October/November 2011

FOCUS Partnership

Employers Focus on Common Goals
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Major IBEW employers took the podium at the 38th International Convention to discuss the state of their relationships with the union and its members.

Says International President Edwin D. Hill, "The IBEW always works to build productive relationships with our employers. We welcome frank discussion and even constructive criticism from corporate leaders who bargain in good faith and reject the one-sided approach of their peers at companies like Verizon and Comcast."


NECA President Rex Ferry:
Joint Strategy and Action Needed

Rex Ferry, national president of the National Electrical Contractors Association, a former journeyman and job steward in Warren, Ohio, Local 573 recounted, how he built a successful contracting business with skilled IBEW labor.

"We [contractors and electricians] enjoyed the American Dream," said Ferry. "We were able to buy homes, have good health care insurance, retirement plans, good transportation."

While the IBEW and NECA have endured "tough issues and tough negotiations," said Ferry, new realities in the marketplace now call for joint strategy and action.

After showing a YouTube video featuring a 15-story hotel being erected in China in mere days, Ferry said: "I, like you in this room, used to think that we [the electrical construction sector] were import-proof." But, with prefab construction and building information modeling, said Ferry, the day has come when whole buildings can be outsourced. He pointed to China's growing influence in the Panama Canal Zone, where shipping channels are being doubled in size to allow for wider cargoes, including sections of buildings.

Rather than ignoring this challenge, Ferry called on IBEW locals to work with contractors to enter the prefab construction sector by training more members in BIM and developing an export strategy to send high-quality U.S.-made buildings through the Panama Canal, competing with China.

"I know that you are thinking, ‘Here we go again—givebacks,'" said Ferry. "No it's not about givebacks. It's about dealing with the change that we need to survive." Some local unions are paying attention.

Joan Fultz, a 34-year Dayton, Ohio, Local 82 member, has gained extensive experience in 3D building information modeling which she applied on one of the nation's most widely-watched prefab projects, a large hospital. She says,

"I was skeptical myself when we first started pre-fabbing about 10 years ago," says Fultz, who worried about the impact on the number of journeymen and apprentices who would be called out. Her concerns were quickly answered as she saw the potential for jobs to be finished quicker, increasing the competitiveness of her employer, freeing workers up to begin new phases or entirely new projects.

Delegates passed a resolution underscoring the importance of the NECA-IBEW relationship. They also approved resolutions calling for: the continuation of the Code of Excellence and support for IBEW/NECA programs, including the IBEW/NECA 401(k) Plan, the IBEW/NECA Diversified Underwritten Real Estate Fund and the IBEW/NECA Family Medical Care Plan.

Rex Ferry, national president of the National Electrical Contractors Association

CBS V.P. Harry Isaacs:
IBEW Leadership is Strong

Harry Isaacs, an executive vice president for labor relations at CBS, praised the productive collective bargaining relationship between the company and IBEW broadcasting branch locals.

"I truly believe that a union work force can be a better work force for the company where that union and company have a solid working relationship and where that union, like the IBEW, has a strong leadership," said Isaacs.

Meetings between IBEW and CBS, which are held mid-term during collective bargaining agreements, says Isaacs, allow problems to be resolved rather than letting them fester, damaging the employer-employee relationship.

In a rapidly-changing industry like broadcasting, said Isaacs, flexibility is needed to take on competitors. "I tell union reps all the time, don't worry about the jurisdiction, go after the work."

Convention delegates discussed the internal changes in broadcasting and telecommunications and passed resolutions calling for renewed organizing in the digital TV sector and for the expansion of broadband technology in underserved areas.

Harry Isaacs, executive vice president for labor relations at CBS

Exelon CEO John Rowe:
Honor to Share Industry with IBEW

As CEO of the Exelon Corp., John Rowe is in charge of the largest fleet of nuclear power plants in the nation. Nearly half of Exelon's 19,000 workers are members of the IBEW.

Said Rowe, "As you know, union membership is growing in the utility industry, at a time when it's declining in most other sectors." That, said Rowe, "makes it obvious to me, I'm sure it makes it obvious to you—that we simply have to have a productive partnership," most importantly for "the customers that we serve."

Delegates to the 38th Convention passed resolutions supporting nuclear energy, advanced coal technologies and for the IBEW to exert global leadership on climate change and energy planning.

Rowe, who praised several local business managers in his remarks, referenced the political conflict between those who believe that the future can be built on renewable energy sources alone and others who grandstand about doubling the existing fleet of nuclear plants but don't support federal financial help to meet their immense costs. He asked delegates to consider the "best chance" for building new American-made energy capacity—natural gas.

"It has been a very, very high honor for the last three decades to be part of this industry with you," said Rowe.

John Rowe, CEO of the Exelon Corp.

Mott Electric President Dan Mott:
Keep Changing with Times

After topping out of his Vancouver Local 213 apprenticeship, Dan Mott worked for several electrical contractors before joining Mott Electric, founded by his grandfather in 1930 and organized by the Brotherhood in 1935.

In his remarks to the convention, Mott recounted how his company, facing a changing economy, tapped the talents of 150 IBEW electricians to pivot from serving approximately 40 mostly industrial customers to a base of 1,500 end users on diverse projects.

Mott urged inside branch members to pay close attention to their employers' plans for succession, to try to keep any disputes from spilling outside the workplace hurting the parties' public image and to keep apprentices engaged on projects so they don't leave the trade and damage the ability to attract other talented entrants.

Read more: Focus Growth: Delegates endorse growth

Read more: Focus Politics: Cross-border political activism

Read more: Focus Youth: First-ever IBEW youth delegation

Read more: Focus Community: Convention seeks community engagement

Read more: Focus Diversity/Inclusion: Discussion, diversity flow at conferences

Dan Mott, president of Mott Electric