Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.

Breaking Down Anti-Union Stereotypes One Charitable Act at a Time

via IBEW

via IBEW

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The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) recently highlighted Caleb Long, a journeyman inside wireman with Local 175 who spends his hours on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Barr Unit 2 nuclear plant, and his free time volunteering as the District 10 representative of the RENEW committee.  Long and other young union members help RENEW (Reach out and Energize Next-Gen Electrical Workers) dispel preconceived notions of organized labor in the deeply anti-union south.

The son of a 41-year union member, Long explains how late in the game he found his calling as a tradesmen:

“When I was a student, I had no experience or any kind of background in construction other than being from a blue-collar household.  But coming out of school, I was just like any other kid. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and I came to know construction work as something I enjoyed a lot.”

As head of the Local’s RENEW committee Long has led IBEW efforts to improve neighborhoods in need:

Most recently, the group of about 20 RENEW members collected 52 backpacks worth of school supplies along with the Chattanooga Area Labor Council, accounting for more than half of the North Chattanooga Recreation Center’s goal.

And in May, RENEW members coordinated logistics and entered four teams in Hamilton County’s Relay for Life charity walk, raising more than $5,000 for the American Cancer Society and drawing lots of positive press in the local newspapers.

In a state known for its unfriendly labor politics, doing right by everyday folks can be the only way to change hearts and minds. The RENEW Committee’s dedication doubles as an homage to elder members who fought the good fight:

It’s a way that [the community] can see there’s not a bunch of young knuckleheads out there wasting or squandering the hard work and effort that got Local 175 to where it is today,” Long said of the group’s service activities.

“Every meeting, we ask our group a simple question,” Long said. “’What do you want to do?’ And then we’ll do it. And we’ve used that to empower the individual, we’ve used it to empower the local, and we’ve used it to advertise labor’s value within the community.”

It’s easy for Long to give back — and to preach the union gospel — because he has witnessed firsthand what membership means:

For 38 years, I have benefited from a union paycheck — either my dad’s or my own — and my son continues to benefit from a union paycheck. For those outside of union labor, it can be hard to understand.  But my dad was always able to provide for his family, and now I’ve always been able to provide for mine. And that’s what it’s all about.”

Find out more about Local 175 via their Facebook page.


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