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July 2019

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$200M Agreement Brings Jobs, Stability in Pennsylvania

Steady and plentiful work is on the horizon for members of Chester, Pa., Local 654, thanks to a newly announced, multimillion-dollar project labor agreement covering the ongoing revitalization of the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex in suburban Philadelphia.

In April, Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the complex, announced that it had reached a two-year, $200 million PLA with the Philadelphia Building Trades to expand the capabilities of the natural gas liquids processing facility.

"We're talking about 1,200 construction jobs total," said Bill Adams, assistant business manager for Local 654 and the business agent covering the Marcus Hook area. "For us, that'll be something like 300 industrial jobs at the liquid natural gas terminal."

The continued success of the Marcus Hook facility has hinged in large part on the Mariner East pipelines, a companion project that has put across the state to work. For the last several years, members from several locals throughout Pennsylvania have been working on upgrading and maintaining the lines that transport natural gas liquids drawn from the Ohio portion of the Marcellus Shale gas field — the largest in the U.S. — to Marcus Hook. There, the liquids are processed for use as fuel to generate heat or electricity, as transportation fuel, and as key ingredients in the making of chemicals and plastics.

Local 654 Business Manager Paul Mullen anticipates no problem filling the Marcus Hook jobs called for under the new PLA. "Like with our work on the pipelines, we'll be able to draw on our sister locals in the surrounding area," he said. That includes Philadelphia Local 98 and Wilmington, Del., Local 313.

Built in 1902, the Marcus Hook complex served as a major oil refinery and gasoline producer until 2011, when then-owner Sunoco Logistics closed it down. The resulting layoffs affected hundreds of workers and spelled potential economic disaster for the area.

ETP announced a merger with Sunoco Logistics the following year, and thanks to a boom in shale field drilling in Ohio, the company drew up plans to repurpose Marcus Hook to process natural gas liquids and to store them for eventual distribution. Thousands of building trades workers from throughout the region were brought in for that conversion project.

This next phase in Marcus Hook's renaissance is expected to get fully underway in the coming months. The project includes a massive new warehouse, a temperature-controlled storage facility for a variety of NGLs and general improvements to the complex's wiring.

ETP said this latest work became necessary thanks to an expected increase in natural gas liquids flowing into the refinery along with growing domestic and international demands for Marcus Hook's processed products.

The new PLA will provide workers on the project a measure of protection against potential economic problems, Adams said, while also providing a variety of employment options.

"It's great for us and for the local economy," said Adams, who noted that the steady work at the complex and on the pipelines already had gone a long way toward supporting the families of IBEW members, as well as the area's residents and businesses.

In a press release, Kevin Smith, an ETP executive vice president, said that the company's relationships with the IBEW and the other members of the Philadelphia Building Trades created an environment where the best skilled persons can come in and work.

"The combination of increased natural gas liquids coming through Marcus Hook through our Mariner East pipelines, and the labor force now in place because of the PLA, allows us to move forward to create projects that create a dominant NGL hub," he said.

Adams said Mullen's effort building a relationship with ETP has a lot to do with the complex's success. "He puts so much work into staying in touch," Adams said. "They're very pleased with our work, and they know they can pick up the phone and talk to him or me any time, day or night."

Once the pipelines are operating at peak efficiency, Marcus Hook is expected to see the current 200,000 barrels of NGLs a day nearly double to 345,000. A recent study by the research firm IHS Markit projected that natural gas from the Marcellus Shale field is expected to supply 45% of the natural gas production in the U.S. by 2040.

Pennsylvania's Department of Community and Economic Development says the Keystone State has consistently ranked among the top natural gas producing and exporting states in the U.S. over the last several years.

The terms of the new PLA apply to everyone working at the complex, Adams said, and the agreement contains language allowing it to be extended as needed.

"The Philadelphia Building Trades has worked at Marcus Hook for over 7 million man-hours so far with no accidents," Adams said. "A big project like this one lets IBEW members, and our brothers and sisters in the other trades, really put our training and skills to use."

Mullen said that this ongoing partnership between the building trades and ETP shows how valuable skilled labor can be for workers and management alike. "As always, we are doing everything we can to make sure our contractors are satisfied with our work," he said.


A $200 million project labor agreement guarantees IBEW members will find work on storage and wiring upgrades at suburban Philadelphia's Marcus Hook Industrial Complex.

Grain Belt Express on Track After
Missouri Senate Declines to Take Action

Thanks to a coordinated effort from labor and supporters of the Grain Belt Express, the Missouri Senate ended its session in May without resurrecting a job-killing House bill aimed at blocking construction of the state's most anticipated long-range transmission project.

IBEW leaders launched a successful last-ditch effort to discourage state senators from supporting any bill that would derail construction of the environmentally-​friendly transmission project that will deliver wind power from the Midwest to the Eastern power grid.

The project is expected to create 1,500 skilled construction jobs in the state during a three-year period, many of which will be filled by IBEW members. After years of debate, it looked as if the project had moved forward in March when the state's five-member Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved it after twice voting it down previously.

The state House, however, responded by passing a bill to prohibits the project's developers from acquiring land from property owners via eminent domain. The lines will pass through largely rural northern Missouri and Gov. Mike Parson, while not taking a position on the issue, reiterated after the vote that he largely views eminent domain as "government overreach."

"This has been a frustrating battle in Missouri because the three other states involved in the project quickly moved to support it," Eleventh District Vice President Curtis E. Henke said before the Senate vote. "But even with the House vote, we had reason to be optimistic."

In this case, inaction by the Senate appears to have put the issue to rest for now. "We're confident the [PUC's] ruling will stand and construction will soon begin," Henke said.

The Grain Belt Express is slated to begin in western Kansas — sometimes called the nirvana of wind power because of the optimum conditions there to develop it — and stretch across Missouri and Illinois before ending in Indiana.

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, a division of the state's Department of Economic Development, estimated in a 2016 study it would generate about 1,500 jobs and $246 million in new personal income for the state during the three-year construction period.

"We are respectful of private land owners and support them getting a fair price," Henke said. "At the same time, construction will take up a small part of their property and the benefit to the state as a whole is pretty obvious. It's not just good for working families, it's good for the entire state and, really, for much of the country."

International President Lonnie R. Stephenson praised the Senate for not agreeing to the House bill but urged Missouri officials to officially approve the project and join with surrounding states, where the Grain Belt Express has bipartisan support.

"This is the perfect project for both our environment and skilled American workers as we look to the future," he said. "It is making use of clean energy while providing good-paying jobs, and that's why groups from across the political spectrum support it. We look forward to working with Missouri officials to reach a conclusion that satisfies all parties."

The Missouri Public Utility Alliance estimates that 39 municipalities in the state that have agreed to purchase power from Grain Belt will save $12.8 million annually, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Grain Belt Express is owned by Texas-based Clean Line Energy, although it has reached an agreement to sell the line to Chicago-based Invenergy and is awaiting regulatory approval.

The project is expected to deliver power to about 1.5 million homes, including 200,000 in Missouri.


The Grain Belt Express transmission project will employ about 1,500 skilled construction workers in the state and send power from wind turbines like these east from Kansas to electricity-hungry population centers like St. Louis and Chicago.

'Rite' Strategy Leads to Steady Work for New Jersey Local

For decades, Jersey City, N.J., Local 164 electricians were among the hundreds of union tradespeople who built nearly two dozen ShopRite grocery stores in New Jersey and New York.

So, when company chairman Lawrence Inserra considered a developer's plan to use nonunion workers to construct a new ShopRite in Wyckoff, Local 164 Business Manager Dan Gumble was among those left scratching their heads over the sudden change of course.

"The Inserras have been all-union for over 50 years," said Gumble, who noted that the workers at all of Inserras' stores are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers. "That's a big reason why we encourage our members to shop in their stores."

Gumble has a personal connection with the Inserras that goes back even further, he said. "Larry's grandfather had a butcher shop in Lyndhurst." Gumble's parents and extended family members had been regular customers.

That modest shop ended up being the forerunner of what would eventually become a successful chain of ShopRites, and the Inserra family's connection with each of their stores remained strong.

"Larry and his family are still involved in their ShopRites' day-to-day operations," said Gumble. "They're good people, and our values line up — we both do a lot of charity work in the community."

The Inserras also had a longstanding reputation for personally supervising the construction of their stores, Gumble said. For this new ShopRite, however, the family was considering entering a lease agreement that would instead allow a developer to have full control of the project.

On its own, that would not necessarily have been a problem, the business manager said. The trouble was that the developer was planning to work with nonunion contractors on the project, rather than the ones with whom the Inserras had grown familiar and comfortable, and that this plan was making the family feel uneasy.

As soon as he could, Gumble launched a campaign to convince the Inserras and the developer to put that work back into the hands of union workers. Giving it some thought, it occurred to Gumble that although he and Inserra had known each other and worked together for years, the chairman had never visited the local's training facility in Paramus.

So, Gumble set up a formal tour, inviting Inserra and his company's head of construction as well as leaders from some of the other building trades in the area.

"We met like gentlemen and immediately found some common ground," Gumble said. "I hooked [Inserra] up with some history about Lyndhurst and his family. It was like old home week."

Throughout the tour, Gumble touted Local 164's deep commitment to the Code of Excellence, the union's five major values — safety, professionalism, accountability, relationships and quality — that help demonstrate why IBEW remains the best choice for any job.

"We've had impressive results building relationships with businesses using the Code to show the value of working with Local 164," Gumble said. "Everyone was impressed with the training center and with the fact that we teach the Code of Excellence to all of our members."

Happily, his strategy helped change the Inserras' minds. "They told us that we are the 'real deal' and that they would be glad to do business with us," Gumble said. "They said, 'You guys walk the walk.'

"Larry went back to the developer and said, 'Look, we need to work with these folks,'" Gumble said. The developer agreed, and after months of steady work for Local 164 members and other union trades, the 62,000-square-foot Wyckoff store held its long-anticipated grand opening in January.

Gumble credits the Code of Excellence for this successful result. "We were able to turn that job around," he said, "but we couldn't have gotten that meeting — or the work — without that relationship."


Maintaining great relationships with business owners helped members secure work on a new ShopRite grocery store in northern New Jersey.