Members of Manchester, Maine, Local 1837 and El Paso, Texas, Local 960 were honored with National LAMPAC's Edwin D. Hill Award in Washington, D.C., on March 4 for their fight against potentially job-killing government takeovers of the utilities where they work. Pictured are, from left, Edison Electric Institute Chair Pedro Pizarro, IBEW International President Kenneth W. Cooper, Local 1837 Assistant Business Manager Renee Gilman, Central Maine Power CEO Joe Purlington, El Paso Electric CEO Kelly Tomblin, EEI CEO Dan Brouillette, and Local 960 Business Manager Eddie Trevizo.

The members of two IBEW locals were honored on March 4 for their tireless efforts to fend off potentially job-killing government takeovers of the utilities where they work.

Representatives from Manchester, Maine, Local 1837 and El Paso, Texas, Local 960 — and their employers — were presented the Edwin D. Hill Award at the 17th annual National Labor and Management Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, D.C. The award was named for the IBEW international president who formed LAMPAC with the Edison Electrical Institute in 2007. Hill’s goal was to help strengthen relations between the union and the investor-owned electrical utilities that EEI represents.

Last fall, members of Local 1837 help led a statewide fight against Ballot Question 3, a referendum that proposed allowing the state government to buy Central Maine Power and Versant Power, a purchase that would have jeopardized the state’s grid and hundreds of IBEW jobs.

“Our main things were to protect our members and protect the ratepayers,” said Local 1837 Business Manager Anthony Sapienza. “We realized our interests were aligned with the companies’.”

To be successful, Sapienza said, the IBEW needed to help educate voters about the dangerous uncertainties of such a takeover. “Fortunately, we have a very dedicated crew in Maine,” he said.

“In our operations, we had to be flawless,” said Central Maine Power President and CEO Joe Purington. “That’s where the IBEW has helped.”

“It was like an organizing campaign on steroids,” said Local 1837 Assistant Business Manager Renee Gilman, who accepted the award for the local.

Referendum advocates kept saying the government takeover would be a great way to “stick it to the man,” she said, but they had no data to back it up.

“You have to talk to people with the facts,” Sapienza said. “Show people that there’s a very broad coalition, that it’s not often that labor is aligned with companies and businesses like this.”

Second District International Representatives Ed Starr and Joe Casey worked on the campaign, plus members from other IBEW locals that work in Maine, such as Portland Local 567, Augusta Locals 1253 and 2327, and Boston Local 104.

The work paid off: Nearly 70% of voters on Nov. 7 cast ballots against the takeover. “Two years before, [passage] was a forgone conclusion,” Purington said. “But customers saw our unity.”

Also in 2023, but more than 2,000 miles away in western Texas, the members of El Paso Local 960 were working to defeat Proposition K, a ballot measure that could have led to a city takeover of the power company, risking the jobs of more than 400 IBEW members.

“With something like this, you have to put it at the forefront of your agenda,” said Local 960 Business Manager Eddie Trevizo. “Getting political is essential. It’s one of the cornerstones of labor.”

Labor and management came together against Proposition K for the benefit of both groups, he said. “Working alongside the company makes you more powerful,” he said. “We may still be filing grievances, but today, let’s come together and have a unified voice.”

Connecting with the community also was crucial in their fight, he said. “If you’re not out there supporting it, people don’t know you exist,” Trevizo said, adding that Local 960 members were prominently presented in advertising against the measure.

“These men and women are proof that labor and management can and must work together to ensure reliable power and to protect good union jobs,” said IBEW International President Kenneth W. Cooper. “Working with their employers, they show how our union and the energy industry can forge powerful legislative partnerships.”

El Paso Electric President and CEO Kelly Tomblin praised Trevizo’s “authenticity” in helping get Proposition K rejected by nearly 82% of those who voted.

“We all looked up to him,” she said. (You can read more about the Local 960 campaign in the August 2023 edition of The Electrical Worker.)

Also honored with a Hill Award at the March 4 meeting was former EEI president and CEO Tom Kuhn, who retired at the end of 2023 after more than 30 years with the association. Additionally, Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat from Nevada, and Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, received the John D. Dingell Award for co-sponsoring a resolution that passed the Senate in 2023 expressing support for designating July 10 as Journeyman Lineworkers Recognition Day. The resolution marks the date in 1896 that Henry Miller, the first president of the IBEW, died after he was injured on the job.

The Dingell Award is named for the long-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan who was a steadfast advocate in Congress for organized labor. His widow, Rep. Debbie Dingell, who has held what was her husband’s office since his retirement in 2014, presented the award.

The awards presentation wrapped up a day filled with panel discussions featuring IBEW leaders and industry experts on topics ranging from clean energy generation and small modular nuclear reactors to grid resilience and workforce safety.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, speaking to the gathering, said that 14.8 million “good-paying, family-sustaining” jobs have been created since President Joe Biden took office in 2021 thanks to the most pro-union presidential agenda in U.S. history.

“It’s working,” she said. “You’ll be able to tell your kids and grandkids that you were there when this massive transformation happened — you were putting us into this clean-energy future.”