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October 2022

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Not since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 guaranteeing workers the right to organize have IBEW members had a more productive and successful period in Washington's halls of power. Over the last 15 months, four of the IBEW's highest political priorities became law, some after decades of fighting, losing, fighting, waiting and trying again.

Together, they are a blueprint to rebuild the nation and the middle class, creating a lifetime of work for members across nearly every branch of the IBEW, guaranteeing hard-earned pensions and making union labor a more competitive choice in new industries large enough for tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of new members.

Trillions of dollars for new federally connected projects have built-in, permanent prevailing wages and apprenticeships, guaranteed labor protections nearly unheard of in previous legislation.

Almost as important, President Joe Biden and the Democratic-controlled Congress slammed the door on trade policies that paid companies to ship jobs overseas and strangled the industrial heartland of the country.

Manufacturing in the most advanced industries, the ones that will determine which countries control the 21st century, are coming back to these shores.

In the near future, IBEW journeyworkers and apprentices will electrify everything that can be — generation, industry, vehicles and more — with steel, solar panels, microchips, batteries, inverters, racks, wires and transformers sourced and built in North America.

"President Biden has delivered the biggest boost to organized labor since Roosevelt, the largest infrastructure plan since Eisenhower, the second largest health care bill since Johnson and the largest climate change bill in history," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "Many politicians have promised to deliver for working families. This one did."

Next month, members in the U.S. get to decide if we are going to rehire the men and women who passed these four laws. They have been covered individually in the Electrical Worker, but it is worth weighing the collective impact of seeing four of the IBEW's highest political priorities become the law of the land one more time before members head to the voting booth.

"I know a lot of members ask why we don't support more Republicans," said International Secretary-Treasurer Kenneth W. Cooper. "We have and will support any Republican who supports the IBEW. The problem is, there aren't that many of them these days."

"We were outcasts two years ago," said Government Affairs Director Danielle Eckert. "We aren't now.

"Our priorities are in these bills because of our relationships in the administration," she said. "We couldn't get meetings four years ago. Now, the White House calls us. We have the chance to shift the balance between labor and employers for decades if we back the people who back us."

These were four game-changing laws, all passed in just over 15 months.

Here is what they mean for IBEW members:

The Butch Lewis Act

The Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act had been the IBEW's highest legislative priority for half a decade. Put plainly, it saved the IBEW multiemployer pension plans that hundreds of thousands of members and retirees rely on, paid into over a lifetime of work and which the IBEW managed responsibly.

There are about 1,400 multiemployer pension plans in the U.S. Most, like the IBEW plans, were financially stable, but a handful of the largest were not. If just a few of the larger at-risk ones went under, it could have destroyed the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federal agency that protects the entire system.

Losing a pension you paid into your whole life is a betrayal and a catastrophe. For Butch Lewis, a Teamster who spent the last few years of his life fighting to prevent dramatic 50% benefit cuts to his local union's troubled pension, the stress contributed to his death.

His tragedy would have been multiplied many times over if nothing had been done.

The law prevents this from happening to anyone again.

It keeps the healthy plans safe by rescuing the few at-risk plans by changing some accounting rules and shoring up the PBGC.

The bill sat ignored for years under former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Trump administration and congressional Republicans even pushed a plan to tax healthy union pensions into financial distress to pay out the struggling ones. Under that proposal, which the IBEW fought aggressively, the IBEW's healthy pensions would have been put in serious jeopardy to prop up failing plans.

This House and Senate sent it to the White House and President Biden signed it in his first 100 days.

"This legislation literally saved our entire private pension system," Cooper said. "Every single Senate Democrat, plus two independents who caucus with the Democrats, voted for it. How many Senate or House Republicans voted to save our pensions? Zero. Not one."

The Inflation Reduction Act

The developed world is moving away from energy generation that emits carbon unsequestered. It is a train that's leaving the station with or without us.

The only two questions that matter are: Will the new economy create good, working-class jobs — or would power generation become just another low-wage low-skill job? And will we do it in time to avert the worsening effects of climate change?

Hundreds of IBEW members flooded Capitol Hill to push for passage of the $369 billion Inflation Reduction Act because it guarantees that decarbonizing and electrifying our economy will create jobs you can raise a family on.

For the first time in U.S. history, federal tax incentives have prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements built into them by law.

Green energy projects eligible for federal tax incentives have been expanded beyond just wind and solar to nuclear, hydrogen, storage, combined heat and power, carbon capture sequestration and others.

Projects that use prevailing wage and apprentices from certified programs will get six times the benefit of ones that don't.

"The entire industry will use prevailing wages. It's just arithmetic at this point," said Business Development Director Ray Kasmark. "Developers of all new generation will simply not be able to afford to low-ball workers, and it's 100% because unions and our allies in the White House and Congress fought for this."

Even better, developers get an additional 10% for buying American, another 10% for siting the development in low-income census tracts and, finally and possibly most importantly, another 10% for siting projects where a coal, oil or gas powerhouse shut down.

Not only does it make sense to build where there is already transmission and substations, but for small towns everywhere, closing a coal powerhouse is as bad as a factory shutting down.

It is devastating.

It was devastating for places like Dolet Hills, La., where a $200 million solar project is now being built on the site of a shuttered coal plant. Shreveport, La., Local 194 has some of the highest market share in the Fifth District, Business Manager Brent Moreland said, but in a right-to-work state, his members have never had a better shot at a project like this. It's all due to the tax incentives, which make it virtually impossible for solar developers to look elsewhere.

So, while every American benefits from the transition away from carbon-intensive fuels, not everyone or every place pays the price. We should have been giving these communities a leg up for decades. These incentives do right by the communities that have lost out so far in the switch to clean energy.

Not a single Republican voted for the IRA. Not one.

And, as with the other bills, these are just the headlines. There are billions more that will impact locals in every part of the U.S.

CHIPS and Science Act

Decades ago U.S. leaders bought into and then sold the lie that we didn't need to make things in this country anymore.

The $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act will mark a reversal of that ideology and a rebirth for domestic semiconductor production, an industry that the U.S. not only used to dominate but outright invented. And then we watched as it was shipped overseas to Korea, Taiwan and, most worrying, China.

In the days after the Biden administration signed the bill, Intel announced its intention to go ahead with a $20 billion factory in Ohio and, potentially, expand it to $100 billion and eight additional plants at the site, making it the largest semiconductor foundry in the world.

Newark, Ohio, Local 1105 Business Manager Bill Hamilton said he will likely need to double his membership and double it again if the experience of other IBEW locals with foundries in their jurisdiction are a guide.

A single semiconductor foundry project in Malta, N.Y., for example, has employed between 200 and 800 members of Albany, N.Y., Local 236 since 2009.

"A foundry is little more than a slab, a shell and millions of yards of copper wire," Local 236 Business Manager Don Rahm said. "They are almost entirely our work."

In the days after the law was signed by the president in early August, plans for new plants were announced or confirmed in Phoenix (at least $12 billion), Texas (at least $47 billion), Indiana ($2billion), and New Mexico ($3 billion).

And just like with the IRA, if an employer takes public money, it must pay prevailing wages.

But more than just the numbers, the CHIPS Act finally turns its back on the idea that gave American workers bogus trade deals like NAFTA, TPP and most-favored-nation trading status for China.

Simply stopping the federal government using working families' tax dollars to pay companies for the cost of shipping jobs overseas was impossible a few years ago. Workers heard it year after year, decade after decade: We don't need to make things here and union folks were just not smart enough to see it.

The Biden administration has gone far beyond stopping the bleeding. America is bringing these jobs back.

"We have never done this at a national level. States and counties have competed against one another, but the U.S. has never gone toe-to-toe with the rest of the world. Now we can and I think Ohio will show the world what we can get up to when given half a chance," Hamilton said.

The bill also opens up new opportunities for advanced nuclear reactors and other technology, which could benefit IBEW members for decades to come.

The bill was approved by every Senate Democrat and opposed by every House Republican except Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who is not running for re-election.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

The only things bigger than the $1.3 trillion infrastructure bill are the new opportunities the law creates and the needs it was designed to meet.

America's roads, bridges, ports and airports have been crumbling for years, to the point where infrastructure week became a desperate running joke during the last administration.

And while the Trump administration and Republican majorities in the House and Senate weren't the first that failed to pass an infrastructure bill, they were the last.

The best way to understand what President Biden's sweeping infrastructure law means for IBEW members is to break it into three parts: projects that are almost entirely IBEW work, others where IBEW members will get a big chunk of the work and, finally, projects where even a small percentage is a huge number of hours given the size of the law.

Nearly $190 billion of the law's spending is almost entirely IBEW work. Another $180 billion is at least partially IBEW work. Taken together, it's a lifetime of work for today's active members.

In the category of nearly-all-IBEW-work is almost $29 billion to modernize and expand the electrical grid, $15 billion for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, $65 billion for broadband, $9 billion for nuclear and about $1 billion for next-generation solar and wind.

The biggest opportunity for growth, said Fifth District Business Development International Representative Terry Reynolds, is in shearing off huge chunks of the broadband funding, work that has been primarily nonunion, and securing work outside of the urban centers where market share is highest.

"This will level the playing field, especially in rural areas for our smaller locals. That's where the need is and that's where the money to meet the need is going. We will have a fair shot at that work," Reynolds said.

There will also be large impacts in those areas of investment where electrical work is not the largest chunk, but where IBEW members work nonetheless. More than $66 billion has been allotted for rail, $39 billion for public transportation, $25 billion for airports, $17 billion for ports and $50 billion for a catchall category called "resilience" that will include massive climate change mitigation projects in the American West.

Finally, while road and bridge projects call more on our brother and sister trades, even a small part of $110 billion will expand apprenticeships coast-to-coast. And while electrical workers aren't the first people who come to mind, the $55 billion for water infrastructure not only benefits us all, water treatment plants use huge amounts of energy and provide work not just for our construction members, but many thousands of our utility brothers and sisters.

And nearly every part of the bill has Davis-Bacon permanently built in.

Of course, every American benefits from the 660,000 jobs predicted to be created by the infrastructure law alone. But the improved safety, resiliency and economic competitiveness that will come from Biden's infrastructure investments will pay off for decades to come and reposition America as a world infrastructure leader.

What Else We Want

"The IBEW leans on its friends," Eckert said. "In both senses of the word."

We rely on them to do what is right for working people and use all the weight of our membership to make ourselves heard.

These past months, the IBEW hasn't had to yell to be heard.

This election in November will determine if there will be people there listening.

Because we have much more to do.

"First and most important is the PRO Act," Stephenson said. "It will reverse 50 years of legislation and court decisions that have knee-capped the American people's ability to unite and fight back against the power of concentrated wealth."

Right-to-work would be overridden along with captive audience meetings, mandatory arbitration, misclassification and corporations hiding behind franchises. Executives that fire organizers would be personally liable for back wages and penalties and workers could sue in federal court for unfair labor practices even if a hostile NLRB doesn't take up the case. Boycotts and secondary strikes would be legal again and voting to join in union would be modernized, fast and secret.

We also want a national transmission siting policy, Eckert said, as well as Davis-Bacon restored on the few parts of the Infrastructure Bill where Republicans stripped it out and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which would reverse the Supreme Court's Janus decision and allow public workers to organize again nationwide.

"If we lose just one half of Congress, all that stops," she said. Union members won't lose their hard-gotten gains, but from here until the next presidential election, any wins would be incremental and require trench warfare in regulatory agencies and the increasingly hostile courts.

If Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy control either chamber on Capitol Hill after November or unions lose allies in key statehouses (see "Midterms Turnout "), union members could see their goals vanish and the doors open wide again for low-road contractors, cheap and shoddy labor and even more offshoring of jobs that should stay in America.

The IBEW's political positions are not for or against any party. We simply ask each of you to vote for the people who stand with you and your brothers and sisters on the issues of jobs, healthcare, ability to organize and more.

Don't take our word for it. Visit and type your zip code to find out how your senators and House members voted on these four issues and more. Then decide for yourself who you want to hire for the job: the ones who got it done for working families or the ones who sat on the sidelines.


Read more: Midterms Turnout 'Whole Ball Game' for Workers, Unions
Midterm Elections to Determine Progress or Impasse at Labor Board

"Many politicians have promised to deliver for working families. This one did."

– International President Lonnie R. Stephenson

Four Laws that
Changed America

Inflation Reduction Act

• Clean energy and manufacturing tax incentives have prevailing wage permanently built in

• Projects paying prevailing wage get 5x more tax credits, expected to create 1.5 million jobs by 2030

• Clean energy incentives expanded to include wind, solar, nuclear, carbon sequestration, storage and more

• Compounding benefits for using American-made materials and siting renewables on sites of shuttered power plants

Butch Lewis Act

• Saves 1,400 multi-employer pensions — including healthy IBEW pensions — from the risk posed by a few

• Top IBEW priority for years, signed in Biden's first 100 days

• Every House and Senate Republican voted against it

Infrastructure and Jobs Act

• $550 billion investment in transportation and utility infrastructure

• Prevailing wage and Buy-American built in

• $110 billion for the grid, $65 billion for broadband, $15 billion for EV charging stations, $65 billion for rail and $110 billion for roads and bridges


• Reverses policy that paid companies to send jobs overseas

• $280 billion to bring manufacturing back to U.S. shores

• If a company takes public money, it has to pay prevailing wages