On hand for the presentation of National LAMPAC’s 2020 Hill Award were, from left, EEI President Tom Kuhn, FirstEnergy Corp. Senior Vice President Mike Dowling, Toledo, Ohio, Local 245 Business Manager Larry Tscherne, Toledo Local 1413 Business Manager Brad Goetz,
      Fourth District International Representative Steve Crum, International President Lonnie R. Stephenson and American Electric Power CEO Nick Akins.

Two IBEW locals in northern Ohio were honored in March for their work in helping to preserve nearly 4,300 nuclear energy jobs in the state.

“Thanks to the efforts of our members across Ohio, nuclear power in the Buckeye State will continue to provide steady, dependable employment for hundreds of our brothers and sisters, not to mention carbon-free electricity for millions of Ohioans,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson.

In a March 2 ceremony in Washington, Stephenson and Edison Electric Institute President Thomas R. Kuhn presented the IBEW’s Fourth District — and Toledo Locals 245 and 1413 in particular — with the National Labor Management Public Affairs Committee Edwin D. Hill Award, which recognizes union and industry leaders who advance energy issues at various levels of government.

EEI represents investor-owned electric companies in the U.S. and more than 90 other countries, and the Hill Award is named for the former IBEW international president who died in 2018. National LAMPAC is a collaboration between the IBEW and EEI that focuses on making it easier for the two parties to address challenges within the energy industry together.

Last year, union activists across Ohio turned out in force to drum up support for House Bill 6, the Ohio Clean Energy Act, a measure to maintain operations at the state’s only two nuclear power stations: the Davis-Besse plant outside Toledo, and its sibling facility, Perry, near Cleveland. Combined, the two plants employ hundreds of IBEW members and were owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, which also was lauded by National LAMPAC for its collaboration with the union’s members to gain legislative backing for the bill. (FirstEnergy became Energy Harbor in February.)

The nuclear plants had struggled financially in the face of falling natural gas prices and other factors that put baseload power generation in Ohio at a marked disadvantage, and FES had said it needed H.B. 6 to prevent the shutdown of both stations.

Local 245 members perform in-plant work and Local 1413 represents security workers at Davis-Besse, which opened in 1977 as Ohio’s first nuclear power station. Toledo Local 8 also provides construction and maintenance workers there, while members of Painesville, Ohio, Local 673 have similar jobs at the decade-younger Perry plant.

“So many of our members, and the communities they live in, depend on these facilities for their survival,” Stephenson said. The district and the locals helped customers and legislators see through the rhetoric against H.B. 6, he said.

“Local 245 Business Manager Larry Tscherne and Local 1413 Business Manager Brad Goetz never gave up. They kept it on the radar, which in turn kept me and other people focused on the issue,” said Fourth District International Vice President Brian Malloy. “All our local unions definitely stepped up and lobbied their reps. The members never let up.”

It was a process, Tscherne said. “Vice President Malloy made so many trips between [his office in] Maryland and Columbus,” he said. “It took a full-court press, and it was really great to see it happen.”

Together, Goetz and Tscherne led the effort to get representatives from both parties to sign on to the bill. “For Larry and me, we probably spent six years on this bill,” Goetz said, a measure that had to be reintroduced every two years after elections brought in a new Ohio Legislature.

Hundreds of Ohio’s union activists attended hearings and called on officials to bolster support for the bill, and Goetz and Tscherne gave the state’s legislators personal plant tours.

“It’s easy to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a bill,” Goetz said. “But once you put a name or a face to what you’re voting on, you might think twice about it.”

Their efforts paid off: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill into law last June, and it took effect in October.

“Before H.B. 6, I talked to candidate DeWine about his vision of nuclear energy in Ohio,” Tscherne said. “He told me that a bill has to reduce customers’ electric bills, continue to address renewables, and preserve nuclear in the state.”

H.B. 6 does all of that, Stephenson said. “Positive change can happen when we collaborate with our industry partners on behalf of our customers,” he said.

You can read more about the bill and the battles to preserve Ohio’s nuclear power plant jobs in the June 2018 Electrical Worker.

Honored during the same event in March were Rep. Mike Doyle, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, for their combined efforts to help make nuclear plant licensing more efficient and to help provide some stability for future nuclear power plant investments.

In recognition of their efforts, the representatives were presented with an award named for Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, who died last year. Stephenson noted that the congressman had been a true champion of labor-management collaboration. The congressman’s widow, Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan, presented the award.