The Electrical Worker online
May 2024

IBEW Streamlines Path to Journey Ticket for Nonunion Linemen
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Becoming a member of the IBEW just got faster, more transparent and easier for nonunion outside linemen.

Under a new plan, all newly organized linemen with at least 5,000 hours of work experience but not enough to become a journeyman outright will become members on Day One and be given a new classification: construction linemen.

They will be put to work, their skills will be assessed, and they will be given a custom path to a journeyman's ticket, a path they will need to complete in their home jurisdiction.

It will apply across the U.S. and replaces the hodgepodge of local and district policies that could make organizing harder.

"The growth in this sector is basically vertical. If we don't modernize our organizing processes, we will lose ground," said Director of Outside Construction Tiler Eaton. "Creating a classification for all non-journeyman linemen organized into the IBEW and a plan to bring them to our standard is critical to raising wages and increasing our market share."

The hall can assign work to newly minted construction linemen as soon as they join the IBEW and their skills are assessed by existing members. They will continue to work in their home local exclusively until they complete the program unless work dries up. Then the construction linemen can travel to other jurisdictions, but only with the hall's approval and then only to specific open calls. If they go, their training plan goes with them, so the new local knows what they still need to learn.

"You have two years of experience? Great, we send you out and make a blueprint to get you the journeyman card. And if I have no work for you, I can call another local and we can send the plan and the local can execute the plan," Eaton said.

It is absolutely necessary to increase market share and staff for the future, he said.

"Now, when we bring in a lineman, we get them to sign a membership card day one, assign them as a construction linemen while journeymen assess their skills on the job, and then we make an individual training plan to bring them to journey status," Eaton continued.

The days of every district and sometimes even every local having a jerry-built workaround for putting nonunion linemen to work are over, said International President Kenneth W. Cooper.

"Most locals have a classification that isn't journeyman or apprentice. This puts an end to the confusion," Cooper said. "Form one local to the next, it was a time suck to figure out what a journeyman tech was or how a substation lineman was different from a transmission lineman."

The new program also puts an end to "white ticketing," where a lineman works under an IBEW contract but isn't a full member, a limbo status that could go on for months or even years.

"Not only is there no such thing as a white ticket in our Constitution, but it left the new brothers and sisters as second-class members denied the full benefits of membership — including some forms of insurance — and denied the IBEW of their full loyalty and their dues," Cooper said.

Cooper signed the agreement with National Electrical Contractors Association President David Long and has directed every outside local to include it in their standard contract language as soon as possible.

Under the new program, whenever a nonunion lineman comes into the hall, unless they are clearly qualified for a journey ticket, they will go out to work with an IBEW journeyman as either a step one or step two construction lineman, depending on their experience.

After a 90-day, 500-hour evaluation period, the construction lineman will meet with the JATC and draw up a personal training plan, their path to a journeyman ticket, with the specific classes, training modules, hours and experience they need.

Vacaville, Calif., Local 1245 Business Manager Bob Dean, who oversees one of the largest outside units in the country, welcomes the program.

"It is absolutely necessary to increase market share and staff for the future," he said. "This will pull linemen in."

The details of the new program were written by the Outside Taskforce made up of representatives from outside locals in all 10 U.S. districts.

The taskforce met three times between November 2022 and April 2023 after it was reconvened by International President Lonnie Stephenson.

"This has been talked about for years. Now we actually have a blueprint for locals that will make organizing easier, manning jobs will be easier for our contractors, and getting journeyman status will be easier and fairer for new," Eaton said.


The IBEW created the construction linemen classification to organize new members, put them to work and set them on the path to a journeyman ticket.