program's founder. "And that's what we did. It's been a great journey."

Since 2011, Local 18 has been partnering with the LADWP on the Utility Pre-Craft Trainee program. Participants take part in six-month rotations where they're trained in an array of jobs, from meter reader to water service worker to electrical mechanic.

They're paid while they learn. All they need to qualify is a driver's license and Los Angeles County residency.

"This program says that Local 18 cares about equity and inclusion for all," said Senior Assistant Business Manager Shawn McCloud, who oversees the program. "It provides another pipeline to the middle class with good, union jobs."

D'Arcy wanted to address two main issues when he started the program: Los Angeles schools not preparing students for careers at the utility and most LADWP workers not being from the city.

"People were given a lot of education in our program that they weren't getting anywhere else," he said. "A lot of job skills aren't taught anymore. Students were graduating high school without any real-world experience."

It's been popular from the start. D'Arcy said there was a line out the door on the first day just to sign the books and start the process. Hundreds of people who took part in the program have been hired by the department, Business Manager Gus Corona said.

"It's been an excellent program," Corona said. "As long as you're willing to try hard, you can get a life-changing job. You're only limited by your ambition."

Alicia Dickerson had to wait two years after she applied before being accepted, a common occurrence due to the program's popularity. But, like most participants, it was worth the wait, she said.

"Before, I was going from job to job to try and provide for my family," said Dickerson, who's currently working as a building repairer. "I can truly testify that it's helped me gain a career with DWP."

John Pickering heard about the program from a former co-worker. He had worked as a solar panel installer but wasn't a union member, which limited the ability to advance his career.

"If you're not union, when you're on a job and it ends, that's it," said Pickering, who now works in electrical repair. "It was devastating as a temporary employee. I had no certificate or anything to take with me."

Like Dickerson, it took Pickering a long time to get into the program, but it was worth it.

"There's so much opportunity once you get in," he said. "The diversity of work is astronomical."

When Manuel Hernandez took part in a rotation in substation maintenance, he knew he'd found the job that he wanted to turn into a career.

"It was something I was really interested in, and I knew it would be a steppingstone for the rest of my life," said Hernandez, who's now a journeyman electrical mechanic.

Since its inception, the program has expanded to offer more job classifications, including clerical work. It also has an expanded staff that offers tutoring and training on how to prepare for job interviews.

It's a testament to the good working relationship between Local 18 and the LADWP, Corona said.

"Local 18's partnership is invaluable to the UPCT program and the department," said John Smith, the city department's director of fleet and aviation services. "Combining their community engagement and knowledge of our workforce makes them the ideal partner."

McCloud noted that Local 18's Electrical Workers Minority Caucus chapter is also a partner, promoting the program during its community outreach, and even bringing some UPCT trainees and alumni to the EWMC's annual conference.

Corona and Smith said the program is helping LADWP address an incoming wave of retirements by providing the department with employees who are committed and more likely to stay in the job for the entirety of their career.

"When it first started, it was like a revolving door. There's a lot less turnover now," Corona said. "The department sees the program as an investment where it gets loyal, trained employees who will likely stick around for the next 30 years."

That loyalty also extends to the union, Corona and D'Arcy said.

"Local 18 gets better union members because they know the union was the one fighting for them," D'Arcy said.

The best part of the program, Corona said, is seeing the trainees succeed and earn their way into the department, and by extension the middle class.

"We get a lot of single moms who never dreamed they could be in the trades. They really surprise themselves," he said. "It's great to see them, and everyone else, get so much pride out of their work."


Since 2011, Los Angeles Local 18 has been partnering with the city's Department of Water and Power on the Utility Pre-Craft Trainee program. All participants need is a driver's license and L.A. County residency. And they're paid while they learn.


The program has helped hundreds of people get jobs, like Alainna Rawles, who works as a custodial services assistant.


Participants, like custodian Ryne Hellmann, do six-month rotations where they're trained in an array of jobs from meter reader to electrical mechanic.

Labor-Management Group Honors 2 Locals for
Saving Utility Jobs

The members of two IBEW locals were honored in March for their tireless efforts to fend off potentially job-killing government takeovers of the utilities where they work.

Representatives from Manchester, Maine, Local 1837 and El Paso, Texas, Local 960 — and their employers — were presented the Edwin D. Hill Award at the 17th annual National Labor and Management Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, D.C. The award was named for the IBEW international president who formed LAMPAC with the Edison Electrical Institute in 2007. Hill's goal was to help strengthen relations between the union and the investor-owned electrical utilities that EEI represents.

Last fall, members of Local 1837 help led a statewide fight against Ballot Question 3, a referendum that proposed allowing the state government to buy Central Maine Power and Versant Power, a purchase that would have jeopardized the state's grid and hundreds of IBEW jobs.

"Our main things were to protect our members and protect the ratepayers," said Local 1837 Business Manager Anthony Sapienza. "We realized our interests were aligned with the companies'."

To be successful, Sapienza said, the IBEW needed to help educate voters about the dangerous uncertainties of such a takeover. "Fortunately, we have a very dedicated crew in Maine," he said.

"In our operations, we had to be flawless," said Central Maine Power President and CEO Joe Purington. "That's where the IBEW has helped."

"It was like an organizing campaign on steroids," said Local 1837 Assistant Business Manager Renee Gilman, who accepted the award for the local.

Referendum advocates kept saying the government takeover would be a great way to "stick it to the man," she said, but they had no data to back it up.

"You have to talk to people with the facts," Sapienza said. "Show people that there's a very broad coalition, that it's not often that labor is aligned with companies and businesses like this."

Second District International Representatives Ed Starr and Joe Casey worked on the campaign, plus members from other IBEW locals that work in Maine, such as Portland Local 567, Augusta Locals 1253 and 2327, and Boston Local 104.

The work paid off: Nearly 70% of voters on Nov. 7 cast ballots against the takeover. "Two years before, [passage] was a forgone conclusion," Purington said. "But customers saw our unity."

Also in 2023, but more than 2,000 miles away in western Texas, the members of El Paso Local 960 were working to defeat Proposition K, a ballot measure that could have led to a city takeover of the power company, risking the jobs of more than 400 IBEW members.

"With something like this, you have to put it at the forefront of your agenda," said Local 960 Business Manager Eddie Trevizo. "Getting political is essential. It's one of the cornerstones of labor."

Labor and management came together against Proposition K for the benefit of both groups, he said. "Working alongside the company makes you more powerful," he said. "We may still be filing grievances, but today, let's come together and have a unified voice."

Connecting with the community also was crucial in their fight, he said. "If you're not out there supporting it, people don't know you exist," Trevizo said, adding that Local 960 members were prominently presented in advertising against the measure.

"These men and women are proof that labor and management can and must work together to ensure reliable power and to protect good union jobs," said IBEW International President Kenneth W. Cooper. "Working with their employers, they show how our union and the energy industry can forge powerful legislative partnerships."

El Paso Electric President and CEO Kelly Tomblin praised Trevizo's "authenticity" in helping get Proposition K rejected by nearly 82% of those who voted.

"We all looked up to him," she said. (You can read more about the Local 960 campaign in the August 2023 edition of The Electrical Worker.)

Also honored with a Hill Award at the March 4 meeting was former EEI president and CEO Tom Kuhn, who retired at the end of 2023 after more than 30 years with the association. Additionally, Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat from Nevada, and Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, received the John D. Dingell Award for co-sponsoring a resolution that passed the Senate in 2023 expressing support for designating July 10 as Journeyman Lineworkers Recognition Day. The resolution marks the date in 1896 that Henry Miller, the first president of the IBEW, died after he was injured on the job.

The Dingell Award is named for the long-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan who was a steadfast advocate in Congress for organized labor. His widow, Rep. Debbie Dingell, who has held what was her husband's office since his retirement in 2014, presented the award.

The awards presentation wrapped up a day filled with panel discussions featuring IBEW leaders and industry experts on topics ranging from clean energy generation and small modular nuclear reactors to grid resilience and workforce safety.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, speaking to the gathering, said that 14.8 million "good-paying, family-sustaining" jobs have been created since President Joe Biden took office in 2021 thanks to the most pro-union presidential agenda in U.S. history.

"It's working," she said. "You'll be able to tell your kids and grandkids that you were there when this massive transformation happened — you were putting us into this clean-energy future."


Pictured with National LAMPAC's Edwin D. Hill Award are, from left, Edison Electric Institute Chair Pedro Pizarro; International President Kenneth W. Cooper; Manchester, Maine, Local 1837 Assistant Business Manager Renee Gilman; Central Maine Power CEO Joe Purlington; El Paso Electric CEO Kelly Tomblin; EEI CEO Dan Brouillette; and El Paso, Texas, Local 960 Business Manager Eddie Trevizo.

California Local Partners With Utility on
'Boot Camp' for Aspiring Apprentices

When Dariyn Choates found out about the Lineworker Scholarship Program run by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245, he knew it was a chance to get closer to his goal of becoming a lineworker.

"When I got the email from SMUD, I decided, 'Let me challenge myself.' And that's what I did. I busted my butt," said Choates, who had previously worked for SMUD as a solar installer.

Choates was one of nearly 30 graduates from the program's inaugural class and the keynote speaker at a graduation ceremony in March. A former college football player, he's no stranger to physically demanding work, or working as part of a team.

"I like jobs where I can be active," he said. "I like having a tough job to complete."

Despite his aptitude for teamwork and physical challenges, Choates said that having football on his resume wasn't opening any doors to the good-paying career he was looking for. The Lineworker Scholarship Program was his opportunity to change that.

"Before, it was hard to compete. I'm a lot more confident now," Choates said.

Choates and his classmates spent every Saturday and Sunday for a month learning foundational training in pole-climbing techniques, proper tool usage, safety protocols, equipment installation on wood poles and ground work. With an emphasis on hands-on learning and real-world experience, the participants graduated with a competitive edge for linework apprenticeship programs. They also got classroom instruction and help with interview preparation, as well as a stipend and a certificate of completion.

"The amount I learned was incredible," Choates said, adding that he was impressed by how knowledgeable all the lineworker trainers were. "They made a lot of people want to be lineworkers."

The program, which Local 1245 Business Manager Bob Dean describes as a boot camp, came about when he and SMUD CEO Paul Lau got together to look at ways of expanding the number of opportunities available for getting into the trade.

"Everybody is phenomenally excited about the opportunity," Dean said, noting that while a lot of participants want to be lineworkers, the program prepares people for jobs across the industry. "Training without employment is useless."

While most of this graduating class will be able to get jobs with SMUD, Dean said the goal is to eventually make it a statewide program that would be paid for by California workforce funding. The inaugural class was funded jointly by Local 1245 and SMUD.

"This was the proof of concept," he said.

For Choates, his objective is to get hired this year as a lineworker, and he's already been in talks with SMUD and another electrical company.

"One of my favorite things is that there's so much more to learn," he said. "I also like the aspect of helping people and how lineworkers are first responders. To be able to do all that as your career, while also making a good wage, that's the end goal."



The Lineworker Scholarship Program offers participants a mix of hands-on experience along with classroom instruction to prepare them for jobs across the industry. Above, Dariyn Choates receives his certificate of completion at a graduation ceremony held in March.

Photos courtesy of Sacramento Municipal Utility District