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The Electric Current Blog

Looking Forward

As we begin 2023, I wanted to reflect on goals for the next 12 months. I’m so proud of all we have accomplished together in 2022 and I believe we will build on that momentum.

Online Presence

We’re in the process of revamping the IBEW and Electrical Alliance websites, as well as our marketing campaigns to bring in new members and contractors. We want to continue putting an emphasis on growing our contractors through initiatives with local governments, SWAM enterprises, and general contractors.

The Electrical Alliance site has been steadily receiving upgrades directed by the marketing team at Drio, who have done a great job so far. The Local 26 website is also being modernized with the help of our current hosts, Web Connectivity. The goal is the same for both: Create streamlined, modern sites that serve as a gateway into our trade, in concert with a new package of digital advertisements.

Expansion in Southern Maryland

We are looking to expand the Local 26 office in Southern Maryland. Having had a presence in Southern Maryland for over 30 years, we plan to extend our footprint by offering apprenticeship training and continuing education classes.

Environmentalist Collaborations

It is important that we partner with our environmentalist brothers and sisters as the grants come out from the Inflation Reduction Act. This will ensure we win work that upgrades our country’s infrastructure. These are the projects that will set us up for success, not just this year, but for many to come.

In 2022, we started the Green Energy Collaboration between labor and environmentalists. In 2023, we’ll continue following the new projects that come down from the IRA and give guidance to developers on how to best meet labor standards by utilizing our contractors.

I believe 2023 will be a landmark year for us. We will attract new contractors, grow existing contractors, and establish creative partnerships. Here’s to another successful year with IBEW Local 26 and the Electrical Alliance.

 

Joe Dabbs
Business Manager
IBEW Local 26

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Happy Holidays

Wishing you a season filled with joy and hope!

It’s been another eventful year at the Electrical Alliance. Here are some of our favorite stories from 2022.

 

STATEWIDE JOURNEYMAN AND APPRENTICE LICENSE FOR MARYLAND ELECTRICIANS

The Maryland Electricians Act now offers a statewide Journeyman and Apprentice License.

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DC FAST CHARGING STATIONS ARE FULL SPEED AHEAD IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

Fast Charging Stations are bringing convenience to electric car owners in the Washington, D.C. area.

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GREEN ENERGY COLLABORATION

Environmentalists, contractors, manufacturers, and union members formed a new coalition to advocate for labor standards in green energy legislation.

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REFLECTIONS ON A RETIRING BUSINESS MANAGER

Celebrating the legacy of George Hogan, business manager of the IBEW Local 26.

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VIDEO PREMIERE: ‘THE LIFE CYCLE OF AN ELECTRICIAN’

We’re so excited to have partnered with Maryland Center for Construction Education & Innovation on the video ‘The Life Cycle of an Electrician’.

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Thank you for making 2022 a truly outstanding year. We send you our best wishes for a prosperous and healthy new year.

JATC grad

Video Premiere: ‘The Life Cycle of an Electrician’

We’re so excited to have partnered with Maryland Center for Construction Education & Innovation on the video ‘The Life Cycle of an Electrician’.

The video follows Che’Maiah, Brian, and Chad as they discuss the career stages for an electrician. Skills-based education, hands-on training, and expert guidance from local contractors allow apprentices to move up and eventually become a master electrician or business owner.

Check out the video to see what you can accomplish as part the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee’s apprenticeship program: https://youtu.be/9Cxyzmrsrpo.

Members attending a ceremony.

Uplifting Small, Women-Owned, and Minority Contractors

On October 11, 2022, community and union members came together to uplift small, women-owned, and minority contractors (SWaM) across the Washington, DC region.

The event included electrical, plumbing, steam-fitting, and mechanical contracting unions. Members of IBEW Local 26, UA Local 5 and 602, NECA, MCA, city councils, school boards, and non-profits were all in attendance.

The goal of the event was to shed light on how local unions have influenced SWaM contractors’ career trajectories and the communities they call home.

This sense of support from unions is instrumental in setting individuals up for the rest of their lives. By offering continuing education, trade unions help members break free from college debt, while getting healthcare, and even buying homes. Apprentices come in, earn an education, and walk away with a career path to a more secure way of life.

“The union gave me an opportunity after my mom died when I had none,” said IBEW Local 26 member Claudia Achury.

“I have worked hard to be successful for myself, my kids, and my union. I have just applied to be a Project Manager and am studying to be an electrical engineer. Since I have become an electrician with IBEW, I bought a home and just bought another in South Carolina. Like any woman, I want to be successful.”

Of course, it isn’t only the contractors themselves who benefit from the support of unions. There’s a ripple effect throughout the community when workers are supported—especially SWaM workers.

“I take my job as an elected official and steward of taxpayer dollars very seriously,” said Michele Reiff of the Alexandria School Board.

“If we can make sure that these building modernizations are completed on time and on budget, using the best-trained folks, pay the best wages, keep the highest safety standards, provide job opportunities for city residents, and on-the-job training, that is a win-win.”

Interested in a rewarding career as an electrician?

For more information about our electrical apprenticeship training program, head to our Get Charged Up page.

JATC grad

APPRENTICE SPOTLIGHT – Che’Maiah Francis

What year are you in the program?

3rd and Final Year of the Telecomm Program

 

What Company do you work for?

Cabling Systems Incorporated

 

What’s it like being a telecomm apprentice?

It’s a lot of fun. I get to try a lot of new things and get a better understanding of what I’m doing at work in the field. I love learning to problem solve and about other aspects of the work that I’m interested in.

 

What is your favorite subject in the classroom?

Oddly enough I really liked AC/DC theory even though I don’t currently use it at my job.

 

What is your favorite type of work in the field?

I like audio visual work. With AV I love getting to wire and setup conference rooms: microphones, screens, speakers, phones, etc. I like seeing a project from the barebones up until I get to actually walk the customer through how to use the technology.

 

How are you staying involved with IBEW?

I joined the sisters of 26 a group for sisters and identifying sisters to come together as females in the trade to share our experiences. Now I’m the recording secretary. Then I joined the EWMC the Electrical Workers Minority Coalition and even got to go to the gala this year. I’m starting to get involved with RENEW which is a club for the apprentices and members under 35 to share their experiences of coming up through the trade.

 

What do you think sets you apart as an apprentice?

I try to never stop asking questions. That helps me to advance because I’m always taking initiative to take that next step and be a better helper. I’m always trying to anticipate and be helpful to my foreman or supervisor.

 

What’s next?

I’m reaching out to other apprentices at my company to get them more involved. I want to see more active apprentices in networking and the union before they become Journeyman.

IBEW Local 26 and Environmentalists Pursue a Green Energy Collaboration that Supports Workers 

Lanham, MD – On August 28th environmentalists, contractors, manufacturers, and union members formed a new coalition. The goal of this collaboration is to advocate for labor standards in green energy legislation at the state and local level while working together on active federal projects.

The event was hosted by IBEW Local 26 at their headquarters in Lanham, Maryland and focused on finding ways to pursue a greener future without sacrificing workers’ equity.

The attendees discussed creating partnerships on upcoming projects like EV charging stations and large-scale solar arrays. They also discussed legislative priorities like prevailing wage, wage theft protections, and community workforce agreements.

Historically, labor and the green movement have been at odds over the acceleration towards a clean economy because of low wages in green tech construction and rampant worker abuses.

“It’s a tough ask for a mine worker making ~$60,000/yr or a pipeline welder making ~$70,000/yr to cut their salaries in half installing solar panels, with no healthcare, retirement, or time off,” said Don Slaiman. “The solar industry was rolled out by the Rahm Emanuel staffed White House which prioritized investing in green entrepreneurs to kick start and drive the industry which resulted in prioritizing a race to the bottom. The Biden Administration is emphasizing labor standards and matching sustainable jobs with the goal of achieving a sustainable environment. Green Energy careers!”

This partnership between the labor and environmentalist movements aims to mend that rift and ensure that, moving forward, the transition to a clean economy is equitable for everyone in the community.

The solar installation field represents a unique opportunity for organized labor and the IBEW. These large-scale solar arrays need to be built by union contractors. At the same time, the current solar installers have an opportunity, a pathway to a meaningful career with higher pay and benefits as union electricians.

“Ultimately, we have to make sure we prioritize creating equity as we make transitions to a greener economy,” said Slaiman. “We have to keep both the environment and disaffected communities in mind by continuing to provide good wages and benefits. If we all work together, it is absolutely possible.”

 

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IBEW Local Union 26 Elects New Board: Reflections on a Retiring Business Manager

Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 26 are celebrating the legacy of George Hogan, business manager of the IBEW Local 26.  After holding office since 2016 and being an IBEW member for 50 years, he is now entering a well-deserved retirement.

To take Hogan’s place, members have elected Joe Dabbs as business manager and re-elected Tom Myers as president.

Hogan’s legacy

Hogan’s IBEW legacy goes way back. Not only is he a 50-year member of the IBEW, but he’s also the fourth generation in his family to hold membership. This follows his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father, who was also a former business manager.

“Growing up in a union household, I had always been told about the union way of life and how it was the union that had given my dad a chance to provide for his family,” Hogan said. “This was the start of my understanding of what the possibilities of a life in the electrical trade could be.”

Monumental projects in Washington, D.C.

Hogan started his career after graduating from the apprenticeship program in 1976. Throughout his career, he worked on many well-known sites in Washington, D.C. These included the Metro System, Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, and many monuments, including the Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and FDR Memorial.

“I was able to work at the Pentagon which might not seem to be that important, but my grandfather, George C. Hogan, whom I was named after, built the Pentagon from the ground up,” Hogan said. “To me, that was exciting. I was also able to stand at the top of the Washington Monument (on the outside) which few people have done. I have been down in the depths of the United States Capitol Building in places that the public never gets to see and under the Jefferson Memorial where the whole understructure is exposed and like a large cave. Again, there are things that few people get to see in their everyday jobs.”

Union pride

Clearly, Hogan has always been proud of being part of the union. He takes pride in the high quality of training all workers receive and the excellent standard of workers’ rights. 

“We always keep our members up to speed on the latest advances in the electrical world through our JATC apprentice training and our continuing education classes that keep our members at the top of the trade,” Hogan said. “There are no others better than us in the electrical trade and I have seen that throughout my career.”

Looking forward with Joe Dabbs

As Hogan moves toward a well-deserved retirement, incoming business manager Joe Dabbs is excited to take on this new opportunity. 

“I have so much admiration for the work George Hogan has done for our industry,” Dabbs said. “That’s why I’m so honored to step into this position and will do my best to fill his shoes in continuing to uplift all of our hard-working members.”

Congratulations to the 2022 electrical apprenticeship program graduates

Electrical engineer using digital multi-meter measuring equipment to checking electric current voltage at circuit breaker in main power distribution board.

235 students are graduating from the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee’s (JATC) electrical apprenticeship program this year. Earlier this June, The Electrical Alliance and our partners celebrated the graduate’s success with a well-deserved day that was completely dedicated to their achievements.

These grads now have Journeyman status which allows them to travel all over the United States and Canada without having to reprove themselves or their skills. This also means they will be able to earn top pay wherever they go. 

Many graduates are currently working with a reputable contractor and will continue to work with them as long as they see fit. Of course, by having Journeyman status and top-level training from the JATC, they’re empowered to move and work wherever life takes them. 

“It gives me such a sense of pride, knowing how hard my staff and the students work to complete the program,” said Christopher M. Cash, a Director of Apprenticeship for the IBEW Local Union 26. “It is not an easy curriculum and they have to work 40 hours a week while keeping up with school. To watch them grow over the 5 years is like night and day. The way this program and this industry changes their lives is amazing.”

One of the most valuable benefits of the JATC program is that it’s equivalent to a four year college degree—without the debt. Students get to earn while they learn as they receive a combination of classroom and on-the-job training. This is why the Electrical Alliance is an active advocate for the trades. For many people, trades are a fruitful alternative to a conventional college education because of the security it provides. 

When it comes to advice for this year’s graduates, Cash stresses they should never stop learning. 

“Set new goals and never stop until you reach those goals,” said Cash. “And challenge yourself to move the JATC program forward in the future by doing your part in recruiting the future of our industry.”

A huge congratulations to 2022’s graduates! Here’s to a bright future for you and your communities. 

 

Looking for a fulfilling career with rewarding benefits and pay?

The JATC provides education that gives workers the highest standard of classroom and on-the-job training. Unlike most training programs, the JATC doesn’t simply educate you and let you handle the rest. We educate you and then help you find quality employment throughout your career. Education also doesn’t stop at the end of your apprenticeship program. We provide continuous training for apprentices, journeymen, and supervisors throughout their careers. This helps guarantee an adequate supply of trained personnel and a more efficient workforce.

To learn more or to apply, head to electricalalliance.org/get-charged-up/.

 

Electrical Safety Month: Raising awareness about protecting electrical workers

 

electrician at electrical box with helmet and safety goggles on.

Every May, Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month. It’s a time to give workers a voice and highlight innovative ways we can make workplaces safer.

At Electrical Alliance, we advocate for making working conditions as safe as possible by organizing as a union and prioritizing workers’ rights. Our goal is to use the power of organizing to make safer working conditions the standard for all contractors.

Work fatalities disproportionally affect Latino and non-union workers

Sadly, one major safety issue is the fact that worker fatalities disproportionally affect Latino workers and non-union workers. In April, St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Maryland held the second annual Building Trades’ Workers Memorial Day Mass. At this event, attendees remembered the 19 construction workers who died at worksites in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia this past year. One of the church’s priests noted that 13 of the 19 men who died were Latinos, and all 19 who died at job sites were non-union workers.

Seminars to raise awareness about work hazards

To help raise awareness about hazards facing electrical workers as a whole, we and our partners are involved in several important initiatives for National Electrical Safety Month. There have been a variety of seminars to educate the industry and the greater public about changes we can make to improve working conditions.

To kick off Electrical Safety Month, the Washington DC NECA Chapter and IBEW Local 26 put on a seminar that focused on common hazards affecting the electrical construction industry.

For example, Rich Gojdics, Senior VP of Sales at Enerpro PPE, provided an overview of how everyday clothing when facing electrical hazards can significantly increase the severity of the burns. He discussed how, even though the electrical industry is moving towards doing more electrical work in a de-energized state, there are still some activities that place qualified electrical workers in harm’s way. Arc rated clothing that meets design standards still plays a significant role in reducing the severity of electrical injuries when faced by workers.

Electrical hazards continue to be a large concern, but there are also other emerging hazards that need to be tackled. Washington, DC NECA contractor and safety committee memberships have joined efforts to address mental health issues and suicide, which are on the rise in construction.

To help raise awareness of these issues, Lynn Berger from BHS  ran a session on the mental health risks experienced by workers. She focussed on three main themes: how to recognize risky behaviors, how to establish successful interventions and, most importantly, where to get help for those in need.

Workers’ safety impacts everyone

There is so much that must be done to improve worksite safety. Across the board, an important takeaway is the role unions play in ensuring these improvements are put in place. Unions make it possible to amplify workers’ voices and, when their voices are amplified, real change takes root.

That’s why, at Electrical Alliance, we help provide the safest workplaces for each and every one of our members. Ultimately, when workers are safe, supported, and empowered, the effects ripple out to their families and communities at large.

We’re stronger together, so we must do what’s necessary to ensure safety across the board.

Total Electric Inc. is providing second chances for the incarcerated

electrical technicians working on a pol
Technicians are repairing high voltage transmission systems on electric poles.

For the incarcerated, mentorship and employment opportunities are key to a successful “second chance” outside of prison. Total Electric Inc. is providing just that by hiring inmates and former inmates through the Maryland Department of Corrections and Reentry Program.

Lester McCrobe is a Superintendent/ Safety Director with Total Electric Inc. who has worked in the field for 37 years. He led Total Electric’s inmate initiative after being inspired by his uncle who served 42 years in prison. While doing his time, McCrobe’s uncle worked various jobs for the Maryland Correctional Enterprise metal shop, which armed him with a solid work plan once he was released. 

Seeing how this opportunity benefited his uncle’s transition prompted McCrobe to offer inmates similar opportunities through Total Electric. So, he pursued the Department of Corrections and Reentry Program and got things in order. Today, Total Electric provides employment, home plans, and work plans for inmates and former inmates, helping them successfully reintegrate into society. 

“I wanted to pursue this because there is a great pool of people to pull from who have amazing discipline and are eager to learn,” McCrobe said.

McCrobe says some inmates have existing construction skills or prior electrical experience, while others have clerical skills such as warehouse training. Total Electric works with each individual to align their experience and help them build their skill sets as needed. They start working with the inmates in a prefab shop before transferring them to in-field work once they’re ready.  

“The workers are very appreciative of the opportunity,” said McCrobe. “They’re willing to do anything asked and are very devoted.”

When McCrobe visits the Maryland Correctional metal shop, he says inmates often ask him about home plans and employment upon their release. Knowing that this option is available to them gives them something to look forward to upon their release. 

Of course, challenges can arise sometimes when an inmate has been institutionalized. Depending on how long they were incarcerated, it may take some time for them to adapt to the outside world again. For this reason, McCrobe spends a few hours of his personal time each week meeting with the inmates. Other contractors at Total Electric also provide their support, which helps create a positive team atmosphere. They talk about the inmates’s goals in life and work, and what the inmate can do to stay focused on those goals. 

“It would not be possible for the inmates to make it on the streets in today’s society if it wasn’t for the contractors at Total Electric helping them out,” McCrobe said. 

So far, 80% of the inmates Total Electric has hired have successfully maintained a position with Total Electric. In fact, the first inmate Total Electric hired is still employed with them five years later, and has advanced greatly. This person has even started mentoring other inmates who have come to work with Total Electric. Many of the inmates also attend job fairs in prison systems and at various locations talking about their achievements since they were released. 

McCrobe hopes to continue helping inmates by providing electrical work and mentorship for many years. 

“I believe everyone deserves a second chance,” McCrobe said. “By empowering them to become skilled electricians, we can provide that second chance.”