For years, Local 2330 was in a slump. Membership was declining at the local in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, and there was little active organizing. But with a few changes, it's on a new path — and already adding signatory contractors and members.
"It's been a breath of fresh air," said First District International Representative Cordell Cole.
"And we expect to see a lot more success over the next couple of years."
Newfoundland and Labrador is a province rich in resources, providing work in power generation, mining, oil and gas, and green fuel products. Megaprojects like the Churchill Falls hydroelectric plant gave thousands of IBEW members work for years.
But those days came to an end, and many members left for jobs in other provinces. Local 2330 needed a new strategy.
"We were at a point where if we didn't turn it around, we wouldn't have anything left," Business Manager James Martin said.
Local leaders sat down with First District International Vice President Russ Shewchuk and others to hash out an organizing plan. It included connecting with current members, recruiting new members and more signatory contractors, and — perhaps most importantly — hiring an organizer.
"You've got to have somebody dedicated to doing the work," Martin said. "Before, it was just me calling members."
He hired 15-year member Ryan Morgan in February. A past foreman and shop steward, Morgan hit the ground running.
"Ryan is the perfect fit for the job," Cole said. "He works hard every day, and he really cares about the union."
With the help of Martin, Cole and District Organizing Coordinator Brad Wood, Morgan began checking in with members. Some were working as contractors, so the local offered voluntary recognition agreements as a way to bring them in as signatories.
It worked. They signed Upper Limit Industrial, owned by a Local 2330 member, and secured two other contractors. "We've barely got our toes in the water, and already we have three new contractors," Cole said. "That's pretty impressive."
Local 2330 had attempted to organize one of them, Ontario-based Pivot Systems, in 2014. This time, things were different.
Notably, Pivot had reached out to Local 2330 seeking workers for a job at a brewery. The local agreed to send some of its members and then had them sign cards. Pivot honored them and signed on.
Morgan's calls to members were fruitful in another way, even if disheartening at first. He discovered that some Local 2330 members were working nonunion in other provinces. He and Martin notified the locals with jurisdiction, and together they salted the jobsites with IBEW members. So far, they've certified two new signatory contractors in two provinces.
Local 2330 is also marketing itself — meeting with community colleges, using social media, and creating brochures and flyers with QR codes that lead prospective members to the local's website.
The local, about 1,200 strong, is adding about 20 members a month, already hitting its goal of 4% growth. "We're on the road to building our local back," Morgan said. "Our books are open. We're not making it hard to join."
They're not done rolling out new strategies. Cordell said plans are in the works for industry nights, casual opportunities for journeymen, apprentices and signatory contractors to mingle.
Every Friday, Martin delivers a business manager's report to the membership that includes an update on organizing. He and the local's other leaders also have an open-door policy at the office.
"It helps with transparency," Martin said. "And it gets the members involved."
He, Cole and Martin said their success has been a team effort, from the executive board to the office staff and members.
"You can't do it without everyone being on board," Martin said. "Once you start working, everything comes together."
Shewchuck, who has made organizing his highest priority, applauded the local's turnaround.
"I am so proud of our team at Local 2330," he said. "They've put in a lot of hard work, and their plan is bringing in real results. It's good to see them on the right path."