Organizing Stories: Tales from the Front Lines
Of ten organized members stay in touch with the organizers, keeping them abreast of their situations and letting them know how becoming a member of Local 11 has changed their lives. We have put together some of the stories from our Organizing Department. Here are a few:
By Francisco “Paco” Arago
Ricky went into the electrical trade 14 years ago knowing nothing of the IBEW. He just knew that he had a family to provide for, and he was fascinated by electrical construction and felt that it would be a great career. He worked for Helix Electric for a couple of years and was tired of trying to negotiate a raise for himself and being shorted. The most that he was able to get as a Certified Electrician was $36 an hour. Getting his wife and child on their health benefit plan would have cost him an extra $1,000 a month out of pocket.
In April of 2019, Ricky was organized into our local union. He says that it is the best decision that he has ever made in his life. Since joining Local 11, he has been employed by Dyna Electric. More importantly, he has attended every single General Meeting, either in person or on Zoom.
By Mario Barragan
As a young organizer in 2004 with only one year on the job, I came across a non-union contractor at MasTec Communications doing work at Cal State Los Angeles. After talking to about 20 of the workers, I realized that they were being misclassified and possible wage theft was occurring. My organizing campaign turned into a class action lawsuit. With the help of the attorney for the Los Angeles Building Trades, we received a settlement of over $3 million for their workers who were misclassified. This became one of the largest wage theft settlements in Local 11’s history.
Which brings me to the real story I wanted to relay to our members. During my organizing campaign, many of those workers come into membership, but one stands out above the rest. Jacob J. Troncoza ( Journeyman Wireman/Cable Splicer), had been working for MasTec for approximately five years and when he realized what a union can do for workers, he was ready to become a member of Local 11. I organized him into membership, and he was initiated in August of 2004.
Jacob went on to complete a five-year apprenticeship where he worked for Rosendin, Mass and Morrow-Meadows. Not long after turning out, he began running work for ILB, Neil, Comstock and Walsh-Shea. For the last 17 years, Jacob has been an active member of District 6 and in January 2020 he joined the Local 11 Staff as an Organizer to serve his local. He recently was reassigned and became the District 6 Business Agent serving the members in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond. There is no doubt he will continue the great work of this Local.
For those of you who don’t know Jacob, he expressed the same excitement and pride when he first became a member as he does now. As an Organizer, these are the rewards we are blessed with when helping someone change his or her course in life.
Christian and Rudy
By Christine Austria-Lozoya
Over the past two and a half years as a Sound Organizer, I have had the pleasure of organizing a handful of Sound Contractors, but my work with Reliable Cabling Solutions especially stands out. Christian and Rodolfo (“Rudy”) are Local 11 members who have completed the Sound Apprenticeship Program in the early 2000s.
After working as a journeyman for a few years, Christian decided to obtain a C-7 communications license and he asked Rudy to join him as a partner. Although theirs is currently a small shop, by employing two journeyman, one apprentice and themselves as working members, they hope to expand their business by obtaining a C-10 electrical license.
I have no doubt that they will succeed and grow to become one of our larger signatory contractors. This is the beauty of being or becoming an IBEW 11 member. This union can provide the necessary tools and skill sets like our apprenticeship and Contractor’s Course, so we too can fulfill a dream of one day becoming our own boss. With a lot of hard work and dedication, there is no end to what we can aspire to be within this local.
One day, my brother or sister, I will have the pleasure of writing about you.
By Mike Costigan
After his enlistment in the United States Marine Corps, Zachary began his career as an Inside Wireman Apprentice. Zachary found familiar qualities in construction that he missed from his time serving in the U.S. Marines. He liked working with his hands, and he enjoyed work that was both mentally and physically challenging. Zachary says that working on a team to achieve a specific objective that requires problem-solving, technical expertise and physical ability, aligned with the skills and experience he gained in the military.
The transition from the military to the civilian sector was not easy. Zachary discovered Helmets to Hardhats, a non-profit that helped veterans transition into one of the trades. After deciding to pursue an electrical apprenticeship, he contacted the program and met with fellow Marine and Veteran Organizer Mike Kufchak. Zachary successfully navigated the application process and begin his apprenticeship in March 2020.
After nearly a year in the program, Zachary is grateful for the opportunity offered to him by Local 11 because the electrical trade offers camaraderie, a sense of purpose and a healthy challenge. He looks forward to turning out as a Journeyman Wireman. Working with union brothers and sisters to improve the infrastructure of our communities is rewarding and allows him to continue to serve our country.
By Jacob Troncoza
Becoming an organizer with Local 11 has been a pleasure, but to be able to help someone get a chance at a life they have never had, stands out for me.
William was raised in Wilmington, California. Like many who have grown up in a broken home, he felt drawn to a destructive lifestyle. He got involved with gangs and drugs at a very early age. At 16, he was convicted of a gang-related shooting and sentenced to life in prison. After 21 years in prison, he became so depressed that he said it was harder each day to even want to live.
Upon his release from prison, he entered and graduated from a trade school and, after he had worked enough hours, he received his state certification as a general electrician. While working for Helix Electric, he was given my number by an individual I had previously organized into Local 11. William will tell you that joining the local was not only a great career move for him financially, but it also allowed him to provide for his family in ways he had never dreamed of. He is very thankful and blessed for the opportunities that Local 11 has given to him and his family.
By Alton Wilkerson
While visiting non-union job sites in the Antelope Valley area of Los Angeles county, I ran across a contractor by the name of Christianbelle Electric working at a charter school. I introduced myself to a young man who was doing underground work, explaining to him the benefits of being in the IBEW and we exchanged information. He told me that his father was the owner of the company, so I encouraged him to have his father contact me.
I made it about a block away from the project when the man’s father, David, called me and we set up a meeting. While meeting with David, he explained to me how his career path led him to where he was. He started as a non-union electrician, coming up through the ABC program, and explained to me that he knew that union was the way to go. Soon after, they signed an agreement and became a full signatory contractor with IBEW Local 11. They finished the charter school with IBEW labor, and since then they have worked on the second phase of that charter school project. They are also currently building a medical facility in Palmdale with IBEW local 11 electricians on site.
Growing the IBEW is not just about organizing the workers; it is also about organizing the work as well.