Getting Plugged In: Local 11’s New Command Center Enables Membership to More Easily Participate in Their Union

By Robert Fulton

A set-up that would turn any gamer green with envy, IBEW Local 11’s new communications center is designed to bring membership spread across one of the biggest counties in the country closer together.

Dubbed “LA 11 Live,” the center is the brainchild of Local 11 leadership and Communications Director Chuck Webb. Located on the second floor of Local 11’s home office in Pasadena, the center features no fewer than 11 monitors – the largest measuring 75 inches – and more audio/visual wizardry than you can shake a microphone at.

Each of the six District offices spread across Local 11’s territory is wired for sound and video capabilities in their meeting halls. From the meeting hall in Pasadena, which is also on the second floor, leadership is able to broadcast general membership meetings to the various Districts. The Districts can see, hear, and participate in what is happening in Pasadena; and the leadership in Pasadena can see and hear what is happening at the Districts’ meeting halls.

The man in charge of making this happen is Webb. With a few mouse clicks, he can bring up any number of cameras placed at various districts. He runs intro and outro videos, makes sure that the folks at the District offices are connected, zooms in on speakers and plays any presentations for all to see.

The set-up was used for the first time at the August General Meeting last week,

“It helps the membership because Los Angeles County is so vast,” said Local 11 Business Manager Joël Barton. “People live all over. It’s hard for them to come into the General Membership meeting. This hopefully will make it easier. They can just go to their closest District office. The main reason we did it was to make it easier for members to get involved, hear the issues, and participate in their union.”

Los Angeles County encompasses more than 4,700 square miles, and its 10 million people is more populous than 40 states. Originally, IBEW had six different locals in the county. With the onset of the freeway system and greater mobility, the International consolidated the six into Local 11. However, the six Districts retained their identity.

Finding a way to bring together thousands of members spread across such a large area has always been challenging. A member living in Palmdale and working at LAX might hesitate after a long day of work and a grueling commute to stop off in Pasadena for a General Meeting.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily closed many offices, and the Local learned that membership was receptive to online meetings. However, the traditional forms of meeting via video such as Zoom are prohibited by the International because of security concerns. Namely, any issue that gets voted on can only be voted on by members, and it’s nearly impossible to verify who is on a Zoom call from hundreds if not thousands of screens. However, the District offices can control who participates in any virtual meeting.

“As long as we’re doing it in the district offices, we know that anybody that’s voting is a member,” Webb said. “If it’s in other peoples’ homes, you can’t be sure who’s there.”

The command center is part of a larger renovation of the second floor of the Local’s main office. In addition to the command center and the meeting hall, the second floor now boasts offices and a training facility. There are plans in the works to install a greenscreen for more video capabilities, and a museum highlighting the Local’s history.

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