In this March 2023 photo, steady progress was being made on Huntington, W. Va., Local 317’s new training building behind the local’s hall, helping to handle Local 317’s projected workload by training up to 500 apprentices per year.

IBEW locals across the U.S. are benefiting from the historic labor-friendly provisions in the Biden administration’s three major infrastructure and manufacturing laws, which incentivize contractors and developers to use union workers.

This includes Huntington, W. Va., Local 317, which is celebrating among its recent wins an agreement with its third traffic signal contractor, Cross Lanes-based Stealth Ltd.

And while Local 317 Business Manager Shane Wolfe attributes much of this accomplishment to the local’s decades-long reputation in the community for quality work and thorough training, “that [infrastructure] money helped us make this deal,” he said.

Fourth District International Vice President Gina Cooper applauded the agreement. “Every time our locals close a deal and win new work like this, it’s a win for the entire Brotherhood,” said Cooper, whose jurisdiction includes West Virginia. “Our leaders worked closely with the Biden administration to make sure strong labor standards were included in these three landmark bills. I’m proud of the business managers who aren’t letting these opportunities slip away.”

The infrastructure laws’ pro-union provisions also are helping the IBEW and other organizations overcome some state-based anti-labor roadblocks. For example, West Virginia’s Legislature in 2016 approved a so-called right-to-work measure that allows nonunion workers to enjoy the fruits of collective bargaining agreements without paying a cent toward maintaining those agreements. That same year, the Legislature also repealed the state’s prevailing wage mandates for public works projects.

Local 317 has continued to thrive in the face of these anti-union setbacks by touting the IBEW’s reputation for quality education and workmanship with contractors like Stealth.

Along with the other two traffic signal contractors represented by Local 317, Specialty Groups Inc. and Pritchard Signal and Lights, Stealth’s workers are being tapped by the state to handle signal construction and maintenance work all over West Virginia, where the mountainous terrain and weather extremes can be tough on the components of an outdoor traffic signal system. But a handful of nonunion contractors also get this work.

“Signing on Stealth helps us get more of that market share,” Wolfe said.

As infrastructure work — and traffic signal work in particular — takes off across the state, Stealth’s owners told Wolfe that they are looking to grow their 20-employee company. “We told them about our training center, with classrooms and hands-on training,” Wolfe said. “We have a signal apprenticeship here, specifically. We will teach them skills they’ll never forget.”

In addition to traffic signal workers, Local 317 represents members working in inside and outside construction, line clearance tree trimming, radio/television, telephone, and utility. The local’s jurisdiction covers 24 of West Virginia’s 55 counties, along with 15 counties in eastern Kentucky, 19 counties in southwestern Virginia, and two counties in southeastern Ohio.

Wolfe is also overseeing construction of the local’s new training building.

“We outgrew our footprint,” Wolfe said. “So we bought up some of the vacant residential lots behind the hall and got them rezoned” as neighborhood commercial.

Local 317’s existing office and training center campus have been a prominent part of its largely residential community for decades, he said, enjoying a friendly relationship with the neighbors as well as with the city’s leaders — including Steve Williams, Huntington’s mayor since 2013 who is running for governor with Local 317’s full support.

The expansion building is going in adjacent to the current facility to help handle Local 317’s projected workload — from other federally funded infrastructure projects, from work on such things as a new $3.1 billion steel plant being built near Point Pleasant, and from the ongoing growth and improvements at Marshall University — “one of our best friends,” Wolfe said.

The new center also is designed to handle the training of as many as 500 apprentices per year, a dramatic increase from the current 60 per year figure.

“It will be useful for all of our branches,” Wolfe said, helping to take away the local’s need to outsource some of its training.