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August 2019

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Wyoming Organizer Honored for
Leading Local 322 Volunteers in Conservation Projects

Bruce Johnson, a Casper, Wyo., Local 322 organizer and avid outdoorsman, has been named the IBEW Conservation Steward of the Year for his leadership on volunteer projects protecting elk and their habitat.

Presented by the Union Sportsmen's Alliance, the award is given for exceptional efforts that bring union members together to donate their time and tradecraft to preserve the great outdoors.

"Bruce is a dedicated conservationist and volunteer whose leadership helps us execute projects that benefit wildlife populations cherished by his local community and sportsmen across the country," Alliance CEO and Executive Director Scott Vance said. "His commitment exemplifies the spirit of union solidarity and community service that drives the USA's mission."

Last July, Johnson rallied Local 322 volunteers to build a custom fence-crossing for elk herds entering a state feeding ground in western Wyoming at wintertime. An exterior ramp allows elk to jump down to feed inside the refuge, while the fence discourages them from leaving until snow melts on grazing land beyond the boundaries.

Two summers earlier, Johnson headed construction of the popularly named "Shed Shed," a garage-size structure for storing the thousands of antlers that elk drop, or shed, throughout the nearly 25,000-acre National Elk Refuge each spring.

Local 322 members put more than 700 hours of volunteer labor into the Shed Shed, a project welcomed by refuge managers who previously used a hodgepodge of garages and trailers to store antlers until the annual Elkfest auction in Jackson Hole. The May event supports preservation of elk habitat and also benefits an area Boy Scout troop that scours the refuge to collect antlers.

Johnson, a journeyman inside wireman who began his apprenticeship in 1980, received the conservation award in April at the Construction and Maintenance Conference in Washington, D.C. He gave credit to the IBEW members who joined him on the projects, saying they "deserve as much recognition as I do."

"They're a good group of guys, family-oriented, community-oriented and all of them love the outdoors" — a prerequisite for living in Wyoming, Johnson said. "Like we say, you don't live in Wyoming for the wages."

As an organizer, Johnson has used Wyomingites' shared enthusiasm for the outdoors to appeal to nonunion contractors and workers. His local sponsors an annual "Buck Contest," with prizes for top deer antler racks, open to anyone in the electrical industry and immediate family.

"When you go to a nonunion contractor, if you walk in as the organizer, the fence goes up, they're on guard," Johnson said. "When we talk about the buck contest, the fences come down."

By showcasing members' skills, craftsmanship and commitment, the volunteer projects are another way Local 322 is building bonds in Wyoming.

Watching the crew work on the Shed Shed, elk refuge employee Natalie Faith told an IBEW Hour Power interviewer that she'd gained "a better sense of the expertise that union workers bring to federal lands."

"It's been a phenomenal experience," Faith said. "This project would not have been possible without their involvement."

Learn more about the Union Sportsmen's Alliance at


Local 322 organizer Bruce Johnson, left, receives the 2019 IBEW Conservation Steward of the Year award from Walt Ingram, director of union relations at the Union Sportsmen's Alliance.


Volunteers from Casper, Wyo., Local 322 construct a custom elk jump at a state feeding ground, a project spearheaded by organizer Bruce Johnson, whose conservation efforts were honored this spring by the Union Sportsmen's Alliance.

Free College, No Catch:
IBEW Members Say Degree Program
Hasn't Cost Them a Nickel

With just four or five classes to go, Todd Bedard is on the verge of having an associate degree in business management — without accruing a penny of student debt.

Bedard, the president of Manchester, N.H., Local 2320, is making the most of the Union Plus Free College Program, which covers tuition and online course materials for active and retired union members and their families.

"I haven't taken a dime out of my pocket. I haven't opened my wallet; I haven't given a credit card number," he said. "I just filled out the financial aid paperwork. I thought it was going to be painful, but I think it only took about a half hour."

An equipment installer for Consolidated Communications, Bedard previously earned an associate degree in applied science for telecommunications when he worked for Verizon. His program now, through Eastern Gateway Community College, has the potential to open all kinds of doors.

"I have 21 years doing what I've been doing, and I want to see where a business degree can take me in the future," he said, adding that he may pursue a four-year college degree and possibly an MBA.

At age 47, it's not something he would have considered if he hadn't heard about the program, which marshals all available federal aid and grants on behalf of students, then fills any funding gaps the aid doesn't cover.

Union Plus, in partnership with AFSCME, rolled out the benefit in 2018 with online associate degree and certificate programs, and is working to offer a bachelor's degree by the end of 2019. Fields of study include advertising, cyber security, finance, hospitality, labor studies, marketing, criminal justice, teacher education and office management.

Bedard is an evangelist when it comes to urging Local 2320 brothers and sisters to enroll. "I'm annoying about it," he said with a laugh. "I tell everyone who will listen: If you're not doing it, you're losing money."

In Florida, journeyman inside wireman Lorraine Llauger is another IBEW member singing the program's praises.

"I never thought I'd be going to college," said Llauger, an organizer at Orlando Local 606. "I thought, where am I going to find the time? I can't go off to a campus."

Llauger's coursework focuses on labor studies, knowledge she is excited to share to educate current IBEW members and organize new ones. One of her ideas is a short class on labor history.

"I want to remind our members about the hard work it took to get us where we are today, and why it's important to never forget your roots and to always fight for your rights," she said.

Llauger didn't hesitate when she got wind of the program. "I jumped right on it," she said. "I wanted to be the guinea pig. I wanted to be one of the first people trying it out — to find out if it was too good to be true. It's not. It really is that good."

The flexibility of online learning allows her and Bedard to take full advantage of their free education. Classes fit their schedules, and there are no tiring commutes to and from school.

"My favorite thing is that I can be anywhere where there is internet," Llauger said. "The classes are broken down so they don't give you too much work at one time. You're not overloaded and you can go at your own pace, but you still have to be responsible and do the work."

A single mother, Llauger enjoys studying alongside her son and daughter as they do their middle-school homework. She loves knowing they're proud to tell friends that their mom's in college.

Bedard squeezes in study time around family activities on evenings and weekends, and he doesn't waste a minute during the workday.

"There are times when I have to plug in my work computer to do an upgrade and there's 10, 15 minutes where I have to sit and let that happen," he said. "Or I'm on the phone, on hold. And during my breaks."

At those moments, he fires up his personal laptop to study, take quizzes and post questions and answers on student discussion boards. While that's an obligatory part of the program, he said he gets a lot out of it. "I'm talking to people all around the country, many of them union members, and we're able to share our life experiences."

When Bedard learned of the benefit, his reaction was like Llauger's — recognizing right away it could be life-changing for him and other union brothers and sisters, if it lived up to its promise.

"As president, I wanted to be able to talk to my members about it firsthand," he said. "I signed up within a day or so and haven't looked back."

To learn more about the free college program and how to apply, go to or call (888) 590-9009.


Manchester, N.H., Local 2320 President Todd Bedard


Orlando, Fla., Local 606 Organizer Lorraine Llauger

N.J. Local's 'Good of the Union' Commitment
Bolsters Community

Members of Trenton, N.J., Local 269 put in long, hard hours during the week. But well-earned weekends aren't just for relaxing; many members are also committed to the wide variety of community service activities the local sponsors through its "Good of the Union" committee.

"Volunteerism is an extremely rewarding experience and it benefits all involved," Local 269 Business Manager Stephen Aldrich said. "Knowing you have helped through simple sacrifice is its own reward."

It's that spirit that inspired the "Good of the Union" committee, which is now woven into the local's fabric and regularly enhancing its reputation within the greater Trenton community.

Coordinated by Guy Miliziano, the local's recording secretary, the committee connects many Local 269 members with community organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the American Cancer Society's annual "Relay for Life." Some members can be found collecting food for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen or games, dolls and more for the U.S. Marine Corps's "Toys for Tots" drive. As the winter holidays approach, the local raises money to help families of terminally ill children. Several times a year, it also sponsors blood drives to benefit the American Red Cross.

Local 269's jurisdiction covers the Garden State's capital city along with Bucks County, Pa., just across the Delaware River. It's there that, for more than 10 years, members of the local also have taken part in the "Adopt-a-Highway" program managed by Pennsylvania's Department of Transportation.

"We do it twice a year: in May and October," said Local 269 member Marc Sciarrotta, who has organized this roadside litter pickup activity ever since he completed his apprenticeship and became a journeyman wireman seven years ago.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation supplies the garbage bags, gloves, signs and warning flags, Sciarrotta said, and IBEW members provide the manpower.

For this year's spring event on Saturday, May 11, nearly two dozen apprentice and journeyman members of Local 269 met Sciarrotta at 8 a.m. near Oxford Valley Road, at the western end of their designated mile-or-so stretch of U.S. Route 1.

"Usually, we get 15 to 20 apprentices — who are required to get a certain number of community service hours — plus another 10 to 12 journeyman wiremen," Sciarrotta said. The project can take a few hours to complete, he said, "but the more people who show up, the faster it goes."

Three official highway signs mark both directions' starting points: a dark blue sign reading, "Adopt-a-Highway Litter Control;" a lighter-blue one bearing the union's logo and reading, "IBEW L.U. 269;" and a third that reads, "PennDOT Thanks This 10-Year Participant."

The volunteers typically find ordinary, run-of-the-mill litter, Sciarrotta said, such as beverage bottles or fast food bags, along with the occasional vehicle part like a mirror or hubcap.

"We'll end up with anywhere from 75 to 100 bags of trash" he said — about two to three per volunteer. PennDOT retrieves the full bags, usually within a few days.

The entire cleanup process is a positive experience both for the local and for PennDot, Sciarrotta said. "We do our best, and they're happy with the work we do."

"Our local's commitment to serving our community is a big part of what we do, whether it's cleaning up the highway, building a house for a needy family or collecting presents for kids whose parents can't afford them at Christmas," Aldrich said. "It's also building schools and hospitals or delivering electricity. We live in this community, and we want to make it a better place."

If your local is interested in adopting or sponsoring a portion of a nearby highway, get in touch with your particular state's or province's department of transportation.


Roadside cleanup is just one of the many volunteer and charitable activities available to members of Trenton, N.J., Local 269, thanks to its busy "Good of the Union" Committee.

How This Shipyard Created a
Values-Based Commitment to Excellence — and Success

At a time when federal employees are disparaged as lazy and a drain on taxpayer dollars — especially by the president and his administration — the working women and men at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, have been quietly proving themselves to be consummate professionals. And they've been doing it for years.

Now, they're looking to share part of their recipe for success with other shipyards around the U.S.

"Our members, and those of other trades that we work with, take a lot of pride in their work. They always have," said Paul O'Connor, director of the IBEW Government Employees Department and former president of the Metal Trades Council at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

This isn't to say that things were always great. Like a lot of workplaces, PNS went through periods of low morale and productivity. But unlike a lot of places, those challenging times led to a great success story.

In 2010, the shipyard needed a change. Stagnation was setting in and nothing they tried to improve things was working — until they looked at the issue a little differently.

"We were looking for a better way," said O'Connor, a member of Portsmouth, N.H., Local 2071. "Our performance level had peaked, and we were deliberating what to do."

Much of what they had tried was schedule or process-driven, he said.

"For decades our shipyard would cherry-pick elements of these third-party initiatives to grab the attention of our workforce and shoehorn them into a rigid, industrial hierarchy. And management always maintained veto authority," O'Connor said. "There was never workforce buy-in."

So they shifted gears. They came together and decided to try a different, home-grown approach: no more third parties; something based on values. What if they focused on trust, dignity, integrity and respect? And what if everyone — labor and management alike — had input?

"Labor and management jointly created an environment of trust, and our workforce stepped into that environment believing their voices could and would make a difference. And that's what happened," O'Connor said. It wasn't officially the Code of Excellence, which hadn't been extended to non-construction branches at the time, "but we utilized the same values-based philosophies."

Of course, it wasn't all smooth sailing. They had to break down a lot of barriers, between labor and management, civilian and military, the day shift and the night shift, engineers and trades. There was skepticism. Was this going to be just another flavor of the month? Something else that management would jam down their throats?

But they kept going — and listening. And they took those concerns and used them to form the basis of what became the Declaration of Excellence, a document that created a permanent relationship based on shared values between labor and management and between the various trades on the yard.

"Labor and management together created a Declaration of Independence-type document that outlined what the next 200 years on the yard should look like from a cultural perspective," said former Local 2071 Business Manager Andrew Perry, who also served on the Metal Trades Council. "The groups who signed it and all who have read it understand how important dignity and respect are."

Everyone, labor and management alike, receives regular refresher training and the Declaration is part of the new employee orientation and the shipyard's technical manuals. Since its implementation in 2012, performance has improved dramatically, with all nuclear submarine overhauls being completed on schedule and on budget.

They also established an ideas program, co-chaired by labor and management. The decision to accept an idea is made jointly, with input from the employee who made the suggestion as well.

"It's a way to let people know we're really listening," O'Connor said. "And two of the ideas saved the shipyard an estimated $5 million a year."

Now in Washington, O'Connor is working to take his experience at Portsmouth and use it to develop an official Code of Excellence across the four Naval shipyards in the U.S.

"Much of the Code, and same for the Declaration, could be incorporated anywhere," O'Connor said. "They're business models based on values. When you get the relationships right, the rest follows."