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January 2020

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William T. Bohné

Railroad Department Director William T. Bohné, a 45-year member of the IBEW, retired in November.

Bohné grew up in Springfield, Pa. After two years of active Navy service as an electronics technician, he joined the IBEW in 1974 as a member of Wilmington, Del., Local 2270.

"Penn Central — what eventually became Amtrak — was hiring electricians," he explained, "and it seemed like a good fit for me with my naval experience."

Bohné continued serving as a Navy reservist for a few more years while becoming active within his local, working on organizing and performing shop steward duties before joining the grievance committee in 1976.

In 1980, he began a 13-year run as Local 2270's local chairman and president. At the same time, he also served on Railroad System Council 7's executive board. He became the council's assistant general chairman and legislative representative in 1993; six years later, he was its vice general chairman.

An original member of Amtrak's Labor-Management Joint Medical Administrative Committee, Bohné served as a labor officer and fiduciary from the committee's 1996 inception until he retired. He also served on other committees, including Amtrak's Joint Labor-Management Productivity Council, the FRA's Railroad Safety Advisory Committee, and the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department Executive Committee.

In 2002, then-International President Edwin Hill appointed Bohné a Railroad Department international representative. "I loved coming into the office and working with IBEW office employees and members," Bohné said.

Two years later, Hill promoted Bohné to direct the IBEW's Personnel Department, a role he filled until 2006, when he was named by Hill as the Railroad Department's director.

"Bill truly enjoyed the camaraderie at the International Office," said Al Russo, an international representative in the department. "But he was always up for a good fight."

One fight was wrangling to get the U.S. National Freight Agreement ratified in 2018, Bohné said. The agreement initially was rejected with only about 35% of railroad members voting, prompting Bohné and the negotiating committee to visit railroad locals around the country and explain why the IBEW recommended accepting it.

"I enjoyed negotiating, but even more I enjoyed visiting members at their locals and mixing it up with them, explaining why we thought a 'yes' vote was in their best interests," he said. "I took a lot of crap, but that comes with the territory." The contract was ratified on the second vote, and Bohné was pleased to see almost 60% voter participation.

"Bill has more energy than anybody I know," said Railroad Department International Representative Jim Meyer. For example, Bohné could be counted on to respond to email messages at all hours. "He never stopped."

Bohné also is an expert task juggler, Russo said. "He kept all these balls in the air," he said. "He has the craftsmanship to handle any problem at any given moment."

"He was kind of a crisis manager, and very good at it," Meyer agreed.

Bohné touted modernizing the Railroad Department and establishing better relationships with locals and railroads as high among his accomplishments. "We brought the department into the 21st century," he said, introducing electronic record-keeping and using the department's web page to update members.

He also sent regular issue-update emails. "Connecting with the members, keeping them in the loop," he said. "That was important to me."

"And our department conferences — bringing them from the Dark Ages to educational experiences that were informative and entertaining," Bohné added.

He also is proud of having helped establish the Federal Employers' Liability Act Designated Legal Counsel program to help ensure members' access to lawyers experienced in handling railroad workers' injury claims. More recently, the department helped establish a disability and life insurance policy for members.

Bohné holds an associate degree in liberal arts from Delaware County Community College and a bachelor's degree in labor studies from the National Labor College.

Throughout his tenure at the International Office, Bohné remained active with St. Mark Lutheran Church in Clifton Heights, Pa., where he has served as chairman of the Mutual Ministry and Christian School committees. He also sings in the church's choir.

Bohné also has volunteered with the Springfield Athletic Association coaching baseball and football, and with the Springfield Youth Aid Panel, where, as chairman, he helped adjudicate criminal cases.

"He also has a wicked sense of humor," Russo said. Shortly after Russo was hired to work in the International Office, "Bill told me we had a 9:30 meeting with President Hill, but that I had to be in the office by 9. I got here at 8:45, and Bill met me in the lobby and said, 'Your first day here and you're already late! President Hill has left for the day.'" The mortified Russo silently rode the elevator to the Railroad Department office with Bohné, who kept a straight face all the way before finally telling Russo he was kidding.

Bohné thanked the IBEW brothers and sisters he worked with throughout his career — the local union members and officers, the system council officers and everyone at the International Office. "If it wasn't for them and their support, we couldn't have done what we did," he said.

In retirement, Bohné plans to stay active traveling, playing golf and biking, as well as spending more time with his wife, Cathy, his two children and five grandchildren, his brother, and his 95-year-old father. "I'll also get more involved in politics and railroad arbitration," he said.

Please join us in thanking Brother Bohné for his service to the IBEW and in wishing him a long and happy retirement.


William T. Bohné

Gary A. Heald

The officers regret to report the death of retired Special Projects Department Director Gary A. Heald on Nov. 17. He was 81.

A native of Iowa, Brother Heald was initiated into the IBEW in 1959 as a member of Cedar Rapids Local 1362 when he started work at the Collins Radio, now Rockwell Collins, plant. He served the local as business manager from 1971 to 1981 and was an executive board member from 1970-71. He also served as chief steward and on the Local 1362 negotiating, strike, COPE, grievance and activities committees.

A committed trade unionist throughout his career, Heald's labor-related activities included service as secretary-treasurer of the Iowa IBEW State Conference and as a University of Iowa Labor Advisory Board member. He also served on American Red Cross disaster projects and on various political committees in Iowa.

In 1981 Brother Heald was appointed an international representative and assigned to the Manufacturing Department, where he served for 10 years.

He loved sports, especially baseball, and worked as an umpire for the Cedar Rapids Reds. He even had a chance to become a Major League umpire, but it didn't quite pan out.

"What made him a good umpire made him a good negotiator. He had confidence in his own judgment and didn't take any guff from managers," said retired International Representative Pete Potenza, who worked with Heald in the Manufacturing Department in the late '80s.

Heald and Potenza worked in manufacturing while the entire industry was moving south or overseas and negotiating those contracts became much harder. They often had to find creative ways to keep jobs going, even if it was only for a few more years.

"Our members gave a little to keep their jobs, but Gary wasn't just looking for any deal," Potenza said. "He knew contracts would be voted on and he always had in mind that vote."

In 1991, he was appointed by former International President J.J. Barry to take charge of professional and industrial organizing as the director of the Special Projects Department. He held that position until his retirement — after 40 years in the Brotherhood — in 2002. Special Projects was folded into the newly created Membership Development Department after the 2006 International Convention in Cleveland.

Brother Heald spent his final years playing with his 11 grandchildren, two great grandchildren and his dog, Bailey, before succumbing to a long illness in November.

The officers offer their deepest condolences to his wife, former International Office staff-member Ellen; his children, Shawn, Scott, Dana, Jennifer, and Kellie; and the rest of the Heald family.


Gary A. Heald

Luc Couture

First District International Representative Luc Couture, a leader in Canada's railroad industry who also represented federal employees across the country and members at Quebec's construction locals, will retire effective Feb. 1.

"It's difficult to find a brother or sister who's had an impact on more branches of the IBEW in Canada than Luc," First District Vice President Thomas Reid said. "He served so well traveling across Canada and protecting the rights of our railroad members that my predecessors gave him even more responsibility. Not surprisingly, he handled that responsibility very well.

"He will be missed, but this is certainly a well-earned retirement."

Brother Couture was born in Montreal and raised in its South Shore suburbs on the banks of the St. Lawrence River just across from the Island of Montreal. He was attending college when he applied for a summer job as a restaurant server aboard trains for Canadian National, which was still offering passenger service at the time.

Couture didn't get that job, but his application wasn't in vain. He learned about another opening at Canadian National and was hired as a signal and communication maintainer in 1976.

He was 18, working outside and had found a career.

"Back then, I really enjoyed the exercise part," he said. "It was physical and it was a different kind of work — even when you're a grunt and you're always digging. Compared to what I was doing before, which was studying business administration, it was a little more exciting and the money was better."

Couture became a member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen and later the Canadian Signal and Communication Union until its merger with the IBEW in 1990, when he joined Montreal Local 2003.

He served as local chairman until 1998, when he was elected senior general chairman of System Council 11, which includes all IBEW railroad unions in Canada. About 1,500 Canadian members are covered by contracts with seven different rail companies.

"When you're a steward, you're doing stuff for others," he said. "When there's a grievance, you meet with the company and exchange information, and that was the stuff I liked. As chairman of the system council, I was doing that for more people. I learned from volunteering in my kids' sports leagues, it's better to be on the inside than complaining from the outside."

In 2004, Couture was named an international representative, where he also serviced local unions representing federal employees and construction workers in Quebec.

One of the reasons Couture was recommended by then-First District Vice President Phil Flemming for the job: he's bilingual. He grew up in a French-Canadian home, but many families in his neighborhood spoke English, so he learned to speak both.

"The federal government uses both languages, and if you're fluent in both you gain a lot of credibility at the bargaining table," said Reid, who served as an international representative alongside Couture for several years in the district office. "Being able to speak French is an absolute must in the Quebec construction industry, which is unlike anything else in North America."

By provincial law, all commercial construction work in Quebec is done with union labor. But instead of unions relying on members' dues, as in most areas, the provincial government collects fees from both employers and workers and distributes them to skilled trades unions throughout the province.

"If you can't speak French in Quebec," Couture said, "you can't even go to a meeting."

Couture estimated he's been part of more than 50 contract negotiations, proudest among them establishing a four-day work week for Canadian National maintenance and establishing a very successful LTD plan managed by the system council for members employed by Canadian Pacific and Toronto Terminal. But he stressed he couldn't have done it alone, thanking the bargaining teams and members for their support and that of his wife, Susan, who did much of the hard work of raising their five children while he traveled across Canada.

The couple also has five grandchildren and plans to keep their home in Hawkesbury, Ontario, along the Ottawa River while also spending time visiting family in Florida. Couture and Susan served as foster parents before his IBEW responsibilities deepened and he now plans to volunteer for more activities in his community.

The IBEW officers and staff thank Brother Couture and his family for his service and wish him a long and happy retirement.


Luc Couture

Jim Springfield

Capping a career of nearly 40 years with the IBEW, Tenth District International Representative James "Jim" Springfield retired on Jan 1.

"Jim's worked a long time to get to his retirement," said Tenth District International Vice President Brent Hall. "He's left a pretty big void that needs to be filled."

Brother Springfield was initiated into Chattanooga, Tenn., Local 721 in 1981. A nuclear reactor operator with the Tennessee Valley Authority, he was elected president and business manager in 1989, positions he filled until 1995 when he was appointed an international representative. He also served in the U.S. Navy from 1974 to 1976 as an aviation electronics technician and in the Navy Reserve.

The California native started out as a district organizing coordinator and served on IBEW's negotiation team with TVA from 1987 to 1995. After that he transitioned to the Tenth District office. Springfield also taught business manager and organizing trainings before the creation of the Education Department.

"I had a great time," Springfield said. "I've worked for three different vice presidents and they were all different. It's been a good experience."

Springfield says his career highlights include organizing 100 senior reactor operators at TVA's three nuclear plants as well as workers at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina.

"He was instrumental in that organizing," Hall said of the TVA win. "He's knows the TVA like the back of his hand."

Hall also praised Springfield for his near-encyclopedic knowledge of TVA and his incredible attention to detail.

"I could pick up the phone and give him a subject from the [former IBEW International President] J.J. Barry days and within 30 minutes he'd be emailing me a copy," Hall said.

A graduate of Chattanooga State and Covenant College, Springfield served as vice president on the executive board of the state AFL-CIO, maintenance vice president on the Tennessee State Electrical Association and as president of the TVA's wage data committee.

"Jim's really been a blessing," Hall said. "He's thoughtful, he's organized. And he'll tell me the truth whether I like it or not."

Springfield says he's seen the IBEW grow in a positive direction over the years and that's something he'll take with him into his retirement — also, the friendships.

"I will miss the day-to-day job of helping people," Springfield said. "Not just members, but those who want to better their lives and the lives of their families."

A boating enthusiast, Springfield says he plans to enjoy some time on the Tennessee River and outdoors in east Tennessee, as well as spending time with his children and grandchildren.

"I'm going to enjoy the life that I have waited all these years to do, that my wife and kids lived while I worked to make theirs possible," Springfield said. "I'm working on getting that nailed down."

The IBEW's members, officers and staff wish Brother Springfield all the best in his retirement.


Jim Springfield