A simple sticker on the side of a work truck could be easily
overlooked, but for IBEW members at
that bit of plastic represents something more: a sign of
growing pride on the job and an improved relationship with management; a symbol
of the values embodied in the
Code of Excellence.
Little Rock, Ark., Local 647 Business Manager Shannon Walters has been working with Entergy officials and local unions throughout the state to get special decals explaining the Code and its values attached to the company’s fleet of vehicles, which it uses to deliver power to more than 700,000 customers in 63 of Arkansas’ 75 counties.
|Hundreds of Entergy Arkansas vehicles soon will bear this decal explaining the five fundamental values of the IBEW’s Code of Excellence: safety, professionalism, accountability, relationships and quality (or SPARQ).
“We want these stickers to be a reminder to each of us of the behaviors we hope to exhibit every day,” said Walters, an IBEW member for 35 years and Local 647’s business manager for the last six. “This is the culture we want to create. We want to be the best in our business.”
The Code of Excellence is the IBEW’s five fundamental values of safety, professionalism, accountability, relationships and quality — better known as SPARQ. One of the Code’s most dramatic success stories is at Entergy’s Nuclear One facility in Russellville, a carbon-free baseload energy plant that employs hundreds of members in a variety of capacities.
Nuclear One’s embrace of the Code in 2016, at Local 647’s suggestion, was instrumental in the plant’s flip from failing to thriving within just two years.
The IBEW’s contributions to this dramatic turnaround have been appreciated not just by Entergy executives and employees, Walters said, but also by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and by INPO, an independent international nuclear plant consulting firm.
“We continue to have respectful dealings with management,” the business manager said. “Everyone appreciates the work we’re doing.”
IBEW members and locals throughout Arkansas have since helped take the Code company-wide; its logo and the SPARQ acronym are easily spotted on posters, bulletin boards and information monitors in many of Entergy’s facilities — not to mention on the first-ever Code of Excellence flag that flies outside Nuclear One.
Walters’ sticker idea came to him after delivering a speech about the Code during the union’s annual nuclear conference last December. His good friend Ross Galbraith, business manager of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Local 37 and a member of the International Executive Council, sent Walters a Local 37 challenge coin after returning home from the conference. And he included with it an index card outlining Local 37’s commitment to the Code.
“It sparked — pun intended — this idea of making something of our own like that card,” Walters said. “I wanted something that, every time we get into a vehicle or go to our toolbox, is a reminder saying, ‘Here’s what we stand for; here’s how we roll.’”
Because IBEW locals in Arkansas have a variety of agreements with Entergy covering nuclear and fossil-fuel generation along with transmission and distribution operations, Walters collaborated on his sticker idea with leaders from El Dorado Local 1703 and Pine Bluff Local 750 in Arkansas and St. Louis Local 1439, which represents Entergy workers in the northern part of the state.
Together, officers and stewards brainstormed some descriptive bullet points to explain the five SPARQ values. They also settled on the design: bold text and the Code’s logo overlaid on a patch of red in the shape of Arkansas.
Next, Walters approached an Entergy vice president with oversight of the company’s lineworker and distribution crews about placing 10-square-inch versions of the SPARQ stickers on the driver’s side toolbox of the company’s bucket trucks.
Entergy surprised Walters with a counter-suggestion: How about adhering the decals instead on the driver- and passenger-side doors of those trucks? And why stop there: Could a 5-inch-square version go on the company’s cars, vans and pickups?
“So, all employees getting in and out of their vehicles will soon get a daily Code of Excellence reminder,” Walters said. “It’ll also be a reinforcement tool, reminding our members to be on their ‘A’ game all the time.”
All told, 863 vehicles, at last count, are set to receive SPARQ stickers, with an option to place even more decals on Entergy’s trailers and other equipment.
“The public is going to see what we stand for when they pull up next to one of these vehicles at a stoplight,” Walters said. “Hopefully it’ll educate people that we’re the good guys.”
It’s an admirable goal, considering Arkansas was one of the first to become a right-to-work state in 1947, almost immediately after Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act. The act allows states to pass laws permitting workers who benefit from collective bargaining agreements to opt out of paying their share to help negotiate and enforce those agreements.
For now, the SPARQ stickers are slowly being distributed and placed statewide. More will continue to get installed as Entergy’s mechanics gather for their monthly safety meetings.
“It’s been kind of a neat little journey,” Walters said. “It shows how our Code of Excellence resonates with both labor and management.”