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April 2022

Biden Administration Delivers Wins for Workers
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White House Emphasizes IBEW Training, Workers
in EV Network Rollout

New federal guidance for the creation of a national network of electric-powered vehicle charging stations explicitly recommended that agencies consider the IBEW-NECA Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program as they look to spend billions in funds allocated by President Biden's infrastructure bill, which passed last November.

The move is an important first step in following through on Biden's pledge that America's expanding EV charging network will be built by IBEW members.

"We're pleased that this guidance sets the foundation for the development of national EV charging standards but, more importantly, that it recognizes the need for quality training by specifically mentioning EVITP, which will help ensure the creation of good, union jobs," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson.

The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure guidance strongly encourages jurisdictions to consider workers' experience and training when applying for a share of the program's funding. "This includes ensuring the workforce is trained in high-quality training programs like the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP)," the guidance reads.

At the Feb. 10 press conference outside Department of Transportation headquarters in Washington, D.C., several Biden administration officials announced that nearly $5 billion will be made available under NEVI to all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, over the next five years to help create the network along designated "Alternative Fuel Corridors." Unions, specifically the IBEW, were mentioned several times during the conference.

"Once we get shovels in the ground to put these chargers up, it is going to mean jobs, jobs, jobs and more jobs," said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who related her recent conversation about the coming work with an IBEW apprentice in Virginia named Danielle. "The jobs that are good-paying union jobs all over the country, in every pocket of this country, and the training that goes with [them] is a huge opportunity for communities."

"These new EV chargers will use American parts, iron and steel," said Mitch Landrieu, senior advisor to Biden for infrastructure coordination. "They'll be installed up and down highway corridors across the country by IBEW workers, and the benefits will ripple out thousands of miles away."

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that there are already about 43,000 charging stations installed across the country. NEVI aims to add half a million more stations over the next five to eight years, locating them strategically near off-ramps and rest areas and no more than 50 miles from each other.

The specific mention of EVITP in the guidance, however, didn't just happen in a vacuum, said Government Affairs Department Director Danielle Eckert.

"There are other, proprietary training programs out there that are against EVITP at all levels," she said. Singling out EVITP, though, should help boost jurisdictions' interest in the program, she said, acknowledging the work of the IBEW members who are helping to make sure officials understand EVITP's quality.

"While interest and media attention in EVITP are currently 'hot,' electric vehicle charging system training has been available from us for 10 years now," said Jason Lunardini, assistant director of the Electrical Training Alliance and a member of Pittsburgh Local 5.

The training alliance oversees and develops curricula for the IBEW's joint apprenticeship training centers, and more than half of the roughly 270 inside wiremen training centers in the U.S. are actively enrolling students for electric vehicle charging system training programs with no signs of slowing down, he said.

The roughly 18 hours of EVITP instruction, for example, covers a wide variety of EV-related subjects, Lunardini said, such as vehicle history, design and structure, not to mention the National Electric Code and the applications of such considerations as load calculation methods and rules.

"JATCs have options for structuring classes to best support their needs and provide training in the most efficient manner for them," Lunardini said. "The ETA has recently rolled out a training course that's even designed to be completely online and self-paced if needed."

NEVI's guidance promoting EVITP certification certainly "levels the playing field, and it also gives us an advantage," said Construction and Maintenance Director Mike Richard. "Having that certification in hand will put our signatory contractors in a better position to get this work," he said.

Business managers should work hard on getting members registered for EVITP certification now rather than waiting for bigger projects to come along, he said, especially given the potential for hundreds of thousands more charger installation and maintenance projects in the future, the majority of them privately funded.

"One four-slot charger bay near a highway exit ramp or a rest area might not seem like a big project," Richard said, "a few days with a few workers at most, a mix of IBEW and other trades. Our locals need to push our signatory contractors to bid that work and make it part of their portfolios so they win the next round of this work."

"We need to continue to claim the work and that requires having a trained workforce," Lunardini agreed. "It's easier to be prepared when there may not seem to be a need than it is to get prepared when there is a need."

The renewed interest in EV charging stations also puts pressure on the IBEW to recruit nonunion electricians into the brotherhood, he said, and to open opportunities to bring in more members as construction electricians and construction wiremen. "All of this is a huge step in the right direction," he said.

The need for EV charging stations is growing rapidly. Some estimates say as many as 18 million EVs will be in use by the end of this decade alone, propelled forward by government regulations, but also by companies like GM and Ford, who are staking their futures on EVs with highly-anticipated vehicles like the new Ford F-150 Lightning and GMC's electric Hummer.

Biden promised throughout his 2020 presidential campaign that the IBEW would be a major player in expanding the EV charging network. "Electrical workers, IBEW members, installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways so we can own the electric car market," the president said at an event in Pittsburgh.

The Federal Highway Administration, which administers NEVI's funds, is set to announce grant approvals by Sept. 30. A second grant program designed to further increase EV charging access in locations throughout the country, including in rural and underserved communities, will be announced later this year, providing the potential for even more work for IBEW members and signatory contractors.


Besides bringing more IBEW jobs, new U.S. guidance for a national electric vehicle charging network also encourages IBEW-developed worker training by name.

Credit: IBEW/NECA Electrical Connection

Task Force Charts Course for
'Milestone' Pro-Union, Pro-Worker Federal Policy

The first-of-its-kind task force that President Joe Biden created last year to identify ways that his administration can help empower workers and strengthen unions has returned with nearly 70 recommendations for federal agencies to pursue.

Their 43-page report is a roadmap for bolstering workers' rights and bettering their lives through policies that support union organizing and collective bargaining, goals Biden has championed from the White House bully pulpit like no president before him.

"This is a significant milestone," International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said. "By recognizing and uplifting the critical role that labor unions play in improving the lives of working people, the Biden-Harris administration is once again leading by example and delivering victories for working people."

The catch, as emphasized by labor leaders and the task force itself, is that executive branch policy can only do so much for workers for so long. Lasting protections demand legislation.

"To truly secure the rights of workers to freely and fairly form and join unions, Congress must pass the Protecting the Right to Organize Act," Stephenson said.

Officially the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, the panel is chaired by Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and comprises 24 Cabinet secretaries, agency heads, and top advisors.

Their report was developed over six months of research and interviews with experts and stakeholders, including unions. Members of the IBEW played a leading role last summer when Pittsburgh Local 5 hosted a roundtable where Harris and Walsh met with organizers from eight unions.

"The number and breadth of ideas presented to the task force is both inspiring and unprecedented," the report states. "The range of policies, practices and programs that can be leveraged is significant."

Making the federal government a model union-friendly employer tops the panel's long list and begins with ensuring that the current workforce and new applicants know their rights and how to exercise them.

It is a considerable hill to climb given that only 20% of the 1.2 million non-postal federal workers are union members. Among them, some 300,000 workers are eligible but have no bargaining unit and more than 835,000 benefit from representation but don't pay dues.

Government Employees Director Paul O'Connor cautions that marked progress will likely demand more direct language than what the Office of Personnel Management has put out so far.

"I see words like 'urging agencies' and 'strongly encourage agencies.' Nothing in the OPM guidance requires agencies to do anything," he said, stressing that the IBEW has long modeled the kind of outreach recommended in the report.

"The IBEW does a much better job than most other unions when it comes to organizing new employees in federal sector open shops," O'Connor said. "Federal employees need to know their rights. They need to know how and where to access information. And it is always helpful when a president's administration understands the value of labor unions and takes steps to educate employees on those values."

From widespread policies lifting up both public and private sector workers to such agency-specific items as making sure Bureau of Ocean Energy Management wind leasing projects are built with union labor, the list goes on.

It includes expanded online organizing tools, promoting apprenticeships, seating more union members on federal advisory panels, visibly stronger enforcement of and penalties for employers who break labor laws, and more documentation of employers' anti-union campaigns.

Greater transparency and collaboration among agencies are recurring themes. Proposals for financial strategies to help workers exercise their rights and deter employer abuses are another key component.

Among them, the panel recommends asking the Treasury Department to explore tax policies that would restore workers' union-dues deduction and deny employers a write-off for money spent "to impede or inhibit" organizing drives. Also, it urges the government to leverage its purchasing and spending power to promote pro-worker values, from tying federal contracts and grants to labor standards to closing loopholes in Made-in-America laws.

The panel is expected to issue a progress report later this year, with the caveat that the "recommendations do not and cannot take the place of the robust legislative change that is needed to fix our labor laws."

Several important bills are pending but none is more far-reaching than the landmark PRO Act, which would put teeth back into the badly eroded 1935 National Labor Relations Act. Organizing rights, good-faith collective bargaining, recourse for fired workers, consequences for union-busting employers, and more would become a matter of law rather than policy.

Political and judicial assaults on labor rights began before the ink was dry on the NLRA and are at least as ferocious now, as billionaires bankroll union-busters and help elect anti-worker candidates to Congress and statehouses.

The report juxtaposes the relentless attacks with current polls showing that two-thirds of Americans favor unions — the highest approval since the mid-1960s. And more than half of non-represented workers say they'd join a union immediately if given the chance, as reflected by today's flurry of organizing drives at behemoth employers and in non-traditional industries.

"We face a unique moment when factors have converged to create real opportunities for worker organizing," the report states. "To take advantage of these opportunities, this increased interest in unions must be met by corresponding and responsive changes in government policy and practices, such as those contemplated by the recommendations in this report."

"However, our work serves as a reminder that existing law is heavily tilted against the rights and needs of working people. We need new laws today, just as we did in the 1930s."


VP Kamala Harris, with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh at left, leads an October 2021 meeting of the unprecedented White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, which recently recommended nearly 70 ways the federal government can help workers join and organize unions.

Biden Signs Executive Order Requiring PLAs on Federal Construction Projects

President Joe Biden has signed an executive order that will require project labor agreements on federal construction projects over $35 million.

"The executive order … is going to help ensure that we build a better America, we build it right, we build it on time and we build it cheaper than it would have been otherwise," Biden said in a speech to the Ironworkers Local 5 in Maryland before signing the order on Feb. 4.

A PLA is a multi-employer contract that covers an entire construction project or projects and creates a uniform and stable system of labor relations by setting terms like wages, employment conditions and dispute resolution. PLAs are used in both the public and private sectors to help ensure that large-scale projects are completed on time, with the highest degree of quality and in a cost-effective manner.

"These agreements … they ensure that major projects are handled by well-trained, well-prepared, highly-skilled workers, and they ward off problems. They resolve disputes ahead of time, ensuring safer worksites, avoiding disruptions in work stoppages that can cause expensive delays down the line. And that makes a big difference for the American taxpayer," Biden said.

According to the White House, the order will apply to $262 billion in federal construction contracting and impact nearly 200,000 workers. It comes on the heels of the passage of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, and while much of that funding will go to non-federal projects, billions are still expected to go to federal spending on waterways, military bases and other areas, reported Reuters.

"This is a win for working people and taxpayers across the country," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "As our members have long known, PLAs work, leveling the playing field for union contractors against bottom-of-the-barrel operators who pay low wages and deliver even lower-quality work. Now, we have an administration that gets it too and is committed to making sure that federal projects will be completed on time and on budget and by the best workers in the business."

"This order prioritizes safety, value, quality, and on-time delivery of our federal projects, built with a highly skilled and trained workforce — all areas in which NECA contractors exceed their competitors," said David Long, chief executive officer of the IBEW's contracting partner, the National Electrical Contractors Association. "This ensures American tax dollars are going toward federal construction projects that will be completed at the highest standard."

PLAs have been used on private sector and public construction projects for almost 100 years. One recent project is construction of the home of this year's Super Bowl, SoFi Stadium. Companies such as Microsoft and Google have also entered into PLAs for important large-scale construction projects. The agreements are routinely utilized by numerous power companies for a variety of energy projects across the U.S.

In the public sector, PLA utilization on federal public projects dates back to construction of the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State in 1938, the Shasta Dam in California in 1940, and atomic energy and defense construction projects during and after World War II. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which employs a number of IBEW members, has long had a PLA in place for all its construction across its vast site territory.

"When the United States needs something to be built right, we turn to union workers," said Vice President Kamala Harris at the event in Maryland. "Union workers are committed workers, productive workers, efficient workers, skilled workers. They are well-trained and well-prepared to get the big jobs done and to do them right, not to mention on time and on budget."

PLAs often also include provisions on apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs that put those workers on the path to becoming highly skilled, high-earning construction professionals. Pre-apprenticeship requirements in PLAs have helped thousands of women, people of color and veterans access career pathways in the construction industry.

The order is one of many steps the Biden-Harris administration is taking that will improve the efficiency of federal procurement. Since taking office, the president has called for strengthening "Buy American" rules and secured a reliable supply of experienced, quality workers for federal service contracts. As of Jan. 30, federal contractors in new or extended contracts must pay a $15 an hour minimum wage, per an earlier executive order.

"This president is showing every day that he stands with American workers and with union members," Stephenson said. "This order is proof of that, and we're ready to get to work building America back better."


President Joe Biden signed an executive order requiring project labor agreements on federal construction projects costing more than $35 million.

Credit: NREL via Flickr