The Electrical Worker online
January 2016

index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to

Robert W. Pierson

After 10 years as the International Executive Committee chairman, Robert W. Pierson stepped down from the position effective Dec. 31 and retired from the IBEW on Jan. 8, capping a 50-year career.

Pierson chose Jan. 8 because it is the day he and wife Shirley celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. He also has served as Chicago Local 9 business manager since 1997.

"You won't find a more faithful servant to the IBEW than Bob Pierson," International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said. "We will miss his wise counsel, but he's earned a long, happy retirement. All of us at the IBEW consider him a friend."

Sixth District International Vice President David Ruhmkorff said Pierson was a successful leader because he combined a no-nonsense style with an ongoing understanding of his constituents' needs.

"Not only is he passionate about the labor movement, but he's passionate about people and he truly cares," Ruhmkorff said. "He can articulate his point. His word is his bond. He's a good guy. When he tells you he's going to do something, it's going to get done. His membership respects him."

Pierson was initiated into Local 9 in 1966. He has served as IEC chairman since his appointment by then-President Edwin D. Hill in 2005. He was re-elected at the 2006 and '11 conventions.

The nine-member executive council meets four times per year. It is the final authority on the granting of pensions, vested rights and disability payments.

"I've had an extremely wonderful life," Pierson said. "I owe a lot to the IBEW. Fifty years ago, I never thought I would be where I am today."

Pierson, a longtime influential leader on the Chicago labor scene, lists his proudest accomplishments as organizing 1,100 cable television workers in and around the city in the 1980s and leaving Local 9 in strong financial shape with a good staff for his successor as business manager, Bill Niesman.

"There is no one thing that convinced me to retire," he said. "I think everyone knows in their heart when it's their time. I don't think there's much left for me to accomplish with my own local or the International. I've had a good run."

Ruhmkorff said Pierson's position as IEC chairman was a point of pride for the Sixth District, which includes Local 9.

"Bob's mere presence gave us some notoriety," he said. "It let everyone know that we are a district that takes care of business and champions the cause of the working men and women we represent. Bob never let a meeting go by where he didn't echo those things and encourage people to remember that. His messages usually were short, concise and very much on point."

Pierson and his wife plan to continue living in the Chicago area so they can stay close to their nine grandchildren. All three of his sons — Gary, Chad and Todd — are Local 9 members. Daughter Wendy owns an insurance agency.

The IBEW officers, staff and membership wish Brother Pierson a long, happy and healthy retirement.


Robert W. Pierson

Christopher Erikson

IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson appointed New York Local 3 Business Manager Christopher Erikson chairman of the International Executive Council, effective Jan. 1. The appointment was confirmed by the IEC.

Erikson succeeds Chicago Local 9 Business Manager Robert W. Pierson, who had served as chairman since 2005. He will remain the Local 3 business manager in addition to his new duties.

"When Bob decided to retire, I wanted to fill the position with a strong leader from one of our strongest locals," Stephenson said. "Chris has provided impeccable leadership while guiding Local 3 through the economic crisis and it continues to be a force in New York construction."

The nine-member executive council meets four times per year and is the final authority on the granting of pensions, vested rights and disability payments.

Erikson is the grandson of the legendary Harry Van Arsdale Jr., who served as Local 3 business manager from 1933-68. Van Arsdale also was the first president of the New York City Labor Council and was one of the most influential people in New York politics until his death in 1986.

Erikson began his Local 3 apprenticeship in 1975. He was appointed a business representative in 1989 before being named assistant business manager in 2000. He succeeded Thomas Van Arsdale, his uncle, as business manager in 2006.

"His commitment to our ideals is unwavering," Stephenson said. "He literally has been around the trade union movement since birth."

Erikson said he didn't hesitate when Stephenson offered him the position.

"The trade union movement is being challenged all over the country," he said. "People look to the IBEW to lead. There's no doubt about that. Our members need to remember our strength is in our solidarity."

Like his predecessors, Erikson is a leader on the New York labor scene. He serves on the executive boards of the New York City Building and Construction Trades Council and New York City Central Labor Council. He is a member of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Electrical Workers Minority Caucus and NAACP. The EWMC awarded him a lifetime achievement award in 2011.

He was the grand marshal of the New York City Labor Day Parade in 2014, telling the Queens Tribune at the time that "Our mantra has always been to help the less fortunate. We will continue the hard work."

Erikson, 60, and his wife, Denise, have four sons: Christopher Jr., Robert, Nicholas and Thomas. Christopher Jr., is a Local 3 business representative and Robert is a Local 3 member.

"I look forward to working closely with President Stephenson and providing whatever counsel I can give him," he said.

The IBEW officers, staff and membership wish Brother Erikson much success in his new position.


Christopher Erikson

Robert W. Dunleavy

The IBEW regrets to report that Robert W. Dunleavy, former executive assistant to the international president, died on Nov. 13. He was 79.

Born in Rockaway Beach, New York, Brother Dunleavy was initiated into Long Island Local 25 in 1957. He served his local in many roles, including as vice president, assistant business manager, business representative, recording secretary and as chairman of the executive board.

"We always talked about unions," said Brother Dunleavy's son, Pittsburgh Local 5 Business Manager Mike Dunleavy. "It was all I ever wanted, to join the union, but dad made sure I went to college first." Dunleavy and his brother Ronald, an instructor for Local 5, are third generation IBEW members.

In 1969, Dunleavy was appointed Third District international representative. In this role, he assisted then-International Vice Presidents Andy Johnson, J.J. Barry and Raymond Duke. He helped organize members in the construction, utility and television industries.

Dunleavy would go on to serve two international presidents. In 1979, then-International President Charles H. Pillard assigned him to the International Office as one of his assistants. Then in 1987, newly elected International President J.J. Barry appointed him executive assistant.

Brother Dunleavy's commitment to the labor movement extended to his membership on the Greater Pittsburgh Labor-Management Advisory Council. He also served as regional coordinator for the AFL-CIO Tele-Video Conference and as a member of the Ohio State University Committee on Experiential Education. Additionally, he addressed organizations including the National Governor's Association, Tri-State Educational Conference, U.S. Army War College and various IBEW and NECA workshops and conferences.

Dunleavy also served as secretary for both the Council on Industrial Relations and the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee. With the NJATC, he was a major force behind the inauguration of the National Training Institute.

As the principal liaison with NECA, Dunleavy was instrumental in launching "The Quality Connection," a joint effort to market the quality electrical work done by IBEW members.

In his spare time, he enjoyed camping, golf and football — especially the Pittsburgh Steelers — creative writing and spending time with his family. He also coached and served as a member of the Massapequa Mustang Midget Football program.

Brother Dunleavy is survived by his wife of 59 years, Elizabeth, daughters Coleen Clawges and Maureen Heavner, sons Michael and Ronald, and his brother Richard, a Local 25 member. He also leaves 13 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

On behalf of the entire IBEW membership and staff, the officers send our deepest condolences to Brother Dunleavy's family.


Robert W. Dunleavy

James D. Denton

Tenth District International Representative James D. Denton retired in September after more than 42 years of service to the IBEW.

Born and raised in Little Rock, Ark., Brother Denton went to work in July of 1973 at the age of 18. Following in his lineman father's footsteps, Denton was initiated into Little Rock Local 295 a year later and spent the next 14 years as a journeyman wireman working on everything from hospital projects to nuclear plants.

In the 1980s, Denton ran a major nerve-gas demilitarization project at the U.S. Army's Pine Bluff Arsenal just south of Little Rock, where he led 150 electricians in building incinerators to burn toxic gas after the United States signed a chemical weapons treaty with Russia.

It was during that time that Brother Denton first sought and won elected office within Local 295, a streak he would keep up for more than 17 years.

"I started at the bottom as a building trustee," he said, but he rose quickly, becoming recording secretary and treasurer within months. In 1989, Denton was appointed assistant business manager, and became business manager two years later. He served nearly seven years in that job until he was appointed international representative by then-International President J.J. Barry in 1998.

While serving as business manager, Brother Denton served a five-year term on the Council on Industrial Relations, as a member of the executive board of the Arkansas AFL-CIO, and as vice president of the Central Arkansas Building and Construction Trades Council.

It was also during his time as business manager that Denton achieved what he called the highlight of his career. After an eight-year campaign, he successfully lobbied for the passage of Arkansas' first mandatory electrical licensing act, which required a license as a journeyman or master electrician or registration as an apprentice to perform certain work in the state.

"Nonunion contractors fought us every step of the way," Denton said, noting that the measure finally passed on the third or fourth legislative attempt in 1997, completing the project he'd started as assistant business manager.

For the last 17 years as international representative, Denton serviced locals in Arkansas and western Tennessee covering members in every branch of the IBEW except telecommunications.

"Jim was the service representative for my local when I was president," said Tenth District Vice President Brent E. Hall, who later served alongside Denton on district staff for 14 years. "He was always one of the guys you could bounce ideas off of. He was so thorough and detail-oriented. But he was more than just a co-worker. Jim was a good friend, and we'll miss him."

For his part, Brother Denton is enjoying retirement, and thankful for the opportunities the union provided him. "Life would have been tremendously different without the IBEW," he said. "My father made a good living as a lineman, and I never forgot that everything I've ever had was bought with IBEW wages."

He and his wife, Gwen, plan to spend their newfound free time "getting off the pavement" and traveling to national parks. Denton is also looking forward to spending more time hunting, fishing and pursuing his passion for restoring old Jeeps. "I'm down to three," he said, laughing.

The IBEW officers, staff, and membership wish Brother Denton a long, happy and healthy retirement.


James D. Denton

Debra Harget

After 44 years of service with the IBEW, Eighth District International Representative Debra Harget retired effective Oct. 5.

"It was a wonderful ride," Harget said. "It really changed my life."

Born in Denver, Colo., Sister Harget was initiated in 1971 when she began work at Western Electric. She was a technical component-level troubleshooter and member of Northglenn, Colo., Local 2300, which later amalgamated with Denver Local 68. She also has an applied science degree from Front Range Community College.

"It never crossed my mind, not being union," she said. But it wasn't until later in her career that she got involved in leadership. For that, Harget credits a former business manager.

"He gave us an education on unions, the IBEW, but also the labor movement. It sparked a commitment in me that until then had been lying dormant."

Harget said there was a vacancy and her business manager approached her about filling the spot. From there, she would go on to serve in multiple leadership positions and even be part of a team that filed a class action lawsuit against their employer, Lucent-Avaya, resulting in a $500 million settlement.

"A lot of it happened because of NAFTA," she said, referencing the 1993 trade agreement among the U.S., Canada and Mexico. "It was a two-year fight, but we won. I'm very proud of what we accomplished."

When she became a business manager herself, she continued that education. "I made sure it wasn't forgotten," Harget said.

Sister Harget served as business manager and president of Local 2300 from 2000 to 2002. Prior to that, she served as vice president from 1997 to 2000, and executive board chair from 1992 to 1997. She also served as recording secretary and treasurer on the System Council EM-1 and on her local's grievance committee. In 2002, she was appointed international representative for the Eighth District.

Those roles served her well. In 2009, then-President Hill offered her a job in the Education Department. Harget conducted trainings on leadership and organizational development, as well as trainings for stewards, business managers and organizers. She also developed classes and presented at conferences.

"She was a really critical part of our team," said Education Department Director Amanda Pacheco. "Coming out of a local and from an elected position was definitely a strength. She brings a lot of history and institutional knowledge. And she was a lot of fun to work with."

In the Education Department, Harget served parts of North and South Dakota, western Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

"It was my dream job and I got paid to do it," Harget said. "I loved sharing my experiences and teaching people."

While she misses her co-workers and her work, Harget said she is happy to make way for the next generation of leaders.

"If I didn't hand over the baton and allow them to continue the work, then I'd feel selfish," she said.

Sister Harget plans to stay active, taking advantage of Colorado's outdoor activities like fishing, camping and hiking with her husband, Carl. She also plans to travel.

"I'm enjoying this new adventure of doing anything I want," Harget said. "And I wouldn't have it if it wasn't for my union."


Debra Harget