IBEW 11 Impresses International President Lonnie Stephenson During Visit
For three days in October, IBEW 11 was proud to host IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson, who came to see firsthand the extraordinary work the local is doing. During his visit, President Stephenson visited several job sites, toured the Electrical Training Institute (ETI), talked to apprentices, spoke at IBEW 11’s General Membership meeting and met with the local’s staff.
There’s no question Local 11 has much to be proud of, from the scope of its projects to the number of PLAs under its jurisdiction, from its diverse workforce that reflects the city where it is based, to the size and strength of its apprenticeship program and the relationships with state and local legislators that give us a seat at the table during discussions. It was these achievements that drew International President Stephenson to the region to observe Local 11 in action.
“When I leave here tonight, I’m going to leave here energized and feeling great about the future of the IBEW,” Stephenson told a crowd of more than 1,700 Local 11 apprentices and IBEW and NECA dignitaries during the ETI’s Apprenticeship Industry Night on the first stop of his visit. The event was held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. “All of you are going to be setting the tone. Thank you for everything you do and for everything you are going to do.”
Stephenson began his visit on Wednesday, Oct. 19 by addressing a packed crowd of apprentices and IBEW and NECA dignitaries. The following day, he visited the site of the future Intuit Dome, home of the L.A. Clippers and saw the local’s handiwork at SoFi Stadium. He capped off his mini-tour that same evening by appearing at the Local 11 general membership meeting.
Long aware of the Local 11’s reputation and accomplishments, Stephenson emphasized that it was a desire to see some of these projects and meet the workers in person that drew him to accept Business Manager Joël Barton’s invitation to make the journey from Washington, DC.
At the apprenticeship event, he signaled out the work of Local 11 Executive Board Member “Big John” Harriel with formerly incarcerated workers through the 2nd Call program as well as Local 11 Veterans Affairs Director Mike Kufchak’s efforts on behalf of servicemen and women within the industry. He also noted the diversity within the Local 11’s apprenticeship – the largest apprenticeship program in the nation. In light of the recent turmoil over racist speech at L.A. City Hall and the LA County Federation of Labor, Barton and Stephenson both emphasized that such beliefs have no place in the IBEW.
“When we started out, we were all basically white men in the construction agency, but that’s changing now and it has to change,” said Stephenson. “At every speech I have given for IBEW in the last couple of years, I have said that we need to reflect the communities we are living in. I’m looking out at this crowd and when you talk about diversity, equity and inclusion, I’m looking at it right now.”
During the apprenticeship event, Stephenson was joined by NECA CEO David Long who – like Stephenson – had words of high praise as well as advice for the young men and women who will be the next generation of IBEW leaders. The two men cited President Joe Biden’s landmark infrastructure bill, and legislation in the pipeline that will result in thousands of manpower hours for Local 11 members.
“I challenge you as we go forward to give back,” Long said. “Give back by going out and being the best apprentice in America. Give back, because one day it’s going to come down to you to make sure that we have the best training centers. Each and every one of you has a great opportunity here. Don’t ever take it for granted.”
The next morning, President Stephenson toured Intuit Dome, future home of the Clippers, where he met more than 40 IBEW 11 members working on the job for electrical contractor Sasco/CSI. These members included apprentices, and journeymen and women, some of whom had come from challenging backgrounds, who now enjoyed successful careers in construction.
AECOM Diversity Director Ken Billups noted that the 576 local hires on the site, included 36 veterans and 24 women. “We’re not only proud of what we’re building here, but who is building it,” Billups said.
“I’m so proud of what I’m seeing here – the diversity of workers,” agreed Stephenson. “Women, people of color. I couldn’t be prouder of what’s happening here and hearing how IBEW has uplifted them and their families.”
Next up was a visit to SoFi Stadium, where the IBEW leader had a personal “Electrical Tour” of the home of the Rams and the Chargers. First stop was the Oculus, the giant Infinity Screen installed and maintained by IBEW 11 crews. Marveling at the extensive electrical work and the beautifully-crafted conduit lining the ceiling of the stadium, Stephenson got to see the electrical handiwork up close and stopped to chat with Local 11 member Arlyn Rambayou, who was directing the team fixing the giant screen.
The afternoon and evening included a tour of the ETI as well as front row seats to the local’s General Membership meeting where Stephenson and 9th District International Rep Dave Jones got to meet apprentices and talk about the future of work.
Stephenson spoke about his personal relationship with the nation’s most pro-labor president ever. He told apprentices concerned about the future of work in our industry that President Biden’s deep commitment to labor and working families and infrastructure bills worth trillions of dollars “will ensure work for IBEW members for decades to come.”
“This money has already been allocated, and will keep flowing even if there is a downturn in the economy,” Stephenson noted. “We’re going to need a lot more members to keep up with all the work.”