Members of the IBEW were front and center — some physically, others virtually — for President Joe Biden’s White House announcement March 4 of Siemens USA’s plan to invest $54 million to expand its manufacturing facilities, growth that promises to bring at least 300 new jobs to the company’s IBEW-represented workplaces in California and Texas.
“President Biden a year ago was talking about bringing jobs back to the United States,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson at the event, “good-paying manufacturing jobs, and more importantly he says, union jobs. That’s why we are here.”
Siemens makes components that support a variety of technologies, including electric vehicle chargers, computer circuit boards, and the file servers that fill data centers. The company’s planned expansion will send about $40 million to Pomona, Calif., to build a brand-new hub where Los Angeles Local 1710’s members will manufacture electric vehicle charging stations.
“Siemens is in a very logistical area near L.A. Harbor; it’s very convenient,” said Local 1710 Business Manager Amalia Arroyo. In addition to the company’s switchgear manufacturing facility where about 100 IBEW members work, along with a warehouse employing another 25 or so members, “Siemens owns a large piece of empty property next to their existing Pomona facility that’s available and ready to build on,” she said.
Another $10 million is earmarked for Siemens’s Grand Prairie, Texas, facility, where Fort Worth, Texas, Local 220members will see a 25,000-square-foot expansion of facilities to make low- and medium-voltage switches used in such places as health care facilities, data centers and industrial sites.
“We make a lot of stuff for the federal government, for data centers, and for Tesla. We get around,” said Local 220 Business Manager Joshua Worthey, whose local covers 51 counties in Texas and represents about 1,000 workers in a broad mix of disciplines, including outside linemen.
“We’ve had our ups and downs in recent years, but this is another sign that things are improving,” Worthey said.
Introducing Biden was Local 220 shop steward Johnny Le, who credited the IBEW Government Affairs Department with helping him find the right words to say during his remarks.
“When my parents fled communist Vietnam with nothing but the clothes on their backs and hope of a better life, they never envisioned one day their son would be introducing the president of the United States,” said Le, a nine-year IBEW member who also serves as an interpreter for the Asian community at Siemens. “My story and so many others of first-generation Americans would not be possible without the important pro-worker, pro-union policies that President Biden and his administration support.”
Being in the limelight like that was tough, Le said later, although Biden helped put him at ease, he said. “I didn’t know the details of the event or even my role until I got to DC. I thought it was just a chance to meet the president,” he said. “If it helps bring positive attention to the IBEW, it’s worth it.”
“When I got elected, I said I wanted to rebuild America,” said Biden, who virtually toured both Siemens plants before the event. “This is what I was talking about. I want to see a lot more stories like this one.”
Local 1710’s Kevin Wilson, a 26-year Siemens employee, spoke with Biden while leading the president on the virtual tour of the Pomona plant.
Stephenson, in his remarks at the White House event, called attention to the video screens on both sides of the stage, which showed a live feed of gathered Siemens workers in Grand Prairie and Pomona.
“They are the ones doing the heavy lifting, the work, day in and day out, producing for this country and making us a better country because of it,” he said.
Also speaking at the event were Siemens USA Chief Executive Officer Barbara Humpton and White House “Made in America” Office Director Celeste Drake.
Director of Manufacturing Brian A. Lamm said he is optimistic that this news also could help IBEW organizing efforts in other Siemens facilities around the U.S., especially those in heavily anti-union states.
“The IBEW has a great relationship with Siemens. I’m really excited about this,” Lamm said. “I think it’s great news for the IBEW, a big deal. These are jobs that will last for decades.”
Stephenson agreed. “The IBEW is proud to partner with Siemens to advance manufacturing careers in this industry,” he said. “These are union careers that won’t just rebuild our infrastructure, but our middle class as well. I’m excited by Siemens's announcement that it is investing in American manufacturing to make electrical equipment that will help strengthen our energy infrastructure while also putting us on the road to a clean energy future.”