The Electrical Worker online
January 2023

My IBEW Story
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Fernando Rodriguez, Retired Journeyman Wireman
San Bernardino, Calif., Local 477

"I was raised in a barrio in South Colton, Calif., 60 miles east of Los Angeles. My grandparents came to the United States from Mexico and I didn't speak English until I began attending elementary school. After graduating from Colton High School in 1965, I enrolled in San Bernardino Valley College and worked part-time before being drafted into the Army in 1968.

After being honorably discharged two years later, I enrolled in a local junior college, worked part-time for an electric supply wholesaler, and started roping houses on weekends. I received my associate degree and landed a job as an electrical helper. This was my first real job, but after three years, I realized something better had to be out there.

That's when I reconnected with a customer from the electric supply wholesaler. He personally gave me an application for Local 477's apprenticeship program.

I applied and was admitted. Once I started working, I realized this was what the doctor ordered. I became a foreman the day after I passed my journeyman wireman's exam. I went on to become a general foreman and was active in my local, serving as treasurer, assistant business agent and organizer. I was elected president in 1996 and served in that role until retiring in 2002, but I wasn't finished working. I started teaching in the apprenticeship program for both Local 477 and Riverside, Calif., Local 440 and still do to this day.

My wife and I have a son and daughter who are both journeyman wireman. We also have sons-in-law and nephews with those letters "JW" on their dues receipts and we have a grandson in his fourth year of the apprenticeship. I have another grandson who is a freshman in high school and a straight-A student. He already knows what he wants to be: a journeyman wireman.

The IBEW not only changed my life. It changed the lives of so many people I care about. I give thanks to all the great mentors and outstanding craftsman I've had the honor of knowing throughout my journey."