The Electrical Worker online
March 2013

4,500-Member Independent Union Affiliates
with Los Angeles IBEW
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The Engineers and Architects Association has represented professional employees with the city of Los Angeles for more than 100 years.

Now EAA members — who do everything from working as forensic scientists with the Los Angeles Police Department to technicians at LAX airport — will have an even stronger voice in the workplace and at the bargaining table. On Jan. 17, the 4,500 members of the Engineers and Architects Association voted to affiliate with Los Angeles Local 11.

The EAA represents highly-skilled, educated professionals, including chemists, building engineers and accountants.

"We have workers in most of the city's agencies," says EAA Executive Director Gregory West. "We basically help make the city run."

Founded in 1893—only one year after Local 11—the EAA has been independent for most of its history, unaffiliated with any national union or the AFL-CIO.

But strapped municipal budgets and increasing pressures on public-sector unions made the benefits of affiliating with a larger union clear to EAA members — and their eyes immediately turned to the IBEW.

"It's time for us to have a strong affiliation with a group that can help us fight for our benefits, which are being cut down left and right," says EAA Board of Governors member Amelia Hernandez. "We have earned these benefits, but we can't defend them alone."

EAA members were attracted by Local 11's strong bargaining position with the city. The local represents workers in nearly every city department. They also wanted a union that valued professionalism and a commitment to excellence on the job and had high expectations from their representatives.

"Both of our organizations represent workers dealing with complex systems — jobs that demand the highest level of professionalism," says Local 11 Business Manager Marvin Kropke.

Melissa Popovic, president of the EAA Board of Governors agrees. "Even though it may seem that our two unions are radically different, it is the mutual demand for professionalism and high level of experience and education that makes this a great fit."

Local 11's strong grassroots political program and visibility with city and state leaders were also strong selling points. "Local 11 is known for its political clout," says West. "And you need that to make things happen for working people." Affiliation also connects EAA members with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the wider California labor movement.

"The theme of the campaign was 'stronger together' and now that we have completed the merger, we are," says Assistant Business Manager Dick Reed.

EAA leaders first indicated interest in the IBEW last year after a committee was formed to study potential unions with which to affiliate.

"Part of our commitment to our members was to find a suitable affiliate to join up with," says EAA Board of Governors member Larry Day. The IBEW's status in Los Angeles made it the committee's recommended choice.

Local 11 hosted more than 30 meetings with members across the city in the months leading up to the vote.

"Transparency and winning rank-and-file members' buy-in was our goal," says Local 11 Assistant Business Manager Kevin Norton. "We wanted their input so they would be leaders in the process."

While benefitting from the resources and staff of the IBEW, the EAA will still maintain its own structure as a unit of Local 11.

"This is an historic event for the L.A. labor movement and Local 11," says Kropke. "We're a dynamic, inclusive organization that delivers and we welcome our brothers and sisters of the EAA into the IBEW."


Professional employees with the city of Los Angeles are the newest members of Local 11 after the independent Engineers and Architects Association voted to join the IBEW in January.