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January 2020

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Seattle Women Raise $30,000 for Burn Center

For the second year in a row, Seattle Local 77's women's committee has put its fanciest foot forward with a gala to support one of the nation's top burn centers.

Led by President Sara Langus, the local's women's committee hosted a gala event on Nov. 9 in Snohomish, Wash., that raised over $30,000 for the Harborview Medical Center, the Pacific Northwest's only Level 1 trauma facility. Simply put, it's the place IBEW members go to when things go very, very wrong on the job — including members from as far away as Alaska.

"The women's committee did a great job on the gala," said Business Manager Rex Habner. "It's a wonderful way to give back and it has a really good message, that we'll take care of you too."

More than 200 guests attended the event, which had dancing, speakers and more. Some of those in attendance included nurses and others from Harborview, and officials from three different utilities. Some even made donations.

A number of IBEW locals from the Ninth District also pitched in, including: Seattle Local 46; Diamond Bar, Calif., Local 47; Portland, Ore., Locals 48 and 125; Salem, Ore., Local 280; Boise, Idaho, Local 291; Las Vegas Local 357; Tacoma, Wash., Local 483; Port Angeles, Wash., Local 997; and Honolulu Local 1186.

"We're all very fortunate to have Harborview," Langus said. "Their focus is on getting you healthy and getting you back to work."

Local 77 represents 8,700 members from tree trimmers to linemen to customer service representatives across Washington, Idaho and Montana. In addition to supporting such a vital medical center, Langus says she also wanted to create an opportunity to bring everyone together.

"There's a whole mountain range between us," said Langus, who is a customer service representative for the Snohomish County PUD, the largest public utility in Washington. "So I thought, 'What brings us together? Crisis!' Of course, that's not to take anything lightly, but this time we got to say thank you, give back and take a rare moment to get dressed up and enjoy ourselves."

The committee held a raffle at the gala and solicited donations and prizes. They sold individual and group tickets, and tables for $1,500. In total, they gave away about $25,000 in prizes and cash, including wine baskets, a Nintendo Switch, an engraved Hydro Flask and a grand-prize trip to Arizona. Langus said almost all of the items were donated by other locals or Local 77 members.

The women's committee includes Langus, Senior Assistant Business Manager Nichole Reedy, Jen Watson, Terri Kannor and Helen Berglund. In addition to their efforts, Langus said about 35 Local 77 members helped with the event.

"It was truly a group effort," Langus said. "Without them we couldn't have done this."

At last year's event, which raised about $15,000, Local 77 member Robert Houser spoke about his time being treated at Harborview. In 2010, he was electrocuted with 800 amps — more than enough to kill a person — while on the job. After about seven surgeries, a medically induced coma and a lot of what Houser called "out of the box" thinking by the staff, he stood before the crowd to praise the staff who quite literally gave him his life back.

"If it wasn't for their responsiveness, for everything they did, I wouldn't be here," Houser said. "The next person they save could be you. These people are worth doing everything we can to support them."

This year, attendees heard from speaker Gary Norland, an electrician who survived being electrocuted with 12,500 volts while working, resulting in burns on 37% of his body. He was treated at Harborview and now speaks on the importance of safety on the job.

Langus, who also serves on Local 77's executive committee, is relatively new to the IBEW. She joined about four years ago and says she was encouraged early on by Reedy to get involved with the women's committee.

"I kind of just jumped in, guns blazing," Langus said.

The committee has its IBEW charter and is currently working on getting 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, Langus said.

"I'm really proud of Sara and our women's committee. They show how diversity is a strength," Habner said. "I've got two daughters. I'd love for them to get into the trade."

In keeping with the union theme of family and solidarity, Langus' father pitched in to purchase and cook prime rib for the event, and Local 77 committee members Becky Wright and Katy Holte made desserts and sides.

"I can't say enough good things about it," Habner said. "Everyone who attended is planning on coming back next year."

Langus says they're already working on the 2020 event, which will have a "Great Gatsby" theme. If anyone is interested in donating, they can reach out to Local 77 at 206-323-4505 or email her at


Seattle Local 77's women's committee held a gala fundraiser for Harborview Medical Center, the Pacific Northwest region's burn center, raising more than $30,000. Pictured: Jen Watson (left), Teri Kannor, Helen Berglund, Nichole Reedy and Sara Langus.

The Numbers Are In:
Union Construction Jobs Are Safer Than Nonunion

It may not be news to those in the business, but new numbers back up what IBEW and other union construction members already know: there's safety in a union.

New York's Building Trades Employers Association, which represents more than 1,300 contractors in New York City, recently released new statistics using data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It found that union construction workers in the Big Apple are five times less likely to suffer a fatal accident compared to their nonunion counterparts.

"IBEW members and employers have safety baked into every aspect of the job; it's par for the course for us," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "It's always great to see our experiences backed up with solid data."

"[This study] shows that year in and year out, union construction firms are the safest in New York City. That's because when you have a skilled and experienced union workforce, the quality of work is better and safety is not just prioritized – it's part of the culture. These statistics make that clear," said BTEA CEO Lou Coletti.

According to the data, there were 18 fatalities in 2018, with only four on BTEA sites. The union contractors also received 33% fewer violations per project than their nonunion counterparts, and 25% fewer stop work orders.

"The results of this study aren't surprising at all," Local 3 journeyman Robert Holst told "While every construction job has inherent dangers, it is the training that union building trades members receive during their apprenticeship that makes the difference in regards to a safe job. … There is no substitute for a union apprenticeship program."

The findings echo others.

A January 2019 report by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health found that "workers die as a result of employer's disregard for workers' health and safety and [the report] notes the difference between construction fatality numbers on union versus nonunion job sites, proving that unionized construction jobs keep New York's workers safer."

The report, titled "Deadly Skyline," also stated that while industry deaths decreased in New York City, they increased in the state as whole. This was despite a construction boom in the five boroughs.

Dominique Bravo, director of Pathways 2 Apprenticeship, stated in a New York Times op-ed that nonunion contractors make up 90% of the construction companies listed in OSHA's "Severe Violator Enforcement Program" for New York.

"Union workers are safer because they are better trained and know they will be protected if they refuse to work under dangerous conditions," Bravo wrote.

Similar studies show the rise of right-to-work laws linked to an increase in worker deaths and that construction firms that employ union workers are more likely to engage in safety best practices and training.

"These studies prove what we already know," Stephenson said, "but it's on each of us to make sure we do our part to keep our workplaces the safest in the industry."


Data released by New York's Building Trades Employers Association show that the Big Apple's union construction workers are safer on the job than their nonunion counterparts. That's welcomed news to members like New York Local 3's Chris Bugeaunu, pictured working atop Manhattan World One Trade Center.