Tulsa, Okla., Local 584 brothers and sisters, along with family members, after volunteering at a Union Sportsmen’s Alliance Event in March.


Like many local unions, Tulsa, Okla., Local 584 is filled with outdoors-loving members, and more than a dozen of them leapt at the opportunity to help the Union Sportsmen's Alliance build 120 artificial fish habitats at a highly publicized event.

Corrugated drainage hose was one of several materials Local 584 members used to build artificial fish habitats during the event.

Thirteen Local 584 members assisted in building the habitats in front of spectators at the Redcrest Outdoor Sports Expo in Tulsa on March 26. Artificial habitats are underwater structures put in lakes and reservoirs to improve the quality of life for fish species, replenishing the supply and keeping them attractive to anglers.

Local 584 worked in conjunction with the Oklahoma AFL-CIO and other unions on the project, which was organized by USA and Major League Fishing's Fisheries Management Division. Many of the habitats were later put into the state's Lake Bixhoma.

Major League Fishing, which has a partnership with USA, was holding a fishing tournament at nearby Grand Lake on the same weekend as the expo.

"Everyone enjoyed it," said Blake Langworthy, Local 584's assistant business manager and executive board chairman. "Everybody who walked by asked what we were doing and there was a lot of communication with the spectators. It was pretty cool."

Even with their love for the outdoors, it was an unusual assignment for the Local 584 members. Most are accustomed to performing work on a jobsite away from outside attention. Their love of fishing and hunting usually takes them to isolated spots in nature.

But on this day, they were watched by hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of attendees passing through the expo hall throughout the day.

"It was a bit awkward, especially with the [television] cameras right in front of us," Local 584 member and journeyman wireman Amber Allison said. "But when you focused on your task and had something to do, it was business as usual."

Members wore shirts showing they were from Local 584 — a welcome site in Oklahoma, a right-to-work state that has become increasingly controlled by far-right politicians hostile to organized labor.

"Everyone we talked to was positive," Langworthy said. "There was no negative talk at all."

Artificial fishing habitats are usually made of PVC tubing and last much longer than the natural fishing habitats they replace, which often are composed of old cedar trees beneath the surface. They expedite algae growth, which attracts more fish to an area, keeping the population healthy and attractive to fishermen and anglers.

Recently, the tubing has been shaped more like a V-shaped limb instead of a round tube to cut down on snagging and losing lures and flies. Local 584 members spent the day cutting and assembling the tubing.

"Much of the natural fish habitat once found in many of our reservoirs has been buried by siltation or slowly degraded over time as it decomposes," said Steve Bardin, fisheries biologist with MLF's Fisheries Management Division. "This habitat loss must be addressed if we plan to continue to support healthy fish populations."

Union Sportsmen's Alliance officials said 41 union members volunteered on the project and worked 530 hours. Milwaukee Tool donated tools and Ferguson and MossBack Fish Habitat donated materials.

This wasn't the first time Local 584 has worked with the Union Sportsmen's Alliance. In 2018, it combined with Tulsa Local 102, Oklahoma City Local 1141 and other trades unions throughout the state to renovate a historic pavilion and fishing pier at a park in Henryetta, Okla.

"Volunteering in the communities we serve is something we take seriously, and fishing is taken seriously by many Oklahomans," Local 584 Business Manager Dustin Phelan said. "Working with the Union Sportsmen's Alliance allows us to contribute to that rich outdoor heritage while also showcasing the importance of union membership. It's something we hope to do well into the future."

The Union Sportsmen's Alliance is a non-profit organization made up of union members who use their outdoor skills to advance conservation efforts and preserve North America's outdoor heritage. Volunteers improve and build facilities that allow more access to the outdoors on public lands. They work to expose school-age children to the outdoors that might not normally get that opportunity.

Membership in USA is free for IBEW members, and those interested can learn more at unionsportsmen.org.