The Electrical Worker online
May 2021

index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to
Glenda G. Thomason

Retired Personnel Director Glenda Thomason, who began her IBEW career as a clerical worker at Nevada Power and became a valued member of a close-knit team of Utility Department representatives, died Feb. 8.

"Glenda was a very strong asset to the Utility Department, and it was a loss for the branch when she went to Personnel," said former colleague Will Paul, who later served as director of Support Services.

On top of her intelligence and drive, Thomason was a delight to work with, Paul and another teammate said.

"She was such a nice person to be around," said Jim Hunter, who went on to serve as the Utility director. "She was always happy, positive and upbeat."

A New Mexico native, Thomason was initiated into Las Vegas Local 396 in 1978. Soon after starting her clerical job at what is now NV Energy, she began an apprenticeship to become a field metering electrician. She graduated as a journeyman in 1982, a rarity at that time for a woman.

She was active on the safety committee from the start, quickly became a steward, and helped bargain contracts at Nevada Power and Davey Tree Surgery during her nine years in the field.

Over those years, Thomason also acted as a spokesperson for the Las Vegas Stay in School program.

In 1994, by then the assistant business manager, she was hired as an international representative in the Utility Department, where she helped spearhead the union's policy response to the burgeoning electricity deregulation movement.

She also worked with Hunter on an early organizing drive at BG&E. But her primary duty was representing clerical and technical workers at IBEW utilities.

"It was a very well-balanced department and we blended well together," said Paul, who handled generation and environmental issues. "It was fun and challenging. We could really delve into some interesting topics, and Glenda was a vital part of that."

It was something of a surprise in 2002 when she was tapped to become personnel director, but it also made sense, both Paul and Hunter said.

"Handling grievances with management was a daily occurrence in Utility," Hunter said. "Glenda was very familiar with contract language, grievances, the whole process."

With her valuable experience and superb people skills, "I thought it was a good fit, and she did a really good job," Hunter said. "She was very kind-hearted. She really tried to work out issues and problems rather than the hard-handed, 'That's the way it is.'"

"She had the background to see both sides," Paul said. "She definitely had that union mind. But a smart union mind realizes that both sides have to win."

That applied to negotiating as well as hiring. Both men recalled her knack for finding the right person for the right job. "She understood that when they're happy, we're happy," Hunter said.

Thomason returned home to New Mexico when she retired, saying she looked forward to time with her family and enjoying her hobbies, including beach combing, sewing and rehabilitating houses. Her daughter, Dara Shook, said she also spent time at the local library helping people learn to read.

In addition to Shook, she is survived by a son, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

"It has been my privilege to serve the membership and officers of the IBEW," she said upon retiring. "I leave with the satisfaction of having done my best."

The IBEW is grateful for Sister Thomason's pioneering service to our union and sends its sincerest condolences to her family and friends.


Glenda G. Thomason

Keenan Eagen

International Representative Keenan Eagen, a leader in the IBEW's organizing work in construction for nearly three decades and a mentor to many current organizers, retired April 1.

A native of Elmira, N.Y., Brother Eagen became interested in electrical work while serving as a helper on construction sites as a teenager. He joined Elmira Local 139 when he was accepted into its apprenticeship program in 1981, topping out four years later. He served on the local's Executive Committee and became good friends with then-business manager Charles Patton, who asked him to come on staff as a full-time organizer in 1992.

"I was actually apprehensive about taking it," Eagen said. "I liked working in the field. But there was a need and my business manager asked me to do it, so I certainly honored his request."

Eagen had no organizing experience but he thinks Patton asked him because, "Anything that the local was doing, I was there," he said. "Whether that was advanced education for journeymen, walking a picket line or volunteer work, I was involved. I was someone committed to the local."

It didn't take long to realize he loved his new role, especially the interaction with new members and signatory contractors. One of Eagen's favorite memories came when a Local 139 member visited him in his office several years after Eagen had brought him into the brotherhood. The grateful member was accompanied by his teenage daughter.

She thanked Eagen for helping her dad become a member because it allowed her to attend college.

"For the 10 years I was in that position, I kept track of every person I organized," he said. "When they were going through any changes in their lives, any problems, I wanted to be a resource for anything they needed help with. That's all part of part of being in the people business."

His approach produced results.

"I'm very proud of the fact that our local grew market share so much they had to adjust [our year-to-year growth] calculations to more than 100%," Eagen said. "Charlie's motto was, 'When we have all the electricians, we win.'"

Following his local success, Eagen was named an international representative and moved to the Third District staff in 2002. He traveled throughout New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware assisting local organizers, including some on the Professional and Industrial side.

He returned to his construction roots full-time when he was assigned to the International Office in 2007 after the formation of the Membership Development Department. Eagen kept his home in the Elmira area and served as the Third District organizing coordinator, continuing in that role until his retirement. He also trained IBEW organizers from across North America.

"When we first met and I was a new organizer [for Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Local 163], one of the first things he said to me and has carried through to this day was, 'You're not in the construction business now, you're in the people business," said former Pennsylvania state organizing coordinator Jeremy Moderwell, who assumed Eagen's role as Third District organizing coordinator following his retirement.

"You can get caught up in things and forget that. But if you lose sight of it, you won't have much success. It risks becoming more of a job instead of a calling."

In retirement, Eagen plans to spend more time motorcycle riding, particularly in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He decided to retire to spend more time with two grown daughters and three grandchildren, who all live in Charlotte, N.C., and because Moderwell was ready to step into his position.

"I'm proud of the career that I've had," Eagen said. "I feel blessed to be part of the IBEW. I've also been blessed to meet some of the best people and nicest people I've ever dealt with, from international presidents to union organizers to everyone in between. They really care about the IBEW."

The officers and staff thank Brother Eagen for his many years of service and wish him a long and happy retirement.


Keenan Eagen

Rick Hite

Rick Hite, a Ninth District international representative and journeyman lineman whose skills, gusto and devotion won the hearts of his Pacific Northwest locals, retired April 1 after 44 lively years with the IBEW.

Hite's career took him from adventures high in the sky above Washington state to the joys of training apprentices, running Tacoma Local 483 and ultimately serving a cross section of locals along a spectacular route stretching from Oregon to Alaska.

"I'm a people person and being able to service these eight locals is like being a people person on steroids," he said. "I love this job."

The feeling is mutual. "I can't put into words how much he's meant to us and to all the locals he services. He's an institution," said Dave Reaves, who was business manager at Anchorage-based Local 1547 until being appointed to take over for Hite.

"He's a tough act to follow," Reaves said. "I'm trying to pick his brain as much as possible."

It helps that one of Hite's trademarks is his accessibility, and he's told Reaves to "call me about anything, at any time."

"That is the Rick Hite work ethic," said Alice Phillips, Hite's successor as Local 483 business manager. "If you'd answer the phone for your blood brother, you answer the phone for your union brother."

Hite's path to the IBEW began with a nonunion job building transmission lines in Arizona. Lured by the promise of $8 an hour, he took off with a friend from Tacoma in the mid-'70s before finishing school. Upon arrival, they were offered $5 an hour.

"Safety was what you made of it. They didn't have rules," Hite said. "Wages were what you could barter for."

Meeting several IBEW members on a worksite opened his eyes. Hite returned home, earned his high school diploma in night school, and applied to be a Seattle Local 77 apprentice.

It was a thriller of an education that took him from the depths of Puget Sound pulling and replacing submarine cables to the heights of hanging above desert, mountains and old-growth forest in a spacing cart, gliding some 2,000 feet between towers supplying power to western Washington.

In 1980, after six months as a journeyman, and with a toddler and newborn at home, Hite hired on as a utility hand with Tacoma Power, represented by Local 483.

He took fewer risks "but it never got any duller," he said, describing the adrenalin rush of restoring storm-ravaged lines and towers toppled by giant evergreens.

He spent his weekends teaching at the NW Line JATC, training nearly 300 apprentices over 15 years. "I wanted to give back to where I came from," he said. "Of all my jobs, that was the most rewarding."

In classes and conferences, he jovially introduces himself as "Rick Hite, lineman extraordinaire," a nickname that's stuck. "Except for what we call bare-handing extra high-voltage wires," he says, "I've done it all."

He dove into union work early on at Tacoma Power. Frustrated by an aloof shop steward, Hite took his job and kept moving up the Local 483 ladder — chief steward, board member, president, and finally an eight-year run as business manager before joining the Ninth District staff in 2005.

A favorite memory is his successful 11th-hour stand as the clock ticked down on a year-old expired contract at Tacoma Power. With management ready to leave, Hite bought pizza for the house and gave the mediator a message to pass on: "If they go home, they're going to like me even less tomorrow than they do today. We are here to get a deal done tonight."

Hite prepared ferociously for every round of bargaining. "If you're going to the dance, and you don't know how to dance, everyone's going to notice," he likes to say.

Those habits served him well when he began representing locals that included unfamiliar jobsites in telecom, nuclear power and an industrial shipyard. He dug deep, learning their languages and the intricacies of the jobs.

"Rick's work ethic as an I.O. rep was no different than when he was the president of the local and when he became business manager," Phillips said.

"He's one in a million," she says of her decades-long mentor and friend. "Big hearted, honest, dedicated, passionate and fun."

Hite also is as a champion of IBEW women, as Phillips knows firsthand. After years guiding her into leadership at Local 483, he hired her as his deputy and urged her to fight to succeed him as business manager in 2005.

"I didn't see myself in that role. But Rick did," said Phillips, now in her fifth term. "He took a risk. I know for a fact that he took a lot of grief. I had two strikes against me: One, I was a woman. And two, I was a journeyman tree trimmer in a lineman's local."

Hite is excited that his retirement is opening another door, with Marcie Obremski, formerly assistant business manager at Local 1547, stepping into Reaves' shoes.

At home on five acres in the shadow of Mt. Rainer, Hite has a list of projects to tackle — "moving plants and trees, building fences, and we're getting ready to remodel," he said.

Above all, he's savoring family time with his wife, Myla, a federal mediator, his son, two daughters and four grandchildren.

He's grateful for his IBEW career, as well as his enviable territory. "To go to Alaska is heaven-sent," he said. "Some of the warmest people I've ever met."

But the timing was right to retire. "It's been a pretty great ride. I'm a lucky man."

On behalf of officers, staff and members, the IBEW thanks Brother Hite for his decades of service and good will and wishes him a happy, healthy retirement.


Rick Hite

John Lei

Eighth District International Representative John Lei, who was born on a Montana Indian reservation and went on to become a trusted leader for utility and railroad local unions, retired on April 1.

A member of the Crow Tribe, Brother Lei grew up on a cattle ranch near Ashland, Mont., after his mother remarried when he was a young child. He wanted to become a lawyer and planned to attend the University of Montana for his undergraduate studies.

But he never made it there. Instead, Lei got a job working as a construction laborer and the money was so good, he stayed with it. Later, he took advantage of a tribal program that trained members to become heavy equipment operators and worked as a scrapper at a coal mine.

After that, Lei went through the apprenticeship program at the Pipefitters local in Billings, Mont., and became a member of the United Association. When work slowed, he landed a job as a general mechanic at Montana's Yellowtail Dam, working for the federal government's Bureau of Reclamation.

But in 1989, Lei moved on to a better-paying job at the legendary Colstrip Power Plant, which earned him IBEW membership in Colstrip Local 1638. That's when his career took an unexpected turn.

Lei's bargaining unit needed a steward and no one wanted to do it. So, some of the more veteran employees strongly encouraged the then-30-year-old Lei to accept.

"I was volun-told to do it," he said with a laugh.

Lei did so and found out he enjoyed the position. He also found out that while he enjoyed the benefits of IBEW membership, he wasn't particularly pleased with the direction of his local union. Colstrip was on the verge of being sold from Montana Power to PPL and morale at the plant was low.

He and other dissatisfied members discussed having someone run against the incumbent business manager but they had trouble reaching consensus on a candidate.

"Each time we looked for someone to run, that person had an excuse," Lei said. "It kept going down the line and it got to me. I was like, 'I don't know. Let's ask the person behind me.' But there wasn't a person behind me."

Lei ran and won a close election, which he attributed to his working as a crane operator and being part of the team that upgraded Colstrip's fire-prevention system. Those positions made it easy for him to meet members across the facility, he said.

"I basically had full run of the plant," Lei said. "I got to know a lot of people.

"For people to have faith in what I was going to do, it was kind of unreal," he added. "Here comes a Native American running in this time of turmoil and I got elected. It was self-gratifying because people voted for me because of who I was, not what I was."

As business manager, Lei led negotiations that allowed all IBEW members who had been laid off to return to work. He also negotiated contracts that guaranteed raises and improved benefits and maintained double-time pay for overtime. He was re-elected without opposition in 2002.

Two years later, then-Eighth District Vice President Jon Walters asked him to join the district staff, focusing on railroad and utility locals. System Councils U-13 and U-27 Chairman Perry Steig, who has known Lei for 17 years, said he brought a combination of deep knowledge and a sense of humor to the role that often alleviated tension during contract negotiations.

"I can't tell you enough things that make John special," Steig said. "He's a very witty and entertaining individual. He always has a story and a joke to tell."

Eight District Vice President Jerry Bellah called Lei "one of the most approachable leaders" in the district.

"His ability to talk to anyone, anywhere and make them feel like a friend has been invaluable in his role," Bellah said. "The number of members he has had a positive influence on is too long to list. John has been an excellent representative of the IBEW and his community and I am so proud to be counted as a friend."

Lei inherited part of his parents' ranch in Custer National Forest and, along with daughter Eleece, formed an LLC and turned it into a campground for hunters and others exploring the outdoors.

He'll spend part of his retirement running that. He and his wife, Karla, also plan to do some traveling and spend time with their five children and numerous grandchildren.

Two of his sons served in the Army, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are members of the trades. John Jr. recently topped out at Billings Local 532. Robbie is a member of Operating Engineers Local 400 in Helena, Mont.

Lei takes pride in what he accomplished as a Native American.

"Hell yeah, I do," he said. "There were some people rattled when I first ran for business manager. There was some hesitation and I heard second-hand stories about, 'How is this Indian going to help us?' When we had successful negotiations and we enhanced their benefits or whatever, those were the first people to thank me."

The officers and staff thank Brother Lei for his years of service and wish him a happy retirement.


John Lei

David E. Moran

David E. Moran, an international representative in the Fourth District who serviced central and northern Ohio locals and also served as political coordinator throughout the state, retired effective April 1.

Moran was born in the Akron suburb of Norton, Ohio, where he graduated from Norton High School. After that, friends of his father — an Akron Local 306 member who became disabled — encouraged him to apply to the inside apprenticeship.

The choice kicked off a 42-year career: Moran was initiated into Local 306 in 1979, and he topped out of his apprenticeship in 1983.

After working with the tools for a few years, Moran gradually got more active with his union, and it wasn't long before he was serving on Local 306's apprenticeship committee. He also chaired the local's supplemental health fund committee and served as a trustee of its pension and 401(k) retirement funds.

"When it came time to roll up your sleeves and get the job done, Dave was at the front of the line," said Steve Crum, a fellow Fourth District international representative. "He's always worked for the betterment of the IBEW. He's a real class act."

In 1992, Moran's knack for managing finances helped propel him to become treasurer of Local 306. Soon after, he also was appointed as the local's organizer. Five years later, he was elected to what became a nine-year run as the local's business manager. Among his many accomplishments in that role, he directly worked getting a state-of-the-art training facility built.

Moran also served a stint as secretary-treasurer of the Ohio State IBEW Conference as well as on that body's executive board. And in 2006, when the international union held its 37th convention about an hour's drive up I-77 in Cleveland, Moran was tapped to serve as that gathering's treasurer, too.

"I liked what we could do to help people in Ohio better their lives," Moran said.

Additionally, Moran carved out some time to serve as president of the Tri-County Building and Construction Trades Council and on the executive board of the Tri-County Labor Council, both of which serve union locals in Akron's home county, Summit, as well as neighboring Medina and Portage counties.

His work with the Summit County United Way, including a stint on its board of directors, led to his being honored in 2006 with the Leo E. Dugan Labor Award for Outstanding Community Service.

Recognizing Moran's talents, then-International President Edwin D. Hill, on the recommendation of then-Fourth District International Vice President Paul Witte, appointed him in 2007 to serve as a Fourth District international representative, focusing on the needs of electrical workers throughout the Buckeye State.

"Dave was kind of known as the 'junkyard dog' of the Fourth District," Crum said. "Luck of the draw, I guess, but he seemed to get a lot of the tougher assignments."

Among some of the recent battles Moran fought on behalf of IBEW members were the successful efforts to keep open the state's two nuclear plants, continuing steady employment for hundreds of IBEW members.

He testified before state House and Senate committees about the need for reliable baseload generation as well about other subjects of importance to IBEW members. "We created some pretty strong alliances with both Republicans and Democrats along the way," he said.

Sources of clean energy generation, such as nuclear, solar and wind, represent a huge potential for IBEW members, Moran said, noting that the state has dozens of large solar installation and storage maintenance projects in the pipeline alone, all of which are helping to support commercial and residential customers alike. "I think that's really exciting for Ohio," he said.

In retirement, Moran and his wife, Susanne, plan to remain part of the IBEW and the Fourth District family, and also to do many of the things they've been unable to do during the COVID-19 pandemic now that they're both fully vaccinated. "We want to travel more when we're able," he said. He also plans to spend generous amounts of his free time with his children, Stacy and Ryan; his stepchildren, Jeanne, Jason and Justin; and his 11 grandchildren.

"He may have come off sometimes as brash doing his job," said Crum, whose family has vacationed with Moran's, "but we had a lot of fun with Dave. He always gave us ample opportunities to poke some fun at him.

"He is passionate about his family and the IBEW," Crum said, "and the district is losing a valuable source of knowledge, passion and humor."

Please join the officers and staff of the IBEW in wishing Brother Moran a long and happy retirement.


David E. Moran

Pasquale Gino

After a 63-year career spanning five IBEW presidencies, 13 conventions and the radical transformation of his industry, Third District International Representative Pasquale Gino is retiring on the eve of his 85th birthday.

When Gino was hired at the Reading Western Electric works in 1958 and joined Laureldale, Pa., Local 1898, American manufacturing was a juggernaut.

For the first 20 years of Gino's career, as he rose to steward, then business manager, then president of System Council EM-3 to lead Western Electric's 80,000 IBEW members, manufacturing in North America rose, too.

"I was there at the 1972 convention when then-International Secretary Joe Keenan announced we had 1 million members," Gino said. "You look at where we are now, and you look at how many manufacturing members we've lost, that's who's missing. We took a heck of a blow."

Gino was born and raised in Brooklyn, graduating from Erasmus Hall, one of the nation's oldest high schools. He came from a union family with one uncle a chief steward of the Longshoremen on the Brooklyn piers, another uncle a steward for the Sanitation Workers and another a track layer and repairman for the Long Island Railroad.

Gino joined the Navy after high school and from 1952 to 1956 he was a damage control petty officer, responsible for repairing the flight deck of an aircraft carrier and ensuring the safety of the pilots who landed on it.

"That's where I learned my trade: rigging," he said.

One time, he went on leave with another sailor back to his hometown of Reading, Pa.; Gino met a young women, Charlotte, and when he got out of the Navy, he went back to her and the Lehigh Valley and never left. They had three daughters, Jolene, Karen and Stephanie, who gave them five grandkids and 14 great-grandchildren.

He was hired as a millwright at Western Electric, a wholly owned subsidiary of telephone monopoly AT&T that had been Ma Bell's primary equipment supplier since 1881.

Gino found success quickly. He was steward within a few years, then vice president of the local in 1964, business manager in 1965 and then business manager and president of EM-3. In the late 1970s, Pasquale led one what he called one of the major achievements of a storied career.

"I had the pleasure and good fortune to negotiate the first national agreement with AT&T," he said. "They were splitting us off, pitting us against one another. After that we had a lot more bargaining power."

In 1983, then-International President Charles Pillard appointed Gino to be a Third District international representative, and he no longer primarily worked with Western Electric.

The world was about to change dramatically.

Within a year AT&T was split up. By 1985 the Indianapolis plant closed. Within a decade, Western Electric was dismantled, parts renamed Lucent, then Alcatel before finally being absorbed into Nokia five years ago.

"When the Allentown works shut down, Local 1898 shut down and I transferred to Local 1522. Then I had to shut down 1522. I transferred to Local 375 [an inside construction local] because it is the only one left in the area," Gino said. "I didn't see it coming."

His job was to negotiate the best deal possible, but the closures were hard, he said.

"It was a job; if you had any emotions, that would really get to you," he said.

Watching plants close was, he said, like "the tombstone where you were carving the names of the deceased."

But even as manufacturing shrank and changed, Gino said the job really didn't change all that much. He serviced locals, doing audits and arbitrations, negotiating contracts, even as everything was computerized and transformed by technology.

Until this past year and the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There was a monumental change of trying to handle grievances by Zoom," he said. "But prior to that it really hadn't changed."

Gino plans to stay in Reading to be with his family. His wife, Charlotte, died nearly two decades ago but he still cares for one of his daughters who lives at home and he will be surrounded by his extended family, most of whom live nearby.

"I leave the brotherhood with a heavy heart. I love this job; it became my whole life," he said. "I hope I helped a lot of people."

Please join the officers in wishing Brother Gino and his family a long, healthy and fulfilling retirement.


Pasquale Gino

Ted Robison

After more than 40 years in the IBEW, International Representative Ted Robison retired, effective April 1.

Robison earned a reputation as an honest and knowledgeable colleague, a consummate professional. But what he always wanted to be was what he started out as: a lineman.

"Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a lineman," he said. "And coming from a union household, I knew I wanted to get into the trade at a company where the workers had union representation. After six years of trying, I was able to realize my dream and got hired on at AEP."

The Ohio native was initiated into Nework, Ohio, Local 981 in 1980. Twenty years later, his local merged with Columbus Local 1466. He served in multiple roles, including as shop steward, a position he was appointed to after the tragic death of a co-worker. He also served as treasurer, workers' compensation representative and, starting in 2002, as assistant business manager. In 2004, he won election as business manager. Three years later, then-President Edwin D. Hill appointed him an international representative.

"Ted came from a utility local, but he could apply what he learned to any branch or profession. He was always open-minded," said International Representative Chad Donathan. "He always said at the end of the day, workers' issues are workers' issues."

Robison says he's most proud of the opportunity to mentor new officers and members, and to instill in them the true meaning of being in a brotherhood, that it's greater than any individual.

"When I was business manager, there were other managers in the area but we didn't really know each other. Ted got us together, and working together," Donathan said. "He showed us that there's more than just your local, or even the IBEW. It's about the movement. We're all part of something bigger."

A piece of advice that Robison has carried with him is that he never learned anything from someone who agreed with him.

"He's a straight shooter," Donathan said. "He didn't always tell me what I wanted to hear, but he was always there for me, day or night. He's a true brother."

International Representative Chuck Tippie met Robison back when they were both at Local 1466. When Robison became business manager, he asked Tippie to serve as assistant manager.

"Ted was always prepared, whether it was conducting grievances, arbitrations, negotiations or representing the membership. And he maintained that same work ethic as an international representative," Tippie said. "His efforts have left the IBEW in a better place."

Cincinnati Local 1347 Business Manager Andrew Kirk, a mentee, credits Robison with helping him win several negotiations soon after Kirk took office.

"Ted's leadership really helped Local 1347 achieve two very good contracts that we hadn't seen in a very long time," Kirk said. "He really jumpstarted our local and inspired members like no other. He's one of the best union brothers you could have around."

The decision to retire wasn't one Robison came to easily.

"I still love representing our members, helping to improve their lives and strengthening the IBEW," Robison said. "But I realized it was time to step aside and give someone else the same opportunities I've been given."

His retirement plans include, somewhat ironically, not having any.

"For the first time since I started working at the age of 17, I really don't have to have a plan," Robison said. "But I will fish a lot, and actually get to spend some time with my family."

On behalf of the IBEW membership, the officers and staff wish Brother Robison a long and happy retirement.


Ted Robison

Carmella Thomas

Capping a nearly 30-year career, International Representative Carmella Thomas has retired, effective April 1.

"She's going to be missed," said Lead Organizer Kathy Smith. "She's a great person and a great organizer. She's my family."

Thomas, who was initiated into Topeka, Kan., Local 304 in 1994, says it wasn't an easy decision to retire, but she ultimately decided it was time to pass the torch.

"Organizing is a part of me, it's a part of everything I love. But I believe there's a time for people to step down and let the next generation step up," Thomas said. "So, this is my time to step aside."

Thomas leaves behind an impressive organizing legacy, one she amassed in the field, in the Membership Development Department as director of professional and industrial organizing, and as an international representative in the Education Department.

"She has so many talents," said Education Department International Representative Tracy Prezeau. "And one of the greatest things about her is she uses these gifts to help others. It's never about ego with Carmella."

"Carmella's experience in both organizing and education has been an incredible asset to the IBEW," said Education Director Amanda Pacheco. "Everything she did was a combination of these two things, and it made her an effective trainer. She saw organizing as education and education as organizing."

From her early days as a customer service representative for utility company Westar Energy, the Kansas native was active in her local, serving on various committees and as chief steward. But it wasn't long before she was tapped to help organize her fellow co-workers, and in a right-to-work state. From there, she was appointed by then-International President Edwin D. Hill to the position of lead organizer with the International Office in 2004, and in 2006 as regional organizing coordinator for 10 states in the South.

"Everything I know about organizing, I learned from Carmella," Smith said. "Plus, she made everything so fun."

Smith and Thomas were part of a six-person team organizing employees of Mastec, a DirecTV contractor, into Tampa, Fla., Local 824 in 2006. Like all organizing, it wasn't easy. They even worked through hurricanes. But in the end, they were successful, organizing roughly 160 people on their first try.

"That was a phenomenal win," Thomas said. "I'll never forget it. The employees cried."

Thomas says that was also one of the first campaigns where there was an intentional effort to make sure the organizing team was diverse and made up of people of color to match the demographics of the employees.

"In order to win, you need the best people, and sometimes that includes having organizers who look like the people they're trying to organize," Thomas said.

For Thomas, as a woman of color, she says the power of a union is particularly important.

"For people of color, and for women, there's no such thing as being equal. But with a union, it's all about equality," Thomas said. "It's what makes you stand up and feel strong. You don't have a voice until you have a union."

Throughout her career Thomas has empowered others, making them believe they can do something like win an organizing drive or be a leader. It's because she's never forgotten what it was like to be new and unorganized herself, said Prezeau.

"She meets you where you are, and she draws you in," Prezeau said. "She genuinely wants to find out who you are."

That sincerity has served Thomas well in a career that's spanned multiple districts and departments, and is in many ways all about relationships.

"You never see Carmella standing by herself, not for very long anyway," Prezeau said. "She's like a magnet. You can't help wanting to be around her."

Thomas says her plans for retirement are to take some time for herself and to be with her family.

"I missed out on a lot, as you do in these jobs. You put your work before your family," she said.

While she says she'll miss all the people she's met along the way, Thomas is also optimistic about the future of the brotherhood.

"With the new Biden administration, this is the perfect time for the IBEW to spread its wings," she said. "It will be exciting to see how far we'll soar."

On behalf of the membership, the officers and staff of the IBEW wish Sister Thomas a well-deserved and long retirement.


Carmella Thomas