Miami Local, Contractors Help Cancer Patient


February 25, 2014


IBEW stepped in and repaired a panel box, helping expedite power restoration for cancer patient Frances Ballester.

On Valentine’s Day, while much of the nation faced frigid temperatures, in Cape Coral, Fla., cancer patient Frances Ballester wasn’t just struggling with a lack of air conditioning. Her breathing machine, too, was shut down after the local utility turned off her electrical power over her landlord’s unpaid bills.


Her landlord had always paid electrical bills, covered by her rent. But, after he died, his daughter, who inherited the property, didn’t know she was responsible for the bill.

After her power was shut off, a neighbor drove a hole in her electrical meter’s panel cover and restored Ballester’s power. But, when the Lee County Electrical Cooperative found the jury rigging, they not only shut the power back off, but charged Ballester $1,400 for tampering with the meter. 

Ballester’s new landlord contacted a local nonunion electrical contractor who gave her a quote of $1,000 to repair the meter. Her power remained off.

Ballester’s predicament was reported on WINK-TV News.  That’s when the IBEW, two local a signatory contractors, a conscientious electrical inspector and the local United Way came together to help Ballester.

Miami Local 349 Assistant Business Manager Mike Nagle contacted Unity Electric donating the labor for repairs to the meter with supplies that cost less than $10.  

Then, looking to quickly restore Ballester’s power, Nagle contacted the city’s electrical inspector, Edward Prince. 
Prince, a former member of the United Mineworkers, and currently a member of the Painter’s union who is active on the area’s central labor council, cut through red tape and conducted an immediate inspection.

The contractor drove in a couple of ground rods to bring the meter up to code, says Nagle, and Prince approved the work.  The United Way stepped in to work out a payment plan with the electrical cooperative to cover Ballester’s fine.

“We couldn’t let someone sit by without power. If we knew we could help, we wanted to reach out to her and do what we could for her,” Nagle told WINK News.  “Hopefully this will never happen to her again.”