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January 2017

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New IBEW Newsletter Highlights
Code of Excellence Values

The Code of Excellence is the backbone of everything the IBEW does. That importance is underscored with the launch of a new quarterly newsletter.

The IBEW SPARQ newsletter highlights one of the Code's five values in each issue. They are Safety, Professionalism, Accountability, Relationships, and Quality.

The goal of the newsletter is to keep the Code of Excellence's values at the forefront of everything IBEW members and officers do on the job. Each edition will have the same format, including a cover story that highlights the importance of the Code's values, a section devoted to each branch of the IBEW, and a section that allows local unions to share their own Code of Excellence success stories.

Safety is the topic of the first issue, which is available at Look for the COE tab at the top of the homepage.

The Code of Excellence was introduced in 2008 in construction and other branches have implemented it since then. Every day, IBEW members demonstrate their commitment to excellence by showing up for work on time, respecting employer and customer rules, demonstrating zero tolerance for drug and alcohol abuse and exercising proper safety practices.

The Code backs up the idea that IBEW members are the best-trained and most skilled in the country. Its values make the IBEW the best choice for any job.

Delegates to the 39th International Convention last September passed a resolution calling for a renewed commitment to the Code of Excellence and for local unions to implement it with updated training materials. This newsletter is part of that initiative.

"With SPARQ, we not only compete with our skills, we compete with our character," International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said. "Choosing the IBEW is choosing to invest in the highest quality craftmanship, and that is what SPARQ represents."

Lobbying 101: How to Be an Agent for Change

A group of young IBEW members from New York held their first "lobby day" in Albany, meeting with their elected representatives and getting the chance to sway them on a current piece of legislation.

"I think they learned that their voices are powerful, and can make a difference. Change will happen if you want to make it happen, but you need to do the work," said Third District International Representative Ellen Redmond.

The group included 21 members from 10 local unions. They discussed a bill that proposed mandating infrastructure projects in New York use American-made materials in the construction process.

The members met with Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and New York State Senate labor committee chair Marisol Alcantara and others about the Buy American bill. State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento addressed the group about the importance of lobbying and being politically active in the labor movement.

"The younger members were able to see how difficult the process of creating and passing a bill is. They saw the efforts that our senators and representatives put forth in hopes of passing the bill," said Timothy Daley, Syracuse, N.Y., Local 1249 organizer, who is also an elected official as a trustee of the Village of Homer.

The bill passed the Senate and Assembly on June 20, less than a month after the group's lobby day, which made the day memorable, said Third District Youth Caucus co-chair Chris Erikson Jr. "Members got to see that effective lobbying can make a change."

RENEW/NextGen seeks to involve the IBEW's younger members and invest them in the future of the union. Members involved represented the following New York locals:

  • New York Local 3
  • Johnson City Local 10
  • Long Island Local 25
  • Syracuse Local 97
  • Albany Local 236
  • Niagara Falls Local 237
  • New City Local 363
  • Monroe Local 503
  • Long Island Local 1049
  • Syracuse Local 1249


RENEW/NextGen members from 10 New York locals meet with their elected representatives in Albany.

Hunter? Angler? Catch Brotherhood Outdoors Season 9

As the Union Sportsmen's Alliance celebrated a decade of connecting union members through conservation, its Brotherhood Outdoors TV series kicked off its ninth season with a new look when it returned to the Sportsman Channel over the summer.

Each episode follows union members as they share their personal histories and experiences before heading out on memory-making hunts and fishing excursions across the country. The new format is thanks to new producer Rusted Rooster, which also produces TV shows "Rival Wild" and "Dropped" for The Sportsman Channel and The Outdoor Channel.

Episode 3 of Brotherhood Outdoors featured Milwaukee Local 2150 member Scott Kirchoff, who headed off to Killbuck, Ohio, on a quest for whitetail deer. The episode, which originally aired on July 11, will be re-broadcast at 11 a.m. (Eastern) on Nov. 12.

You can also catch new shows, including two featuring IBEW members, this fall. Gainesville, Fla., Local 1205 member Shawn Graves will travel far north to Saskatchewan, Canada, to hunt bear and squeeze in some fishing action too. That show airs at 11 a.m. Oct. 8.

And watch Jonesboro, Ark., Local 1516 member Shawn Phares head to Florida to fish for tarpon and other saltwater species, at 11 a.m. on Oct. 22.

Active and retired union members can apply to be on the show by submitting the online application at

For a complete listing of upcoming episodes, visit

To view episodes from past seasons, visit

In the Upper Peninsula,
IBEW Local Leads the Way in Helping Others

About 310,000 people live in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, spread out over more than 16,000 square miles — making it geographically larger than nine states.

Outside of driving for several hours through three other states, one could reach the rest of Michigan only by air or ferry until 1957, when the five-mile Mackinac Bridge was opened.

Longtime residents say that fostered a spirit of looking out for each other. Upper Peninsula Local 906 Business Manager Tom Hogan saw it firsthand while growing up. It was reinforced during his apprenticeship in the early 1970s with Marquette, Mich., Local 1070.

"I was raised that way," he said. "When I was an apprentice, I was taught that. You give back to the community."

Local 1070 and two other local unions merged in 2016 to form 906. The spirit of volunteerism lives on in Hogan and the rest of his 350 members.

Apprentices perform regular maintenance work on a local women's shelter. Members constructed a covered pavilion at Michigan Tech's football stadium so disabled fans could see games sheltered from the weather. They maintain a playground for children on Marquette's public beach.

"It's being part of the Brotherhood and helping each other out," said Local 906 organizer Kurtis Monroe.

For the last 30 years, Local 906 members and their predecessors have volunteered to maintain the facilities at Bay Cliff Health Camp. It has hosted a summer camp for children since 1934.

"Whenever we have a facility issue, Tom addresses the electrical for us," said camp director Tim Bennett.

Hogan makes it clear to apprentices and members they are expected to take part in community service. He was Local 1070's business manager from 1986-2000, serving in a variety of leadership positions after that, including president, before returning to serve as business manager in 2013, overseeing the merger.

"Many years ago, the IBEW was known as the union of hearts and minds," Hogan said. "We took that and have hung onto that motto, if you will."

Former Local 1070 Business Manager Tony Retaskie, who is now head of the Upper Peninsula Construction Council, agreed that the tradition of IBEW members volunteering in the area runs deep

Monroe is a member of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., the tribe's ancestral home and a three-hour drive from Marquette. Hogan notes with pride Monroe made that drive many Saturdays to help with projects at Bay Cliff.

Along the way, Hogan and others have built a wealth of friendship and gratitude that symbolizes the best of the Upper Peninsula.


Local 906 Business Manager Tom Hogan, right, works with a high‑school student. 

Pope Francis:
'There is No Good Society Without Good Unions'

Speaking to representatives from Italian organized labor, Pope Francis blessed the work of labor unions.

Pope Francis compared the work of unions to the biblical prophets and called on them to expand their "essential function" to all people.

"There is no good society without a good union," he said in his June 28 address to a coalition of labor unions similar to the AFL-CIO.

The pope criticized capitalism for losing sight of "the social nature of the economy." People need meaningful work, the pope said, to become fully human, but they also need rest. Denial of both opportunity and leisure were, he said, inhumane.

"Labor is the most common form of cooperation that humanity has generated in its history. Every day, millions of people cooperate simply by working," he said. "[But] a person is not only formed by labor, because we do not always work and we must not work always."

He particularly criticized child labor, endemic unemployment and the massive retirement packages handed out to CEOs.

"[O]ne should be neither too poor nor too rich: golden pensions are no less an offense to labor than pensions that are too low, as they ensure that inequalities during the time of work become permanent," he said.

As the pope spoke, unions across the world are facing headwinds. In the U.S., as in Europe, membership is shrinking — excluding, interestingly, Italy, where it has grown in the last five years.

The pope said organized labor had two major issues to "face and defeat if it is to continue to perform its essential role for the common good."

Labor must "give a voice to those who have none, denounce those who would 'sell the needy for a pair of sandals', unmask the powerful who trample the rights of the most vulnerable workers, defend the cause of the foreigner, the least, the discarded."

Second, he called on labor to become advocates for people excluded from work, most especially the young, women and migrants.

"The union does not carry out its essential function of social innovation if it watches over only those who are inside," he said. "This must be done, but it is half of your work. Your vocation is also to protect those who do not yet have rights, those excluded from work who are also excluded from rights and democracy."


Pope Francis called unions essential for social innovation.