IBEW Local 48 recognized three members for heroic actions—for saving the lives of two ironworkers after a roof collapse on a construction project in summer 2020.

At the union’s Dec. 15 meeting, members Kevin Jorgenson and Keoki Hookano each received the IBEW Life Saving Award, and Sergey Elikh received the IBEW Certificate of Recognition. The Life Saving Award is presented by the international union to any member who, by direct personal involvement, saves the life of a fellow human being. The Certificate of Recognition is awarded when a member did not meet the criteria for the Life Saving Award but deserves special recognition for their presence of mind, prompt action and genuine concern for a fellow human being. 

Read the full article at the Northwest Labor Press.

In the electrical industry, which still has a predominantly male workforce, two local women have carved their own paths.

President and co-owner of Christenson Electric, Sonja Rheaume has been with the company for 14 years. Founded in 1945 as a family business, Christenson Electric has changed hands a few times. In 2008, only one year after joining, Rheaume bought the company with CEO Mark Walter. The pair now co-own it along with Walter’s daughter Tristin Boell.

Read the full article in the Portland Business Journal.

From being bused to a previously all-white school as a young student to having two foremen actively try to cause her physical harm, the days of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 48 business representative Donna Hammond experiencing overt racism are mostly in the past. Hammond hopes that sharing the experiences she’s had throughout her life and in the construction industry will help illuminate the wiring for a brighter future.

These days, part of her work as a business representative serving the greater Portland area is to address harmful biases that interfere with workforce cohesion. She abides by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s doctrine that “hate cannot drive out hate, only love can.”

Read the full article on Portland Business Journal.

In January 2020, a new Maternity Benefit Plan went into effect that was made available by IBEW Local 48 in partnership with the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the Harrison Electrical Workers Trust Fund. To our knowledge, this is the first of its kind in the nation. Since the plan went into effect at the beginning of 2020, 25 individuals have utilized this benefit.

Designed with a goal to retain women in the workforce, the plan offers 13 weeks of paid leave before a doctor-certified due date and 13 weeks after, doubling the previous maternity leave offering. Members receive $800 a week in time loss benefits in addition to Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits. The trust also pays health insurance premiums, which means recipients get free health coverage for their entire family.

Read more at the Portland Business Journal.

Kaitlyn Kettner grew up dreaming of becoming a nurse, but the tradeswoman actually started laying the foundation early on for what would be her career as an electrician.

“All my life, I’ve been curious how things work,” said Kettner.

In addition to taking a welding course in high school, Kettner also helped her father, a handyman, with various jobs around the house. From doing drywall to painting the house’s exterior, she became adept at different skills. At 16 years old, she received her first car, with the understanding that she was responsible for fixing any problems that arose — with the guidance of her dad.

Read more at the Portland Business Journal.

Safety has always been a priority in Portland’s construction industry but Covid-19 caught the industry, and the world, by surprise. It was only one year ago our training center had to close and the 2020 spring quarter canceled to comply with executive orders. Despite the ongoing safety and health challenges, the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center completed a successful training year for over 1,000 apprentices.

As safety director at the training center, I attend the monthly Construction Safety Summit meetings where contractors across building trades meet to discuss safety issues. The monthly meetings started long before the pandemic, and thank goodness they did. The collaboration within the industry has been vital during this uncertain time.

Read more at the Portland Business Journal.

Work hard, be on time, and follow through were values that Clay Kingston’s father, a first-generation IBEW electrician, instilled in him growing up. Kingston saw firsthand what a career in the trades can provide for a family and for retirement. He decided to follow his father’s path and join the union trades. Now, he is a fully licensed journeymen electrician with 23 years of experience in the field with EC Electric.

Over the course of his five-year apprenticeship at the NECA/IBEW Local 48 Training Center, Kingston had to fully commit to his trade. “Knowing how to take direction and set aside past inconsistencies in your work habits is essential,” said Kingston. “However, if you work hard and set a good precedent, you’ll always have work, even when its slow.”

The electrical industry is not a static field – technology is always advancing, electrical codes and regulations change, and safety practices are constantly refined. After becoming licensed journeymen, electricians are required to take additional courses to stay current in the latest practices and training.

Read more at the Portland Business Journal.

When Dakotah Quinn was 17, she moved out of her parents’ home and in with her best friend and her friend’s husband – by chance, her friend’s husband was an electrical apprentice. While she knew nothing about the trades initially, financial independence has always been a priority for her as she thought about her future.

“I didn’t want to have debt or go to college for some degree and then find out I hated it,” Quinn said. “I had nothing to lose doing the apprenticeship and the license gave me a way to pay for college if the trades didn’t work out.”

Now 25, Quinn is one of the youngest foremen at Merit Electric, where she has found her niche in multifamily apartment complexes and retirement homes.

Read more at the Portland Business Journal.

The NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center (NIETC) restarted apprentice classes on Monday, June 22 after a three month pause due to Covid-19. Training Center staff has been working since mid-March to prepare for this semester.

“When we started planning, we didn’t know the end result of the virus, but we knew what might happen. We headed down that road, understanding that our planning might end up being a wasted effort,” stated NIETC executive director Rod Belisle. “But here we are. I am confident that it was all worthwhile.”

Apprentices spend one day a week in class for 11 weeks, twice a year. The other four days of those weeks are spent on jobsites learning under the supervision of journeymen. Depending on the program they are in, they are enrolled in either three, four or five years of classroom and jobsite training. As a result of this pause, all NIETC classes have been delayed a semester.

Classrooms are prepared so that all students will maintain social distancing while in class. The training center will utilize its largest rooms and even the auditorium as a classroom to accomplish that. Currently there are 1,005 apprentices in the three programs.

“We just completed new construction that added two new classrooms and without them, we may not have had the necessary space,” Belisle said. “We are either lucky or great at planning.”

“One-way traffic will be used in and out of classrooms,” said NIETC safety director Barry Moreland. “Many labs have been modified to reduce the number of students in the lab at a given time, and we have had to put up barriers or relocate lab materials for further safety.”

Moreland added, “We have had to address some basic policies, such as not allowing class-day changes because the number of students in class will be specifically allocated, and we can’t allow overflow like we may have done in the past. Scheduling is our biggest challenge and highest priority.”

The training center will still be closed to the outside public. Entrance and exit policies have been established for students, along with health questionnaires and contact tracing forms that must be signed every day of class.

The training center also offers continuing education programs for journeymen, but for now all in-person classes have been canceled. Because of the importance of these programs, the Zoom video meeting platform has been used to conduct some classes, but enrollment must be limited. NIETC hopes to expand these opportunities over time.

“We have prepared our training center at the highest level possible with complete regard for safety, first and foremost, without sacrificing quality of training. This creates safety both in the classroom and in the workplace as apprentices and journeymen continue their essential jobs,” said Belisle.

NECA-IBEW (the National Electical Contractors Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Local 48 has expanded its time loss benefit with Harrison Trust to provide pregnancy benefit to members through their third trimester. The new benefit rolled out on January 1, 2020, and this unique partnership between management and labor is setting a new standard for others to follow.

A pregnant woman who stops working within 13 weeks prior to the doctor-certified projected due date will be paid $800 per week in time loss benefits. Disability is not a requirement, and the member’s health care will be paid without reducing her hour bank.

These benefits will also continue 13 weeks after the birth of the child, for a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits. All members who qualify for this new Harrison benefit, regardless of classification, get the full weekly time loss amount.

The Trust will also pay the monthly health insurance premiums, so that the member will receive six months of free health insurance coverage during that time for their families.

The primary intention of this benefit is to empower pregnant members to do what they think is best with respect to working while pregnant and while recovering from pregnancy. The coverage is offered as an acknowledgement that being in the final trimester and working on a construction job can be very challenging. This also acknowledges the importance of the first three months of a baby’s life, and addresses how difficult it is to find infant care during the hours an electrician works.

“I’m so glad to see NECA/IBEW are supporting women who work in the trades,” said Commissioner of Labor and Industries Val Hoyle, “Increasing the amount of protected time off women can take while pregnant and after childbirth is a great investment. It’s good for women’s careers, good for families, and good for our workforce.”