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October 2018

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Brotherhood Knows No Bounds:
Aussie Electrician Honors Late IBEW Friend

Garry Rogers and Todd Edgerly hit it off the first day they met, two electricians who lived half a world apart.

Rogers was visiting from Australia in September 2007 as part of an innovative IBEW Seventh District exchange program. The following year, Edgerly, a journeyman inside wireman and organizer at Beaumont, Texas, Local 479, would make the trip Down Under.

The first night, the eve of several days Rogers would spend riding along with Edgerly, they hung out at Edgerly's favorite bar, chatting with women handing out a brewery's promotional merchandise.

"Todd says to me, 'Damn that accent of yours. The women just love it.' We made a bond that night that would last for life," Rogers said.

Tragically for Edgerly, his life was cut short by cancer five years later, when he was just 48 years old.

This spring, Rogers made it back to Texas to honor his friend, visiting his gravesite with Edgerly's parents and some of his closet IBEW brothers.

"I thought it was a wonderful idea and request," said retired Seventh District International Representative George Crawford. "We said a few words, let some balloons go and toasted Todd with a cold beer."

Crawford launched the exchange program in 1996 while he was business manager of Beaumont Local 2286, an opportunity for IBEW and Australia's Electrical Trades Union to learn from each other's best practices and training methods. The program went district-wide in 2002.

In a tribute to Edgerly from the ETU, published in Beaumont's newspaper, the union said, "Todd will be fondly remembered as a union brother who was a bright and energetic friend and mate who helped develop relationships between the Australian and American electrical unions. May he rest in peace."

On top of the valuable things he learned during his 2007 visit, Rogers will never forget the fun he and Edgerly had.

"He drove me to Austin on a Saturday, when the Austin City Limits Music Festival was on," he said. "One of the bars we went to had a closed set with Bob Dylan. I was totally blown away. I had never dreamed of such a surprise."

In May 2008, Rogers picked Edgerly up at the airport in Brisbane, Queensland, the northeastern territory of Australia.

"As we drove, he was so excited that we got to meet again — and he was amazed how long the flight was to get here," Rogers said. "Over the next week, each of the Brisbane [ETU] organizers had time with Todd, and all of them bonded with him."

Especially memorable was Labour Day, which Queensland celebrates in May. In other parts of Australia, it falls during March or September.

"I remember taking Todd to our Labour Day march in Brisbane and seeing him start crying as he saw thousands of union members mustering to start the march in the city streets," Rogers said. "Todd told me that it took him back to when his grandfather used to take him to the Labor Day parade when he was a little boy. It was a very moving moment for both of us."

Edgerly also spoke at the event. "He was thinking a small crowd of 50 to 100 people," Crawford said. "He said it ended up being a few thousand. He didn't have a speech, he just got out and shot from the hip. He said he was honored to be there with them. He got a huge ovation."

Edgerly told Crawford how impressed he was "to see how well the ETU mobilized people for their labor rally and their activity in the community."

It was the pinnacle of his union journey.

"Mr. and Mrs. Edgerly raised Todd with strong beliefs in organized labor," Crawford said. "He loved the IBEW. He loved working for the local. He told me, 'George, the best thing that's ever happened to me was to go down to Australia.' It was the highlight of his life."



Garry Rogers, left, of Australia's Electrical Trades Union, with Todd Edgerly in May 2008 at the Mt. Coot-tha overlook in Brisbane. This past May, Rogers joined Edgerly's parents and IBEW brothers to honor him at his gravesite in Texas.

In Right-to-Work West Virginia,
Procter & Gamble Bets on IBEW members

It's been described as Procter & Gamble's biggest construction project ever, and dozens of electricians represented by Cumberland, Md., Local 307 are working diligently to make the half-billion-dollar manufacturing facility a reality.

When the Cincinnati-based conglomerate broke ground in 2015 on the facility at the Tabler Station Business Park in Inwood, W.Va., it had been planning to build a fairly modest plant that employed about 700 workers making a variety of personal grooming and household cleaning projects.

But earlier this year, P&G announced that it was doubling down, committing $500 million toward a manufacturing campus on a sprawling site roughly half the size of New York City's Central Park.

"The project site is so massive, it's hard to visualize," said Local 307 Business Manager Rodney Rice. It's also not easy to tour on foot, he said. "You need to get someone to drive you around."

Rice said that the P&G project has given the local a welcome shot in the arm after jobs dried up at the Wesvaco paper mill in Luke, Md., and at West Virginia's Mount Storm coal-fired power station.

"For now, we're doing the house power, utility power, product lines, fire alarms and building security," he said, noting that most of Local 307's electricians at P&G for this project are coming from IBEW signatory contractors Lighthouse Electric and Freestate Electric.

Managing construction for P&G is Fluor Corporation, which plans to employ dozens of local contractors and more than 1,000 local craft and trade workers over the course of the multi-year construction job. "Just about every trade is represented on this project," Rice said.

Local 307's members have figured prominently among the men and women who have been hired at Inwood, a fact that's all the more impressive considering West Virginia is a right-to-work state, one of 27 where non-union free riders legally have access to all of the advantages of union membership, without having to pay dues to finance the work required to protect and strengthen hard-won benefits.

The project has even helped attract new IBEW members. "We've been fairly successful with organizing," Rice said, "with our campaigns focusing on the majority of the Martinsburg-Hagerstown area."

Another challenge of working on a project in West Virginia, Rice said, is that the state fire marshal's office requires electricians to hold a separate electrical license in addition to any other licenses they might already hold. This added prerequisite "has kind of helped us," he said, because it puts the local in a good position to assist staffing agencies quickly finding workers who hold the required West Virginia certification.

"We also rotate our apprentices because we want them to be able to do just about everything," the business manager said. "That way, companies get well-versed workers." Rice noted that all of Local 307's apprentices are required to take Code of Excellence classes, as well.

"We've done a pile of training," he said, adding that during the recent District Fourth progress meeting, his local received an award for its training efforts.

The availability of quality workers in the area was a key driver in P&G's decision to build the plant in Inwood, company facility engineer Tony Wagner told the Martinsburg Journal.

The company hopes that the Inwood facility will help it get products to customers more quickly and efficiently, aided also by its proximity to rail lines and major interstates.

Built in sections, P&G's Tabler Station site will eventually consist of nine production modules under a single roof big enough to cover nearly 45 football fields.

"This is the biggest project P&G has ever done globally," Wagner said. "This is a unique project where we have multiple buildings going up at the same time, ultimately culminating with massive production."

According to the company's website, P&G has expanded over the last 181 years through a series of innovations and acquisitions to become a dominant purveyor of a wide variety of household cleaning, health and personal grooming products under dozens of brand names, with a net annual income of more than $10 billion.

Company officials recently announced that construction work in Inwood is on track for completion by next spring.

"All of the buildings are basically done now," Rice said. "Next comes installing more equipment and getting it all up and running."

Later this fall, the company hopes to move toward production of a variety of body washes, shampoos, and conditioners, followed by dish and laundry soaps early next year.

When the site is fully up and running, up to 2,000 people are expected to find work at the Inwood site.

"Our goal is to end up getting the maintenance work once construction is done," Rice said. "As long as we can provide top-of-the-line electricians, we'll probably keep getting work there for a long time."


The $500 million Procter & Gamble plant in Inwood, W. Va., will create thousands of jobs both during and after construction.