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November 2020

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Inaugural IBEW Strong Workshop Lifts Up Efforts to Expand Diversity and Inclusion

The IBEW in Canada recently held the first workshop of the union's new diversity and inclusion initiative.

As part of the First District's progress meeting in August, the two-hour workshop on the Lift Campaign included members from across Canada. The purpose of the session was to share best practices and elevate those ideas and programs that are having success in their efforts to address the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

"The goal was to identify the strengths of our locals and the programs currently in place that address the guiding principles of IBEW Strong. We were able to do that," said Education Department Director Amanda Pacheco. "Our task now is to work with locals who are doing great work and connect them with locals that are interested in piloting programs that address those principles."

The training was kicked off by First District International Vice President Tom Reid, who began by acknowledging the Indigenous Peoples who occupied the land before European settlers arrived.

"Sometimes Canadians think we don't have racism. That's wrong," Reid said, noting the issue of discrimination against Indigenous Peoples, as well as other historically marginalized groups.

"I was born a white man with privilege. When I walked in the door I was accepted," Reid said. "If we can't accept that white male privilege exists, we'll never get anywhere."

The training, which had around 100 attendees, was conducted over Zoom videoconference due to coronavirus restrictions. At various points, attendees were broken out into smaller groups to share what they believed were the IBEW's strengths and opportunities, as well as aspirations for their locals and how to get the best results. Participants also shared examples of how their locals are already creating opportunities for a stronger IBEW through diversity, equity, and inclusion.

"They say that diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance," said Tarn Goelling, director of Civic and Community Engagement.

While participants noted the first-class education that apprentices get, First District International Representative Cheryl Paron noted the importance of education — and access — in terms of getting into one.

"Education requirements are only fair if all Canadians have the same access to that education," Paron said.

The Diversity and Inclusion Committee came out of a unanimously passed resolution at the 39th International Convention in 2016. In 2018, the committee, which included a cross-section of leaders from all branches, districts and backgrounds, came up with a vision statement and five themes for IBEW Strong. Those themes are:

1. Organizing/Expanding Membership: Develop and expand outreach, recruitment and marketing programs to young people, nontraditional and historically marginalized communities.

2. Education and Training: Provide training and education programs that address the importance and need for inclusion to all IBEW members and leaders.

3. Building Member Activism and Engagement: Provide inclusive opportunities for members to learn and develop leadership skills and foster local union activism.

4. Leadership Advancement: Provide opportunities for all local union members to take on leadership roles.

5. Replicating Best Practices: Document, share, and replicate best practices for creating a stronger IBEW through outreach and inclusion programs.

Pacheco said that they were scheduled to have the training with all district progress meetings this year, but when COVID-19 hit and the meetings were canceled their plans changed.

"We are very appreciative of the First District taking the lead on this and allowing us to pilot this workshop, which focused on the fifth theme of replicating best practices," said Sherilyn Wright, executive assistant to the international president. "Our leaders are also looking for information on how to address the current issues taking place, and we are working on developing trainings and materials to help assist them in this mission."

Is your local working to become more equitable and inclusive? Tell us your story at

Local 257 Volunteers Brighten
Missouri Crisis Center with LEDs

A crisis center and shelter in Missouri's capital now has bright, efficient lighting thanks to a dozen IBEW volunteers who were proud to lend a hand.

"They were super stoked," said Jefferson City Local 257 President Joel Vanderslice, who helmed the project. "It kept 12 of us busy for a big part of the day."

Their time and talent helped the community's Rape and Abuse Crisis Services, known as RACS, spare funds that are badly needed to aid and shelter victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Through energy audits, RACS leaders learned that a lighting upgrade could save thousands of dollars in coming years, with the additional, vital benefit of making their two-story building safer and more secure.

They invested in high-quality, American-made LED lights, hoping to offset the expense with donated labor. But only if they could recruit volunteers who were "well-trained, qualified, licensed professionals," said Randall Werner, RACS building and maintenance chair.

Inevitably, his search led him straight to Local 257. "We've been here 95 years," Business Manager Don Bruemmer said. "We support our community any way we can."

Vanderslice met with Werner earlier this year and had a team of journeymen and apprentices ready to go just as COVID-19 shut everything down in March. On a Saturday three months later, they were just as eager to get to work.

The building, which can house up to 36 residents, was largely vacant at the time, as the pandemic forced RACS to spread out its services.

"It all went really smoothly," journeyman wireman Zack Fischer said. "We were able to go around and get in the rooms without having to knock. We had the lights back on by about 2 o'clock."

"When you're with good company, the pace goes pretty fast," said fellow journeyman and executive board member Brad Heckman, who worked on kitchen, pantry and laundry areas.

Heckman hadn't realized how many services the center provides for victims and children. Helping create a lighter space for them felt good, he said, describing the before and after.

"If you've ever seen an old fluorescent tube that was pretty much at the end of its life span, dim and dull, the new lights, the retrofitted LEDS, really brightened things up," he said.

It's an accomplishment shared by two organizations that care deeply about their community.

"We were glad to answer the call. That's what we do as IBEW members," Vanderslice said. "And we want to thank RACS for everything they do, and for being such a great organization to work with."

The respect and gratitude are mutual.

"All of those guys, most of whom are family guys, gave up a beautiful Saturday to install the LED lighting," Werner said. "Not only did it relieve a significant financial burden for RACS, but we can also rest easy knowing that the job was done right and that our clients are safe."


A dozen Jefferson City, Mo., Local 257 members happily gave up a Saturday to install badly needed new lighting in a crisis center and shelter that's served their community for 40 years.

Indiana Local, Signatory Contractor Partner with
NAACP to Expand Solar Training Program

Evansville, Ind., Local 16 has a long, proud history. The city sent one of the 10 delegates to the IBEW's first convention in 1891 and Local 16 has been a major part of the southwestern Indiana community for more than 100 years.

Now, Business Manager Brandon Wongngamnit and others are trying to build on that history. He wants traditionally underrepresented parts of the community to better enjoy the benefits of IBEW membership. A new partnership with signatory contractor Morton Solar and the NAACP is a step in that direction.

The NAACP funded the installation of solar panels on the Greater St. James Community Center, a historically Black church in Evansville. As part of the program, Morton Solar and owner Brad Morton, along with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, provided early-stage instruction on solar-panel installation to four men of color from the community.

Wongngamnit hopes it is the beginning of more programs like it and provides a path for as many of the new trainees as possible to move into Local 16's apprenticeship program. Only licensed electricians are permitted to install solar panels in Vanderburgh County, where Evansville is located.

Although commercial solar installation in the area has slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is expected to pick back up when Vectren, the area's electric utility provider, begins work on a solar farm about 30 miles east of Evansville.

"It's baby steps," he said. "If we can get some of these guys to be journeyman wireman and part of Local 16, it will all be worth it."

Wongngamnit, who is of Asian descent, noted that only 27 of Local 16's 1,015 members are considered people of color — just over 2%. One of his goals since being elected business manager earlier this year is to "offer more opportunities to people of color by making sure they know what we have to offer," he said.

"A lot of people of color don't know about us and that is something we want to correct. We want to be as diversified as possible."

He credits Brad Morton for Local 16's involvement. His company is a member of B Corps, an international program that includes nearly 3,600 companies that work toward reducing income inequality, lowering poverty, building stronger communities, a healthier environment and "the creation of more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose," he said.

"Our philosophy has always been to create jobs," Morton said. "We want to create the type of jobs the old mining companies did in this area, that are high paying and help the economy. We want to create jobs across the spectrum. We believe in diversity."

It's why Morton was receptive when approached by NAACP officials. It is part of the legendary civil rights organization's "Power Up" initiative, which is designed to train Black Americans to work in emerging energy technologies with the goal of closing the unemployment gap between Black Americans and the rest of the population.

"We are very happy to have this relationship with the IBEW," said Robin Williams, the retired associate director of civil rights for the United Food and Commercial Workers and labor chair of the NAACP's National Board of Directors. "Since it started a few months ago, it has really been going well."

Denise Abdul-Rahman, an NAACP regional field organizer in the Midwest and Great Plains and the Indiana state chair of the organization's Environmental and Climate Justice Program, said starting the program during a pandemic had its challenges. Some of the participants had limited internet access, for instance, and maintaining social distancing during training was a challenge.

But she said the program has been a success and a new group of participants will train with Morton Solar this fall. Like Wongngamnit, she hopes some of the applicants pursue an apprenticeship.

"In the midst of the pandemic, we can try to provide a stipend for some people and educate them," Abdul-Rahman said. "When this nightmare is over, they can transition into jobs."

Added Morton: "The tag line that I like about a certified B Corps company is that we use our business as a force for good. That sticks with me. We try to do whatever we can to help our planet and mitigate climate change.

"I believe that the IBEW is a great career. I would really love to get as many guys in there as we can. It's a great profession. It's a great way to earn a living."


Participants in the NAACP's "Power Up" program studied with Evansville, Ind., Local 16 signatory contractor Morton Solar for potential careers in the electrical industry.

New York Member's Alaska Adventure Featured on 'Brotherhood Outdoors'

Jared Crast traveled 3,000 miles with his older brother last fall to hunt deer in Alaska only to have a bear come between them and a potential trophy.

"We saw this beautiful buck in this valley," said Crast, a member of Syracuse, N.Y., Local 43. But within seconds, he and his brother Jamieson spotted something else — and something big: "A hundred yards in front of us was this trophy black bear."

Crast shared the story of his adventurous trek to Kodiak Island, and of his close encounters with Alaska's wilder side, on a recent episode of "Brotherhood Outdoors," a presentation of the Union Sportsmen's Alliance.

"I've been a hunter since I was able to walk," he said. "I've always been a part of it with my family. My father would put me in a wicker pack and track whitetail on state land and some private pieces, as a way to babysit me."

Crast has traveled as far away as Ohio and South Dakota to hunt, but this trip marked his first time ever in The Last Frontier. "I've never been to a place that remote before," he said. A 13-hour journey took the brothers first from Syracuse to Anchorage, followed by a bumpy ride in a four-seater bush plane to Old Harbor, a small fishing community of about 200 people on Kodiak Island's southeast edge.

The rifle hunt was set up as a three-day, do-it-yourself excursion, Crast said. "There was no guide physically with us," he explained. "We had to come up with our own tactics."

As it happens, his older brother Jamieson is also an executive producer of "Brotherhood Outdoors." Jamieson had encouraged Jared to apply to be on the show, but "I still had to get chosen," the younger Crast said — the family connection to the program didn't garner him special consideration.

Even with Jamieson serving double duty as the outing's videographer, the brothers managed well on their trip, Jared said, although it rained a lot. Scrambling up the side of a mountain to about 1,400 feet above sea level at one point, the pair thought their efforts were about to pay off when they saw an impressive Sitka black tail deer down in a valley.

That's when they also spotted the Kodiak brown bear moving between them and their prize. Although brown bears don't typically attack humans, the brothers decided it was safest to take no chances. "We didn't go after that buck," Crast said.

As luck would have it, they were able to take down a second buck that was bigger, although doing so risked piquing the bear's interest. "Gunshots are like a dinner bell for those brown bears," Crast said.

The brothers retreated to their camp with their prize and had just settled in to cook up some ramen noodles when they discovered they had a visitor. "It was that bear," Crast said. "He had worked in about 40 yards away from us."

Once bears smell food, it becomes really hard to simply shoo them away. "We had to get out of there," Crast said, but it wasn't easy. To safely escape, they had to take a route that sent them "down rock faces and one heck of a slope," he said.

Fortunately, they made it back to safety — and eventually to Syracuse — with a real adventure tale to tell.

Crast said he is drawn to the brotherhood that comes from IBEW membership as well from the hunting community. After high school, he started out studying environmental engineering in college but found irresistible the promise of a union electrical career that came with real hands-on experience. He was eventually accepted as an apprentice with Local 43, a 1,200-member inside local serving central New York.

"I haven't found my niche yet," said Crast, who recently started his fourth year as an apprentice. He likes the smaller wiring jobs, but he really enjoys working on big projects.

He had hoped to go back to Alaska this fall for another chance to bag a deer there. But travel restrictions in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 placed those plans on hold indefinitely, so he was considering a road trip to hunt in Ohio or South Dakota as a consolation.

Crast's episode of Brotherhood Outdoors debuted on the Sportsman Channel on Sept. 15. His and other episodes are available at, and you can find a listing of upcoming shows at

The Union Sportsmen's Alliance is a union-dedicated, non-profit organization whose members hunt, fish, shoot and volunteer their skills to improve public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habits and mentor and engage youth in the outdoors. The IBEW is one of its charter sponsors.


A September episode of "Brotherhood Outdoors" featured Syracuse, N.Y., Local 43 apprentice Jared Crast, left, who joined his brother Jamieson on a dream deer hunt in Alaska last fall.