The Electrical Worker online
October 2013

16-year Effort Signs New England Contractor
index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to

As President John Quincy Adams once said, "Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."

For members of Portland, Maine, Local 567, grasping that kernel of New England pragmatism was the key to winning a 16-year effort with the August signing of a well-established and respected electrical contractor.

The company, Moulison North, has specialized in installing traffic signals and lighting at airports and bridges across the region and IBEW's Second District.

"Our members pass Moulison's trucks all the time during their commutes to the job. Now, as they pass through E-ZPass booths maintained by the company, they can take pride in seeing the IBEW bug on their windows," says Local 567 President Allan Shepard.

Company owner Ken Moulison was never an anti-union die-hard, says Shepard. In fact, he has a brother who is an IBEW member and had engaged in respectful discussions with the IBEW from day one.

But Moulison's workers always performed functions across multiple trade and craft boundaries. The owner was reluctant to negotiate a contract that would necessitate breaking out specialized skills and reducing overlap, believing this could sap efficiency and profitability.

Shepard says Moulison showed great concern for his electricians and was genuinely anxious about how they would feel about becoming part of a bargaining unit.

Local 567, with support from others throughout New England, systematically addressed all of Moulison's and his workers' concerns about skill levels and the benefits of a union contract in deeds, not just words.

With the owner's knowledge, IBEW electricians, "salts," were put to work on Moulison North projects. "The salts performed beyond the company's expectations," says Shepard.

Firsthand experience with union hands convinced Ken Moulison that the union's training centers in Lewiston and other locations throughout the district were turning out top-quality electricians.

Today, rather than seeing the union's focus on one trade as a limitation, Moulison is considering using union electricians to diversify his customer base — expanding into a wider range of commercial jobs, even hiring a commercial estimator to compile bids.

Because so many of the company's projects are outside — subject to New England's tough winters — gaining inside commercial work would also allow Moulison to keep his electricians busy rather than putting them on furlough or reducing their hours during inclement weather.

The bulk of Moulison's work on projects like lighting at Bangor International Airport is covered by prevailing wage regulations. But the company's employees, including the firm's controller, were concerned about how the benefit package under a collective-bargaining agreement would work.

Shepard and Local 567 Business Manager Richard Deering met with the electricians, the controller and other office staffers. They demonstrated that — by signing a letter of assent with the local — workers would gain a better benefit package, Moulison's costs would not rise dramatically and the union hall would help administer the plans.

"We got a great deal of cooperation from locals and contractors throughout the Second District," says Shepard. Providence, R.I., Local 99 helped Moulison by dispatching members to a large project.

Boston Local 103 Business Manager Mike Monahan pledged to support Moulison's continuing performance of electrical maintenance at Kraft Food's large processing plant in Woburn, Mass., using the new members of Local 567 through the IBEW's portability language.

Only hours after the signing, representatives of the National Electrical Contractors Association were calling Ken Moulison to offer him help networking with others throughout the region.

Moulison announced the signing on a billboard outside of the company's yard facing Route 1 in Biddeford, a heavily-traveled commuter road in Maine: "Proud Member of Local 567 IBEW."

Signing Moulison, says Deering, is still "a work in progress." A quarter of the local union's membership is still out of work due to a still-recovering economy.

But, says Deering, when the announcement of the letter of assent was made at a local union meeting, "most of our members were excited to know that we have a new player in the market that is already looking to take on new work currently done by nonunion outfits."

Local 567 is currently testing Moulison electricians to properly place them in apprentice or journeyman slots.

"Persistence by Business Manager Deering and Organizer Allan Shepard proved to be the key element in winning this top-down campaign," says District Organizing Coordinator Bob Corraro. "This is certainly a proud moment in the Second District."


Local 567 salts showcased IBEW's training, convincing contractor Ken Moulison to sign a letter of assent.