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October 2020

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Tennessee Electrician Invents an
Equipment-Saving Lubricant

Steven Hood has worked for nearly a quarter of a century as an industrial electrician, so he's seen his share of co-workers on jobs getting frustrated when friction would cause their drill bits and saw blades to stop cutting, seize up or snap.

"People were using all kinds of crazy stuff to keep them from burning up — even mustard," the member of Chattanooga, Tenn., Local 175 said with a laugh. "I had never invented anything in my life, but I thought there just had to be a better way."

In his spare time, Hood brainstormed ideas for effective lubricants with a chemical engineer friend of his. "I just kept messing with stuff over the years," he said, coming up with and tweaking more than a dozen different formulas. "We've cut about 400,000 holes through just about every metal possible."

Eventually, the electrician landed on an oil-free and environmentally safe lubricant he dubbed "Triple-S." While that stands for "stainless saw saver," Hood said that his invention works on every make of steel saw blade and drill bit.

A person simply sprays on Triple-S, he said, to create a heat-dispersing film that reduces the potential for shearing. "It can help our folks make clean, even cuts so they can get the job done right the first time," Hood said. "Regular application can help an electrician save $40-45 on the cost of replacing a burnt-up drill or saw."

Triple-S also has the advantage of not being as smelly or messy as the more traditional cutting fluids that contain pungent chlorine or phosphorus, he said. "Most of those are oil-based," Hood said. "Nobody in the world makes something like this."

Once he was satisfied with his formula, Hood made small batches of Triple-S out of his home and then simply gave away bottles of it to co-workers and others who asked for it. Inventing the lubricant wasn't about making money, he said.

"I already have a comfortable and secure union job," said Hood, who works for Chattanooga-based Adman Electric, a member of the East Tennessee chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association. "They're great people and I enjoy working for them," he said.

Over time, Hood estimates that several hundred people have used Triple-S, and a lot of those satisfied customers would ask him why he wasn't charging them for it. In June, he finally decided to give selling it a go, moving his manufacturing effort to a three-bay garage in suburban Chattanooga — "a nice, wide-open set-up" — and he applied for a business license and a patent.

Since then, and with help from his family, Hood has been spending evenings and weekends ramping up Triple-S production, filling thousands of 8-ounce plastic squirt bottles. His goal has been to package about 20,000 cases each month — 12 bottles per case, packaged with a product data-sheet and able to be ordered in large quantities for industrial companies.

Of course, Hood would prefer to be demonstrating Triple-S at industry conventions and trade shows, but like a lot of people in the era of COVID-19, he's had to trade face-to-face meetings for online demos via video conferencing. He's also been getting the word out via phone calls, a new website, and old-fashioned word-of-mouth. His efforts seem to be paying off: Hood said he has been in talks with national distributors, retail outlets and suppliers.

Hood said Local 175 Business Manager Gary Watkins and Adman CEO Joe Gibson and President Caleb Wynn have been "very supportive" of his Triple-S venture.

"He is a great example of how hard work pays off," Watkins said. "We are very proud of him and for him."

And although Hood has settled on a winning formula for his invention, he hasn't stopped tinkering with it, he said.

"Each new project is an opportunity for me to learn something different and to expand the offerings," he said. "We've recently been working on a foam, like shaving cream, for vertical cuts, where it will not run off the cutting surface."

Ultimately, Hood dreams of setting up an automated bottling and distribution system for Triple-S in a larger warehouse space in Chattanooga. And if this side hustle of his ends up taking off in a big way, Hood said he would like to stay on at Adman while hiring people to help him out with Triple-S. Of course, his facility would become an IBEW shop, he said.

"I love the electrical trade, and the IBEW has been good to me," said the third-generation member. "My career is what's given me the freedom to tinker like this, and I've always imagined I would retire from it one day."

Learn more about Triple-S at


Wireman and inventor Steven Hood, center, with Local 175 Business Manager Gary Watkins, left, and President Danny Painter.

Ottawa Local Shares Outdoor Space to
Help Neighboring Restaurant During Coronavirus

The coronavirus has upended the restaurant industry like almost nothing else, making it difficult to stay afloat. So, when Ottawa, Ontario, Local 2228 was asked to share some outdoor space with a next-door business in need, they were happy to do their part and help put a few of their neighbors back to work.

"We're just trying to help a neighbor get back on their feet," said Business Manager Paul Cameron.

The local's office is located on Wellington Street West, right next to Bar Laurel, a Spanish tapas-style restaurant. With indoor activities still carrying so much risk, restaurants have had to switch to outdoor seating wherever possible. But like a lot of establishments, that could only go so far. When Bar Laurel owner Jon Svazas reached out to Local 2228 to see if his neighbor would be willing to share what they had, he thought it would be just the space in front of the hall, enough for a couple more tables.

But Cameron suggested the alley between the two buildings as well as the parking lot in the back, which was mostly empty since so few people were coming in. That inspired Svazas to get to work on repurposing the lot. He cut a hole in the fence separating the establishments and put in a few stairs for easy access. He also added picnic tables, tents and patio lights to allow for a complete outdoor dining experience.

"We weren't using the space, so it made sense to offer it," Cameron said. "It's an easy thing we could do to help."

Without this outside option, Bar Laurel would have been left with indoor seating that could only be used at about a third of its normal capacity, since it has to allow for the required six feet (or two meters) between customers. That means the chance to only make a fraction of its pre-COVID-19 revenue.

"It's nearly impossible to be profitable even when we're at full capacity in the restaurant business," Svazas said. "This extra seating has definitely helped. We were able to hire four people back."

Cameron and Svazas signed a contract for the space around the end of June. It was offered at a symbolic amount of $1 a month and was available to the bar through the end of September, though Cameron says they could certainly revisit it and extend the contract for a longer time if needed.

"You can't always count on a friendly neighbor, but that's what we got this time," Svazas said. "They definitely went above and beyond."

While headquartered in Ottawa, the 1,900-member local represents government employees across the country, from the east to the west coast and all the way up to the Arctic circle. Members work in practically every agency, including the Coast Guard and Department of National Defence, as electrical technologists and technicians, on everything from radios to missiles.


Ottawa, Ontario, Local 2228 has shared its parking lot with a neighboring restaurant to help it weather the coronavirus.

IBEW Members Restore Historic Bells at
California High School

The bells at Salinas High School had been silent for 30 years, but with the help of a few Castroville, Calif., Local 234 members, the chimes are now back up and ringing.

The project is one that hit close to home for the brotherhood's members, as well as for the National Electrical Contractors Association's Monterey Bay Chapter.

"Salinas is the county seat of Monterey, and many of us involved in NECA grew up around here," said Jerri Champlin, executive manager of the NECA chapter, to the Electrical Contractor.

So when Salinas High School Principal Elizabeth Duethman contacted the Class of 1977 to ask for help with repairing the bell tower to honor the 100th anniversary of the school, Local 234 and NECA were all in. Champlin is a member of the Class of '77 and brought the project to the Labor Management Cooperation Committee. Rick Jensen, owner of signatory contractor JM Electric, is also an alum and pitched in.

The LMCC agreed to finance and install the new system, and JM Electric donated a portion of the labor. The school didn't have to pay for anything, said Local 234 Business Manager Lamont Adams.

"This project is a real boost to our community," Adams said. "We were more than happy to help preserve the history of such an iconic structure."

What they might not have predicted was that the project would end up taking about two years to complete.

"When we looked at what needed to be done, we realized that the whole system was shot," Champlin said. "It needed everything."

Adams said members did a total renovation that included updating the bells to a new electronic system that works in conjunction with a marquee in front of the school. The system is comprised of an amplifier, monitor, speaker and control panel that's located in the school's office. Four horn speakers are also mounted in the tower.

The work was completed in May but because of the coronavirus, the high school couldn't do a traditional graduation. Instead, they orchestrated a drive-by style ceremony for the Class of 2020 with the bells finally ringing out. The chimes also rang on the Fourth of July to celebrate the holiday.

The only snag, Lamont noted, was that they may have done too good of a job with the bells.

"On the first day of testing, residents complained about how loud the speakers were," Lamont said. "So the school decided to only ring the bells for special events."

The LMCC has also worked with Habitat for Humanity and has installed scoreboards at numerous local high schools and little league fields.


Castroville, Calif., Local 234 members volunteered their time to restore the bell system at Salinas High School in time for its 100th anniversary this year.

In Colorado Springs, Local and EWMC Partner to
Give Weekend Food to Families in Need

As much of Colorado — and indeed, the world — was shuttered in March to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the members of Colorado Springs, Colo., Local 113 turned the tragedy into an opportunity for them to help the members of their surrounding community.

"When the governor shut down the state and closed businesses, we thought, 'We can really do some good here,'" said Local 113 Business Manager Brian Bradley.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, like many of his counterparts in the U.S., listened early to the concerns of health officials about the novel coronavirus and ordered the state to close in an attempt to limit its spread. As a result, many people soon found themselves out of work, sometimes temporarily furloughed but often permanently laid off.

And while Colorado Springs' schools continued to provide free meals to children during the week, cash-strapped families often struggled to find enough money to pay for food over the weekends.

This new reality prompted Local 113's Electrical Workers Minority Caucus committee to partner with the local's general membership and executive committee to help supplement these missing Saturday and Sunday meals with Friday evening food banks.

"The first week, we packed 150 bags of food," Bradley said: "rice, beans, dry goods and water, plus bread and lunch meats." The local then worked with its marketing firm to publicize the food giveaway via public service announcements on several local television stations' newscasts. Facebook posts and a video helped spread word about the event even farther.

The outreach worked almost too well, as demand for the first event on April 17 was tremendous. "We gave all the food away in less than two hours," Bradley said. The food bank's success — along with the obvious ongoing need for food in the area — encouraged the local to keep them going longer.

"We started doing it every week," Bradley said. Money provided by the EWMC, as well as union funds authorized for donation by the local's executive committee, combined to allow the local to up the number of food bags to 250, and to include other items such as pasta, ramen and fruit cups. "We also bought eight 50-pound bags of beans and rice," he said, with volunteers safely measuring out the food into family-size portions.

The Colorado Springs Area Labor Council also donated money and lent some helpers, and in May, Bargain Mart, a discount grocery store, donated more than 1,500 pounds of potatoes for the food giveaway.

In the week leading up to the Friday distribution events, volunteers would work at the union hall to prepare the bags of food. While they worked, people from the community would occasionally stop by the hall to drop off money — financial and moral support that Bradley said helped energize the effort.

The food distribution Fridays continued through May. Some members moved bags of food to cars as they were driven up to a tent outside the local while others volunteered to stand on nearby street corners, holding signs to help direct drivers to the food pick-up point.

The families who came to the events were grateful for the donated food, but one particular family was moved enough to come back on a following Monday and create a special thank-you display out of chalk on the sidewalk in front of Local 113's hall.

"The feeling of accomplishment here was amazing," Bradley said.

The demand for food slowed down a bit after a few weeks, Bradley said, but any leftovers did not go to waste. "There's a local park where a lot of homeless people live," he said, "so, we packed the union's van and gave out the extra bags of food there."

"Local 113 and their EWMC are leaders, and I couldn't be prouder," Eighth District International President Jerry Bellah said, adding that International Lonnie R. Stephenson saluted volunteers via FaceTime.

"The easy thing to do would have been to donate the money to Care and Share," he said, referring to Colorado's statewide food-pantry distribution charity. "But we wanted the community to know that the IBEW was doing this, that we're a part of the community."


Volunteer Stacie Bradley fills grocery bags as part of Colorado Springs, Colo., Local 113's recent food banks.