If you’ve ever experienced a power outage – especially in the dead of winter or during a sweltering heatwave – and breathed a sigh of relief when the lights came back on, take a second this July 10 to thank a lineworker for making it happen.
The IBEW and the Edison Electric Institute, an association of investor-owned electric companies, have designated July 10 Lineworker Appreciation Day.
Over the last half-decade Lineworker Appreciation Day has been celebrated at different times and with different names including Lineman Appreciation Day. One of those dates was chosen by a nonunion utility executive to coincide with his father’s birthday, neither of whom were lineworkers.
In 2016, U.S. Reps. Linda Sánchez of California, David McKinley of West Virginia and Donald Norcross of New Jersey – who’s also a member of Folsom, N.J., Local 351 – introduced legislation to designate July 10 as National Journeyman Lineman Appreciation Day and included Miller’s story in the bill’s text.
“Highly skilled lineworkers are critical to ensuring that all Americans have access to safe and reliable electricity,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson in a statement. “On Lineworker Appreciation Day, we are pleased to honor these men and women and to voice our sincere appreciation for their commitment to their customers and their communities.”
July 10 was chosen in part to honor IBEW founding father Henry Miller. On that day in 1896, after organizing countless electricians across the country, Miller died when he fell from a pole while working in Washington, D.C.
“Henry Miller’s legacy lives on in the spirit of the union and every one of our brothers and sisters,” Stephenson said.
Lineworkers are on the front lines, delivering energy across the country, in every state, often working 24-hour shifts, quickly responding to power outages and other emergencies in all types of weather. It’s a physically demanding job requiring heavy lifting, climbing poles, trenching for the installation of underground cable and working in overhead buckets more than 50 feet off the ground.
“Every day our nation’s lineworkers install and implement the many innovative technologies that are improving grid reliability and resiliency to better serve our customers,” said EEI President Tom Kuhn. “Their dedication and skill in the face of complex challenges should be applauded.”
The 2016 congressional legislation followed the lead of two Golden State locals. In 2014, July 10 was designated Lineman Appreciation Day in California, thanks in large part to the efforts of Diamond Bar Local 47 and Vacaville Local 1245.
“If there is to be a national day honoring linemen, IBEW Local 1245 believes that union linemen should ‘own’ this date, just as union linemen have ‘owned’ the work since the days of Henry Miller,” reads a post on the local’s website. “Rather than picking some arbitrary date, we believe the appropriate day to honor linemen is the date in 1896 that Henry Miller himself made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Join the conversation online this July 10 by using #ThankALineworker on social media.