Two IBEW locals and their employer have won the inaugural Edwin D. Hill Award for their expansive efforts to protect good jobs and Nevada power customers, a campaign that led to the landslide defeat of a deceptive state ballot measure last November.
Las Vegas Local 396 and Vacaville, Calif, Local 1245, along with NV Energy, worked together to fight Question 3, a sweeping attempt at energy deregulation that threatened to cut jobs, raise costs and imperil Nevada’s power grid.
|Tom Dalzell, Local 1245 business manager, speaks prior to the awards ceremony
on a panel that also includes Local 396 President Sharon Skinner, at right.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our IBEW members and our friends at NV Energy for all the work they did to protect Nevada’s energy future,” International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said. “They proved in practice that when we work with our industry partners on behalf of our customers, we can make positive change happen.”
Named for the visionary IBEW president emeritus who died last December, the Hill Award recognizes union and industry leaders who advance issues at the state and local levels. It was presented March 11 in Washington, D.C., by the National Labor Management Public Affairs Committee (LAMPAC).
Under Hill’s leadership, the IBEW and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) launched LAMPAC in 2007 to help the union and electric companies jointly address the nation’s energy challenges.
EEI called Hill “a transformative trade unionist” who honored the IBEW’s history and traditions “while making key changes to modernize and preserve the IBEW’s influence as one of North America’s most powerful voices for working people.”
The first-ever Hill Award winners built a coalition of environmental groups, small and large businesses, local officials and other parties “dedicated to keeping energy prices low while increasing the amount of clean energy in Nevada,” EEI said.
NV Energy employs Local 396 members in southern Nevada and Local 1245 members in the north.
Recognizing the value of the IBEW’s experience in grassroots organizing and pro-worker political campaigns, the company asked the union “to run the ground game” on Question 3, said Local 396 Business Manager Jesse Newman.
Key to the locals’ strategy was an October door-knocking blitz in the Las Vegas area. On top of Locals 396 and 1245, the weeklong canvass drew members from 10 other IBEW locals in California and Nevada, some of them traveling hundreds of miles.
“This is truly unprecedented solidarity among the different IBEW locals, as well as remarkable labor-management cooperation, the likes of which are rarely seen in the United States.” Local 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell told them, kicking off the event.
“You can’t put a price tag on what we have in this room. Your honesty, and your truth, and your enthusiasm, and your passion, and your devotion and commitment … that’s what will win it.”
Newman believes that personal contact made all the difference, putting a human face on the confusing issue of energy deregulation, made worse by the onslaught of advertising across all media platforms.
“There was sensory overload,” he said. But by spending a few minutes at a doorstep, explaining what was at stake, “we were able to turn potential ‘yes’ voters into ‘no’ voters.”
The ability to work with NV Energy was essential, Newman said, noting that the partnership didn’t originate with the campaign.
“If we didn’t have the relationship we have through the Code of Excellence, I don’t think Question 3 would have been defeated,” he said.
EEI President Tom Kuhn said the winners “achieved an outcome that ultimately benefits electricity customers in Nevada. They were very successful, and they are all very deserving of this distinguished award.”
The March 11 ceremony also honored the winners of LAMPAC’s 2019 John D. Dingell Award. Dingell, who died in February, served in Congress for 60 years, half of them as chair or ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
U.S. House Reps. Doug LaMalfa of California and Kurt Schrader of Oregon received the award for their bipartisan leadership passing the Electricity Reliability and Forest Protection Act, which improves the safety and reliability of the energy grid on federal lands.
“When it comes to maintaining our energy security, partisanship should never come in the way,” Stephenson said. “Representatives LaMalfa and Schrader have shown – just like Congressman Dingell did throughout his career – that lawmakers can cross the aisle and work together to come up with common sense solutions to the challenges faced by this nation.”