June 2011

New Software Programs Designed to
Build Union Power
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If modern technology can trace the paths of satellites and space stations millions of miles away, when will tools be available to track new construction projects in the planning stages to get members back to work? And when will IBEW leaders and activists have real-time information on our organizing efforts across the union's branches?

The answer: Now.

Two exciting new software programs, the Project Tracker, designed for the Construction and Maintenance Department, and the Organizer Accountability and Reporting System, developed for the Membership Development Department, will soon be available to all construction local unions and, later, to all professional and industrial organizers.

Business development and organizing are two sides of the same coin, says International President Edwin D. Hill. Encouraging delegates to attend the workshops on the systems at the Construction and Maintenance Conference in Washington, D.C., Hill told delegates: "Take my advice—go to the workshops—because there will be a test. It's called your daily life. There is no good reason to fail to utilize these tools we are putting in your hands."

Project Tracker

The most critical time for electrical construction locals and contractors to aggressively pursue new work is when projects are still on the drawing board—in the design and planning phase.

Project Tracker's data on upcoming projects is drawn from reporting systems at McGraw-Hill and Industrial Info Resources. McGraw-Hill reports on all projects with a minimum dollar value of $100,000, IIR on projects at a minimum of $1,000,000. The program lists contact information for general contractors and owners.

While some locals have subscribed to those services in the past, the International will now provide them free of charge to all locals.

Project Tracker empowers construction organizers to gain an edge by providing them with the information they need to visit customers and sell themselves. "It lets us put a face on the local union and ask customers what we can do for them and build new relationships," says Construction and Maintenance Department International Representative Jim Ayrer.

Collecting data on which projects were pursued by locals and signatory contractors and what strategies went right and wrong, says Ayrer, will go a long way to improving the union's market share and job prospects for unemployed electricians. "Putting members back to work will be the payback for our financial and time investment in the system."


At the IBEW's International Convention in Cleveland five years ago, delegates voted to support enhanced organizing efforts. With the Organizing Accountability Reporting System, all levels of the union can assess progress daily on all aspects of organizing and learn from each other's successes and failures.

That's a big boost, especially to regional campaigns, or even national ones, like the IBEW's push to organize Sears repair technicians.

"We can see when representation elections are being held, what tactics are succeeding from Alaska to Maryland and share information on union busters, NLRB charges or even order additional research information," says Director of Professional and Industrial Organizing Gina Cooper. "Even if a campaign is lost, the data will allow us to come back stronger and more prepared a year later."

OARS will help increase IBEW's success by identifying problems and help organizers "tweak and make adjustments in their methods and approach," says Kirk Groenendaal, Special Assistant to the President for Membership Development.

"All leaders took an oath to grow this organization," Groenendaal says. "We'll never be 100 percent successful." But, he says, "There is absolutely no excuse for not making the effort to establish volunteer organizing committees and build our strength in new niches of our jurisdictions and markets."

A modern trade unionist, says Hill, needs the most modern tools to succeed. "The world is moving too fast. Our targets are harder to hit and competition is fiercer than ever."

New information tools Project Tracker and OARS will boost local unions' efforts to organize and build market share.

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user boellstiftung.