In the September edition of News@11, we introduced you to Benjamin Frank, Crystal Herrera and Tom Sterrett, three of the newest members of the Local 11 executive board who were elected in June. Here you will meet Armando Gutierrez, John Harriel Jr., Diego Gomez Jr. and Gus Alfaro. As is the case with their fellow e-board members, these four individuals share the common vision of working tirelessly to represent the great members of Local 11.
Those who know Local 11’s history should be familiar with Gutierrez who, during his 36 years of membership, has held multiple positions throughout the local. Gutierrez served on his district’s welfare committee as well as two terms on the examining board and three previous terms of the executive board.
“After that, I took a break,” said Gutierrez. “During the last election, I ran, never once thinking I would get reelected.”
While he was still a student at Los Angeles Trade Technical College in the mid-1980s,, Gutierrez was encouraged to fill out an application for the Local 11 apprenticeship program. He did so and was quickly hired. He worked steadily for the next six years. By the early ’90s, Gutierrez got interested in learning more about how the union functioned, so he started volunteering.
“We’re a big union, and you hear so many rumors,” he said. “I needed to know a little more about it. I wanted to get educated and, also, I wanted to give something back.”
Gutierrez estimates that he has worked for nearly 20 contractors, but he has been with Rand, CSI and Sunbelt for the last 20 years. Much of his work has involved building automation; retrofitting jobs; and replacing cooling towers, rooftop units, air units and the like as companies have gotten current with state mandates requiring them to be more energy-efficient. He has worked with Hyperion on a co-generation plant, as well as for Budweiser.
“I really enjoyed taking on the responsibility as a foreman and general foreman. For the last company, I was the superintendent,” Gutierrez said.
Now nearing retirement, he’s enjoying the time spent with his children and grandchildren and looking forward to traveling. The urge to give back while serving on the e-board is still strong.
“My goal here is to try to educate the members a little bit more about the benefits that we have,” Gutierrez said. “They don’t realize what we have and what an opportunity Local 11 offers. There are so many avenues that Local 11 provides.”
John Harriel Jr.
As anybody who knows him would attest, “Big John” Harriel has a big heart for his union brothers and sisters — and an equally large desire to help the union thrive.
“I want to serve my union, and I know we need some help,” said Harriel, who is chairman of the Local 11 executive board. “But more importantly, how do we grow it to where it’s all-inclusive and not have any
hidden agendas? I understand that great leaders are servants. So, I’m a servant to my local — how can I help you? How can we make this better and do it with integrity and dignity?”
Harriel has been seeking the answers to those types of questions since he entered the trades. He has served as the superintendent and diversity manager for Morrow Meadows and as the facilitator at South Los Angeles post-prison re-entry program 2nd Call. As the founder of the nonprofit Big John Kares, which promotes educational equality for inner-city kids, Harriel has testified before the U.S. Congress. He received the 2020 Construction Friend Award from AGC of California for his notable efforts in mentoring and giving back to the community.
Within the IBEW, he has been successful as well. He was the valedictorian of his apprenticeship class and has worked on such notable projects as Union Station, Staples Center, Martin Luther King Hospital and St. John’s Hospital, as well as water treatment plants, power plants and airports.
“Everything that I have been a part of has had to do with providing service to large masses of people, so that makes me proud,” Harriel said.
Having grown up in South Central, Harriel said, he had little exposure to union members or union life. Once he entered the trade and saw the immense value of organized labor, Harriel devoted his energies to building up communities, through both his physical labor and his union advocacy.
Harriel said that some of the finest individuals he has ever met have been fellow tradespeople.s “Everybody should be a union electrician,” he said.
“The trades have provided me a way where I can not only empower but leave a legacy where I can set the foundation for those who follow behind,” he said. “The training I’ve received at Morrow Meadows and IBEW [has] taught me to be the leader I am today.”
Diego Gomez Jr.
When he was encouraged to seek election to the Local 11 executive board, Diego Gomez Jr. took an important step in his union career.
“It seemed interesting to me, and it’s something I probably should have done a long time ago,” Gomez said. “I wanted to get more of an idea of the inner part of our local. There’s a lot of stuff that I had never thought about, and now I get to see it first-hand.”
Gomez entered the trade as an inside wireman apprentice. At the time, he was 21 years old, with a wife and a young son, and he knew that he was good with his hands and wanted to find a job in construction — make that a job in construction with some measure of security.
“I had a job with no insurance, no medical, and I heard this trade had really good benefits as far as medical, retirement and pensions,” said Gomez, who has been married 32 years and is the father of two adult sons. “So, that’s what got me into the trade. At the time, they were taking in apprentices. So, I got lucky.”
His first union job was at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Other career highlights include working on the Getty Center and doing construction for Jurassic Park: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood.
“They’ve torn that ride down now,” Gomez said. “That’s how long I’ve been doing this.”
When asked some of his favorite things about union work, Gomez cited the benefits and the fact that a union electrician gets good pay — not to mention a civilized schedule with weekends off. He also said he appreciates the sense of camaraderie among union electricians.
“There are a lot of good people on the job who you become friends with,” Gomez said. “I’ve got friends who I met back when I was a first-year apprentice. We still talk and hang out. So, that’s a good thing.”
Over the course of his nearly 40 years in the trade, Gus Alfaro has been an instructor and a general foreman under sound and communication and as an inside wireman. But when asked to consider his professional history, he said it’s about the people, not the projects.
“The projects are going to get completed regardless of what obstacles or problems you run into,” Alfaro said. “If I was to look back at the different projects I ran, what would stand out to me is the members I’ve been able to help along the way.”
A familiar face in the local, Alfaro was on staff with Local 11 for 11 years as a business agent and organizer. He moved between the two classifications and taught while working in the field. Encouraged to run for the executive board during the last election, Alfaro found himself seeking office for the first time, despite being toward what he called the tail-end of his career.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping people — helping members — whether it’s out in the field helping them with the trade or in the classroom,” Alfaro said. “I firmly believe in the IBEW and what it’s done for me in my career over my 30-something years.”
Alfaro is supportive of the union’s desire to increase training. He noted that the union’s support of its membership is unparalleled within organized labor.
“When I was on staff, it was not uncommon for staff members to attend funerals for members who had passed away,” he said. “I recall going to a funeral in Bakersfield because one of our members who was traveling there had passed away. I went there to represent Local 11, even though it wasn’t our jurisdiction.”
Asked about his goals on the executive board, Alfaro put it simply: “I plan to do my job as an executive board member, and do it well.”