Alan Jones, Business Manager
Biden Administration Highlights IBEW Partnership
IBEW members are central to the new economy due to the future-forward policies championed by the Biden- Harris administration.
Called the Investing in America agenda, a companion high-level administration roadshow highlights recent laws like the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.
President Biden and Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm reinforce how the laws promote good jobs, domestic manufacturing and economic development – and highlight their critical partnership with the IBEW.
Debating Pythagoras in Chattanooga
Granholm and Biden’s senior advisor Mitch Landrieu visited Chattanooga, Tenn Local 175’s training center on their Tennessee swing. They dropped into several classrooms and engaged with apprentices, said Michael Varnell, assistant training director.
“It was a great experience for the students, learning about what the Biden administration is doing for the IBEW,” Varnell said, adding that they also gave Landrieu’s Ford Lightning a charge with their new EV charger. “It was a win for all of us.”
Aside from the National Electrical Code, the Pythagorean theorem and health and safety procedures, they discussed the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP), a comprehensive class on installing the EV charging network, now a standard part of the apprenticeship curriculum.
“We're going to require a million more workers per year for the next ten years in order to build out this clean energy economy, and where it all starts is here with these apprentices,” Granholm told reporters outside Local 175.
Visiting Atlanta Local for U.S. Energy Report Release
Granholm spoke earlier that day at Atlanta Local 613 about releasing a report on energy employment by the Department of Energy. It showed that jobs in the U.S. energy industry rose 3.8% last year, faster than overall employment growth and led by work in new energy technologies and renewables.
Local 613 Business Manager Kenny Mullins said due to the high labor standards and certification requirements of the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, there is growing interest in the IBEW.
“We are steadily making market share inroads in the nonunion sector, both through organizing new shops and expanding our apprenticeship training program,” Mullins said. “Locally and nationally, the IBEW appreciates the opportunity to extend the family-sustaining union membership advantages like fair wages and health and retirement benefits that are the gold standards in the industry.”
The DOE report also said employers with unionized workforces reported substantially less difficulty hiring skilled workers than nonunion employers. For instance, only 31% of union employers in construction reported it was “very difficult” to find workers compared to 59% of nonunion employers.
Charlotte Roundtable with Secretary Granholm
In Charlotte, N.C., on June 26, Local 379 Business Manager Scott Thrower attended an EV roundtable with Granholm.
Thrower said the IBEW is taking advantage of the interest in union representation.
“Unions allow not just individual families, but communities, to prosper and rebuild the middle class ‘from the bottom up and middle out’ as President Biden says,” Thrower said.
In the past two years alone, Local 379 members have installed more than 900 charging stations in the area. Today nearly 200 members are EVITP-certified, Thrower said.
“The bottom line is that building and maintaining the country’s infrastructure and electrical grid are not new to IBEW members. But we are glad these imperatives will now be required to include labor standards that translate into good jobs and great careers.”
Seeking Climate Justice in Texas Refineries
At a roundtable with Secretary Granholm in southeastern Texas on June 13, Beaumont Local 479 Business Manager Justin Cooper described how on-the-job training and classroom instruction of apprenticeships qualify graduates for the most in-demand jobs in the country in the coming years.
“More and more, IBEW members are being put to work on the energy jobs of tomorrow,” Cooper said. He described Port Authur as home to the country's largest refineries and the birthplace of the Texas oil boom in 1901.
“Despite its reputation, the energy story doesn’t begin and end with oil,” he said. “Right now, in this area, we have a renewable gas plant and promising new carbon capture projects. Energy development is moving on to new sources, and today, Texas is the largest producer of wind generation.”
Department of Energy officials traveled to Memphis, Tenn., to emphasize the role of IBEW’s professional workforce in a June 29 meeting with local union officers and apprentices.
At the Local 474 training center, they discussed the nearby Blue Oval battery and EV production facility currently employing 600 IBEW members. The $5.6 billion “mega-campus,” when completed in 2025, will produce the Ford Lightning electric truck in Stanton, Tenn.
“It’s a national maintenance agreement, and the IBEW is supplying all of the manpower for the job,” said Memphis Local 474 President Glenn Greenwell.