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St. Louis Utility Locals Aid Unemployed Electricians

December 02, 2009

Staying true to the union’s deep roots in rendering financial assistance to electricians and their families in times of trouble, two utility locals in St. Louis have collected thousands of dollars to help unemployed electricians in Local 1 get through hard times.

Right: St. Louis Local 1439 overhead repairman Mike Brown solicits donations for unemployed members of Local 1 from co-worker Roberto Fiesta at the Dorsett headquarters of Ameren.

Local 1439 Business Manager Michael Walter put the word out at local union meetings and in The 1439 Times that a relief fund had been established. Utility workers, he says, don’t suffer layoffs like Local 1’s construction electricians, 800 of whom are on the available for work list.  Walter adds:

We’re very fortunate and can afford to contribute $10 a month for their members. Some of them are already having mortgage and utility bill problems.

More than $8,000 has been donated by Local 1439.  The local has also conducted numerous deliveries of non-perishable food items, all voluntary donations.  An “Adopt a Family” program has also been established to lift the spirits of the neediest families during the holiday season.

Local 1 Business Manager and Fifth District IEC member Steve Schoemehl, compliments Local 1439, which represents workers at Ameren and sister local 1455, representing clerical workers at the utility.  Business Manager Mike Datillo and Local 1455 authorized $3,000 in donations from its general fund.  “It’s an unbelievable show of union solidarity and what the Brotherhood is about,” says, Schoemehl.

Even though Locals 1439 and 1455 are represented by the Eleventh District, Schoemehl chose to recognize their solidarity at this year’s Sixth District progress meeting. Says Schoemehl:

Any Local 1 member laid off now will probably be out of work for a year, maybe longer.  We know their donations can’t go on forever. But it’s a great feeling to hold up a manila envelope from our sister locals with thousands of dollars in contributions at a union meeting. 

Walter, whose local hall will soon host an IBEW video crew covering the union’s diversity education program, sees the grassroots monetary collections for members of Local 1 as part of recognizing the diversity of the union across all branches and jurisdictions.  And he sees returns coming back to Local 1439. Says Walter:

Until now, many Local 1 members didn’t know who Local 1439 was.  If we ever go on strike or need their support, I know that our solidarity will be returned.