An early summer thunderstorm had knocked out power in parts of
northwest Washington, D.C.
That evening, residents of the city’s Cleveland Park
neighborhood reported to their local power company that several dozen electric street
lights weren’t working, and so a journeyman lineman and his helper were
dispatched to fix it. A little before midnight, the two located the trouble
spot, but after starting their repair work, an unexpected jolt of electricity
caused the lineman to fall from his ladder; tragically, he died from a head injury
early the following day.
The lineman was Henry Miller, the first president of the IBEW. It was July 10, 1896.
“More than a century later, we’re pleased that members of Congress are once again introducing a resolution to designate July 10 as Journeyman Lineman Recognition Day,” said IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “I can think of no better date from our union’s long history for honoring the men and women who have been injured or killed on the job, and for celebrating the electrical workers who keep power flowing to customers all year round.”
Over the last several years, there have been several attempts in Congress to set aside various dates for some type of lineworker appreciation, but few have carried as deep a significance as the July 10 date.
The 2019 resolution is set to be introduced on Wednesday. It’s backed by the IBEW and the Utility Workers of America and by the investor-owned utilities that comprise the Edison Electrical Institute.
“Electrical lineworkers build and maintain the framework for bringing power to hundreds of millions of customers across North America,” said Utility Department Director Donnie Colston. “Their skill and their sacrifice get overlooked too often.”
The resolution affirms Colston’s sentiments, referring to lineworkers as “first responders” and noting that “in emergencies, they often work extremely long hours under sometimes dangerous conditions to restore power.”
The IBEW has for years backed efforts to make July 10 a national day of recognition a reality. In California, the leaders of Diamond Bar Local 47 and Vacaville Local 1245 successfully lobbied in 2014 to have the Golden State officially recognize that date there as Lineman Appreciation Day.
This year, Rep. Linda Sanchez of California, a former compliance officer and member of Santa Ana, Calif., Local 441, is set to officially introduce the latest resolution. Nearly 30 of Sanchez’ fellow House members from both parties so far have signaled their support for it, including Rep. Donald Norcross of New Jersey, a member of Folsom, N.J., Local 351 who once served as a business agent for the local.
Union officials and electrical industry representatives will be on hand for the resolution’s signing ceremony on Wednesday afternoon. Earlier in the day, a mid-morning “Touch the Truck” event on the west side of the Capitol will provide a chance for members of the public to meet a lineworker and see some of the equipment they use on the job.
Many other utilities this year also plan to participate in Lineworker Recognition Day across the U.S. as well as in Canada, where efforts to have the July 10 date similarly commemorated continue to have the full support of IBEW’s First District members, the Canadian Electricity Association, the Canadian Labour Congress.
This article will be updated.