We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s an under-the-radar story that warrants more attention.
The IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) is facing serious internal strife over a plan to expand its ranks by adding a level of lesser-trained union electricians — a plan that threatens to reduce the pay to longstanding, more-experienced workers.
Rank-and-file electricians in Chicago, however, recently started circulating an online petition that opposes the new classification.
“We are supposed to be the best-trained electrical workforce in the country and now you are contradicting that by bringing in people that have no training whatsoever,” said Ed Johnson, a member of Local 134.
Roughly 250 card-holding electricians signed the petition within the first 10 days it was created. Many workers, though, are weary of signing for fear of retribution. Even still, one Local 134 member who wished to remain anonymous said they hope to get 500 signatures by the next union meeting, where they will then ask for the signature of Tim Foley, business manager of Local 134.
Foley, in a statement he prepared for ChicagoUnionNews.com, also appears to oppose the plan, which has been mandated by the international on every local in the country.
“What may work in other states like Florida or South Carolina, certainly would not be needed in Chicago,” he wrote. “Using less skilled workers might initially be attractive to a contractor’s bottom line, but it might be much more costly if corners are cut, the work is inferior and it extends the length of time to complete a job. Our journeymen are the very best because of the schooling and training they’ve completed.”
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