Almost since its inception, the IBEW has been a family affair. Children have been following parents into the union trades for more than 100 years, chasing the same middle-class dreams that they grew up enjoying. But it’s not often that four children follow a parent into the profession.
In Corpus Christi, Texas, four of Local 278 Assistant Business Manager Craig Loving’s five sons are now members of his local, too. Even more, the youngest three — Aaron, Brendon and Caleb — are currently working for the same IBEW signatory contractor, Rosendin Electric, as apprentices.
“We’re a triple threat,” said Brendon, a second-year apprentice who hadn’t given much thought to going to college after high school, like a lot of his classmates had planned. “I considered joining the military but decided getting into the trade will be better,” he said.
Before he entered Local 278’s apprenticeship, Caleb had held a few part-time jobs, while Brendon mainly worked construction. Aaron, also in his second year, worked in the hospitality industry while going to school. “I was at different hotels for about five years and kind of got burned out on it,” he said.
“I told them, ‘Unless you really like doing that work, you should think about an IBEW apprenticeship,” Craig said. “They understood how my own union career helped provide a comfortable life for our family over the last 30 years or so.”
Brendon agreed. “Growing up, I sometimes helped my dad with his work,” he said. “He would take us to the union hall on our days off from school.” Eventually, the brothers got to know just about everyone at Local 278.
“They were always friendly,” Brendon said. “They want to do anything to better everyone and help them have a good work environment.”
“It’s a brotherhood, and they treat it as such,” Aaron added.
Something that helped Brendon’s decision-making was finding out that some electrical workers were starting at $18 an hour working on wind turbines. “I thought, ‘That’s where the money is. I need to get in on that,’” he said. He acquired his taste for electrical work on a wind farm site in New Mexico for a few months.
Thanks in large part to IBEW’s presence in southern Texas, electrical work in the region can be lucrative, said Local 278 Business Manager Jesse Gatewood. “About the only building trades unions around here are the Plumbers and Pipefitters and us,” he said. “We’re kind of the lone wolves.”
A fourth Loving, Cameron, completed his apprenticeship with Local 278 several years ago. “He had been in junior college for computer science,” Craig said. “I got him to seriously consider an apprenticeship, and he did.”
“It took a little more convincing to get me to join,” Cameron admitted. “Dad gave me a choice: Pay for my next semester myself or get into the trade.
“This was the best coerced decision I made in my life,” he said with a laugh. Leaving college behind, Cameron worked during the summer as a groundman for IBEW signatory contractor L. E. Myers.
“Before starting my apprenticeship, I worked with a line crew that came to town,” he said. “They showed me what real work was like.”
Cameron, now working steadily as inside wireman traveler in his wife’s hometown of Seattle, retains his Local 278 membership. “She lived in Texas while I finished my apprenticeship, he said. “We visited Seattle a few times and I fell in love with the area. I’ve been really fortunate.”
Cameron also helped bring in youngest-brother Caleb, who is now a first-year apprentice.
“During my senior year of high school, I didn’t have much of a plan,” Caleb admitted. “All of my brothers were urging me to join the IBEW, so I went up to Seattle to see Cameron, and we had a long talk.
“Cameron said, ‘Listen, I know how you want to live like me: Nice house, steady job, no college debt,’” recalled Caleb, who also was reminded about the value of the IBEW’s good health insurance and attractive pension benefits.
“An apprenticeship was always Plan B, but after that, I took it as Plan A,” Caleb said. “I definitely will finish my apprenticeship, then maybe go up to learn some more under Cameron. I might start my own business someday.”
Growing up, all the Loving boys played soccer and occasionally refereed matches, and after high school, Aaron started working on a degree in kinesiology with an interest in becoming a soccer trainer. But he has no regrets about his decision to switch to electrical work.
“It’s great,” Aaron said. “I’m learning a whole lot, not only in electrical, but everything about the building trades. That’s another cool part about working construction: Learning something every day. It keeps me intrigued.”
Eldest brother Joshua did not go into the family business, Cameron said, because he knew he wanted to follow a different path. “But the rest of us needed some steering,” he said, and since their father was a career electrician through and through, “he knew to steer me in the direction of the trades.”
The three Loving apprentices are now working on the same prevailing wage job, but in different buildings, at Corpus Christi’s Del Mar College. They frequently have lunch together.
“You make good money, but it can be hard, I’ll be honest,” Aaron said. “But once you see something you worked on completed, it energizes you.”
“The Loving family is absolutely a testament to why the IBEW has endured for 130 years,” said Seventh District International Vice President Steven Speer, whose jurisdiction includes Texas. “Children follow parents into the union trades because they’ve grown up seeing how IBEW membership made a difference in their own lives. But you don’t need a parent in the union to know the power of brotherhood. It’s why we work so hard to extend this opportunity to more families — to organize more working people from all walks of life.
“Whether it’s your kid or someone else’s looking for an opportunity to work hard and build a middle-class life, we owe it to them to make sure they consider the IBEW,” Speer said. “That’s how we’ll last another 130 years and beyond.”