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The Relay - November 2017

December 11th, 2017

The Relay

The IBEW Local Union 175 Newsletter

Vol.1, No.11 November 2017

"It is one of the characteristics of a free and democratic nation that it have free and independent labor unions." Franklin D. Roosevelt

Welcome to THE RELAY. Many years ago, the leadership of IBEW LU 175 published THE RELAY in an effort to strengthen the communication of information to LU 175's membership. The copy was in paper form, mailed via the United States Postal Service, and read in the hands of our Brothers and Sisters that built this Local into one of the finest in North America. The newest version of THE RELAY will now carry on that proud tradition to all generations of LU 175 membership via a 21st century internet.

Letter From IBEW Local 175 Business Manager Gary Watkins

Greetings to all IBEW Sisters and Brothers,

As the old joke goes, "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana." Wow, where did 2017 go? It seems like yesterday we were looking for a break from the heat and now winter is just days away. So what did we accomplish in November?

  • We managed to get Construction Stewards, Professional & Industrial Stewards and Officers, and TVA Stewards trained to provide a better, safer, and all around more positive workplace
  • We managed to make connections with members that we didnt have connections with
  • We managed to raise awareness of Brothers and Sisters in need, to those who can help
  • We managed to fill each job call that has come in during November
  • We managed to find multiple reasons to be Thankful: Life, Family, Friends, Health, and Careers

Need I go on? I think we've had a pretty successful month.

As we move thru December, many hearts soften and we tend to help our fellow man a bit more. It is my hope that being part of the IBEW will cause each of us to see a different side of the coin every day of the year, not just at Christmas.

The IBEW Constitution begins by declaring that "Our cause is the cause of human justice, human rights, human security." When people question, "Why join the Union", you should be able to tell them immediately some of the most basic reasons.

  1. Right of representation on the job
  2. Safe workplace
  3. Benefits won by Unions: Life and Health Insurance, pensions, working conditions, etc. 

Stop and think about the things that we often take for granted about having a Union job. Whether you work in construction or manufacturing, maintenance, at utilities, in power production or transmission, voice/data/videos, or tree trimming the benefits that we enjoy were fought for by many who came before us. We must carry on the banner and spread the good word.

Our work continues moving forward in the Units of Local 175. Following the training sessions last month, we are putting our best foot forward and attending the newly established monthly meetings. PLEASE, PLEASE, if you are in a Unit that has begun meeting, PLEASE support this effort. Only YOU can make your Union strong and only YOU can keep it strong by taking care of its business. Union meetings should be a great opportunity for Sisters and Brothers to discuss items that are going on in the workplace. We also get to know each other better outside the workplace. Families grow closer and Unions grow strong. Please know that IBEW Local 175 is not MY Local: It is OUR Local. Whatever it says or does is what we say or do collectively. Let's tell our stories about how we support our communities in times of disaster, storms, good times and bad, at ball games, and in many other great ways. I look forward to seeing you soon.


Gary Watkins

Letter From IBEW Local 175 President Winfred Gearrin

Greetings Brothers and Sisters,

As always, I hope this writing finds everyone in good health and doing well. Thanksgiving is behind us and we certainly have had a lot to be thankful for as we look toward the upcoming Christmas Holiday. The regular Union Meetings this month will be Dec. 4th and Dec. 18th. On the 4th, the meeting will start at 7:00 PM. We will be swearing in 70 first year apprentices. Our annual "eating meeting" will be the 18th at 6:30 PM. There will be plenty of door prizes, food, and fellowship. The Local 175/NECA Christmas Holiday will be observed on Monday, Dec. 25th and Tuesday, Dec. 26th.

If you aren't already involved and/or active with the Local in some way, this would be a good time to get engaged with several areas to serve and give back to the labor community. Coats for Kids and Toys for Tots are things anyone can help with.

The holidays keep us very busy. Don't let your guard down when it comes to safety. Always be mindful of you surroundings and provide your children, family, home, working environment the protection they need when out shopping or traveling.

Don't forget to keep your dues paid up and current in order to remain a member in good standing. Please remember re-sign week is always between the 10th and 16th of each month. We have a lot of brothers and sister on the road so remind each other to re-sign. It is always good to hear from our brothers and sisters on the road. Local 175 needs this "first-hand" report of this country's work picture, the best practices out there, and some of the obstacles our members encounter so we can make improvements to our Local. I look forward to having our local men and women back home. 

Change is the Law of Life. As we reflect on some of the events of this past year, it is very important that we keep our eyes fixed to the future of Local 175.

To all of our outside, utility, co-op, and all units of IBEW Local 175, the staff wishes all of the Members a happy, blessed, and merry Christmas.

May God bless each of you.

With the best regards I am,

Winfred Gearrin

IBEW Local 175 Conducts Steward Training for TVA Annual Employees, Professional & Industrial, and Inside Construction Units 

This November, Local 175 began a week-long effort to provide training to Local 175's union stewards.  The goal of the training is to better equip Stewards and those who may one day be a Steward with the tools necessary to handle business in an effective and professional manner. The training, provided by IBEW International staff members, focused on grievance procedures, workplace rights, handling different and various personality types, and growing problem solving skills.

Local 175 will be offering additional training classes during December and into 2018.

Posted by IBEW Admin | Topic: 2017  | Category: Newsletter | 0 Comments | Leave a Comment

The Relay - October 2017

November 6th, 2017

The Relay

The IBEW Local Union 175 Newsletter

Vol.1, No.10 October 2017

"Unions are the leading force for democratization and progress ." Noam Chomsky

Welcome to THE RELAY. Many years ago, the leadership of IBEW LU 175 published THE RELAY in an effort to strengthen the communication of information to LU 175's membership. The copy was in paper form, mailed via the United States Postal Service, and read in the hands of our Brothers and Sisters that built this Local into one of the finest in North America. The newest version of THE RELAY will now carry on that proud tradition to all generations of LU 175 membership via a 21st century internet.

Letter From IBEW Local 175 Business Manager Gary Watkins

Greetings to my IBEW Local 175 Brothers and Sisters,

I hope this note finds you all well and working. We've reached the end of October and are heading into cooler weather. On the construction side of the house it seems like new jobs don't break ground until the weather is bad...hopefully the weather will remain relatively good AND we'll get some new work started soon.

Over the past couple of years, several members have asked about Steward Training. We have attempted to include everyone who has asked for the training, as well as, several up-and-coming members who will be better leaders because of this training.

In the first week of November, we will have TVA Steward Training, Construction Steward Training, and Officer Training. These classes represent an investment in the future of IBEW Local 175 as a whole and in the Units themselves. I appreciate the patience shown by  many of you in getting the classes scheduled. I also appreciate the time that goes into learning to serve in new capacities or simply gaining new perspectives in our work.

As I mentioned previously, Local 175 is a conglomeration of 16 different Units. We have plans to spend time with each Unit by helping them grow and become more self-reliant. Some of our Units have been on a bi-monthly or quarterly meeting schedule. We are returning to monthly meetings with each of our Units. These are membership meetings where trained Unit Chairmen and Officers will help facilitate a safe and open meeting, free of fear of retaliation or harassment when discussing issues that directly affect them.

As it pertains to Units, we are seeking members with computer knowledge, within each Unit, to help with their Unit's section on the 175 website. As we get folks involved we will add their sections. Please contact Caleb Long or Matt McCoy at the Local 175 business office, 423.894.3557, for more information about this.

I'd like to take a moment to remind everyone that we have members who are sick and in need of support. Please feel free to drop me a line at if there is someone that I need to add. We are looking at adding a page with a list of pages for Local members and families. We're often contacted by members who want to help by making a monetary donation. Following much discussion we determined that this was the most accessible, secure, and direct route to handle contributions.

  1. Sister Marilyn Graham has had a successful liver transplant and is doing well. Her medications and other expenses, however, far outweigh her limited income. Click HERE for Marilyn's GoFundMe page.
  2. Danelle Murphy is the daughter of IBEW Local 175 member/International Rep. John Murphy. Danelle suffers from a rare disorder known as MoyaMoya. She is doing much better, but still has miles to travel. Click for HERE Danelle's GoFundMe page.
  3. Michael Warren, a 2nd year apprentice and IBEW Local 175 member, accidentally fell 40' into a concrete pump station but is improving daily. The Warren family has asked us to express their thanks for the incredible outpouring of support. Click HERE for Michael's GoFundME page.

I'm always grateful for the opportunity to serve the membership of IBEW Local 175. I'm also very blessed to have a group of Assistants that work tirelessly to ensure your interests are represented and your business is taken care of.

The Construction meeting and General meetings are held the 1st and 3rd Mondays at 7:30 PM. Unit meeting times and locations vary by Unit. Always support your Stewards and Union Respresentatives. With out them, the Union would suffer greatly.

The only way to spell Union is with U-N-I at the front.

In solidarity,


Letter From IBEW Local 175 President Winfred Gearrin

Greetings Brothers and Sisters,

I hope this writing finds everyone in good health and doing well. We have talked SAFETY a lot and must continue to make it our number one priority in all aspects of our lives. That said, our own Brother Michael Warren, who suffered critical injuries while on the job with Adman, has been touched by the Lord. He is now in rehab on the long road to recovery and is doing great. The Warren Family asked me to express how extremely thankful and grateful they are for everyone's thoughts, prayers, and support.

Our regularly scheduled meetings this month are November 6th and 20th. There will be a pin ceremony on the 6th with the meeting starting promptly at 7:00 PM. Please make plans to attend. The eligible pin recipients should have received a letter in the mail informing them of their eligibility.

As a word of encouragement, please remember to keep your dues paid up and current in order that you remain in good standing. Also, some of our brothers and sisters on the road have missed monthly resign. Resign is always between the 10th and the 16th of each month. Local 175 observes two holidays during the month of November. Thanksgiving and the Friday after are meant for our membership to have time with family and friends while they reflect on what they're thankful for.

It is my wish that God bless and enrich each and everyone of our Brothers and Sisters and the future of this Local Union.

In solidarity and with best regards I am,

Winfred Gearrin

ABB/Thomas & Betts Announce Plant Expansion

Local 175 is proud to announce that ABB/Thomas & Betts will be adding to its Athens production facility. The manufacturer of electrical construction products was only able to make the announcement after its Memphis headquarters finalized the complicated evaluation process. The Athens production plant was in competition with ABB locations from around the world including Mexico and various spots in the United States. The new facility brings growth to the region's economy and IBEW Local 175 is proud to have partnered with Thomas & Betts to make it a reality. 

Earlier this month, Thomas & Betts' Plant Manager Chuck Gilreath and IBEW Local 175 Assistant Business Manager Caleb Long signed a Memorandum of Understanding that ensures the employees working  at the new facility will be covered under the existing collective bargaining agreement. Gilreath also highlighted that the 5 year contract, negotiated between Thomas & Betts and IBEW Local 175 back in March, played a significant role in promoting the Athens location as a stable and competitive option. Details of the type of new production and the size of the expansion are still being developed. 

In a time when domestic manufacturers are moving overseas, it feels good to make this type of announcement. It is also a proud moment when employers recognize the value of having union representation in manufacturing. 

Support those, that support you. Buy Thomas & Betts union-made products!

IBEW Local 175 Fall Festival and Motorcycle Ride

Local 175's Fall Festival & Motorcycle Ride was a huge success! 

On October 7th, we celebrated the 2nd Annual Local 175 Motorcycle Ride. Thirty-eight IBEW Local 175 members started the event with a four-hour motorcycle trip through some of the most scenic parts of our jurisdiction. The Ride included stops at Nickajack Cave, Cloudland Canyon, and the Chickamauga Battlefield. Local 175 members were also fortunate to have shared the road with members from Local 760 and Local 429.

In addition to the ride, Local 175 added a family and friends aspect to the celebration. Over 200 joined in on the brotherhood and fellowship as the bikes arrived back to the Hall. The kids enjoyed all kinds of fun activities such the Chattanooga Fire and Police Department's "Touch a Truck", inflatable jump slides, and face painting. Local 175 was also very happy to have a catered lunch for all who attended. 

Thank you to all the sponsors and volunteers who made this event a success. See you next year!

Posted by IBEW Admin | Topic: 2017  | Category: Newsletter | 0 Comments | Leave a Comment

The Relay - September 2017

October 5th, 2017

The Relay

The IBEW Local Union 175 Newsletter

Vol.1, No.9 September 2017

"The state of the Union largely depends on the state of unions." Evan Esar

Welcome to THE RELAY. Many years ago, the leadership of IBEW LU 175 published THE RELAY in an effort to strengthen the communication of information to LU 175's membership. The copy was in paper form, mailed via the United States Postal Service, and read in the hands of our Brothers and Sisters that built this Local into one of the finest in North America. The newest version of THE RELAY will now carry on that proud tradition to all generations of LU 175 membership via a 21st century internet.

Letter From IBEW Local 175 Business Manager Gary Watkins

Greetings Brothers and Sisters, 

I trust this writing finds you well and celebrating the great memories from the Summer of 2017. September has now come and gone, and several of our members remain working out of town.

At the Local Union we're frequently asked what we've heard about Bellefonte, Wacker, Yellow Hammer and other various projects that are set to begin in the near future. I would like to say that these projects are beginning to move, however they are static. While we believe that the projects will be built, the Owners have simply not started direct work on the sites. We have been blessed in that our Sister Locals have had an abundance of work and our members have been able to work OT within a 3 or 4 hour drive from home. While this may not be ideal, it is much better than having no work to go to.

Many of our members are getting first hand experience at being "travelers". Please remember what "Jurisdictional Courtesy" means. Some of you had bad experiences with folks who either didn't know or didn't care about jurisdictional courtesy. Wherever you go, YOU are a representative of IBEW Local 175. Please protect the good name that your Brothers and Sisters before you built.

We're grateful for our Brothers and Sisters who saw the need for health insurance, pension, a local union office, etc. On Thursday September 21st, there were 96 retirees at our Local 175 Retirees' breakfast. Be sure to check out the pictures from that great event!

October 7, 2017 finds the Local 175 RENEW Committee's 2nd Annual Fall Ride. This year several new sponsors, including the IBEW 175 Credit Union, OPEIU, NECA, and others have helped to expand the event to include a Car Show, hamburgers, hot dogs, as well as inflatables for the kids. We are working to make this a more family-friendly event.

  • Motorcycle Ride flyer is here.
  • Information for the Fall Festival is here.

October 2017 will begin our Membership Pin ceremonies. If you are due to receive a Pin, you will receive notification in the mail along with instructions on which Union meeting will host the ceremonies. Please take the time to attend the meeting to receive your pin.

This fall finds Local 175 staff members involved in organizing campaigns and bringing rank and file members on board with opportunities to strengthen Local 175 and ALL unions around us. We will offer COMET (Construction Organizing Membership Education Training) classes, COE (Code of Excellence) classes, New Officer Training, Leadership Training, Steward Training and other subjects to be determined as we move forward.

We are currently working to bring all of our Units into view. IBEW Local 175 is comprised of 16 distinct Units. We are establishing a place for each Unit on our website. Our goal is to have a different Unit featured to help us become more familiar with our family.

Let me take this opportunity to thank those who have donated to the accounts of Local 175 Sister Marilyn Graham and Danelle Murphy. Sister Graham is recovering from a successful liver transplant and Danelle Murphy, daughter of Local 175 Brother John Murphy, suffers from Moyamoya disease. These campaigns are still  active and the financial needs continue to grow. Please help them. We will soon have a place on our website where this type of information is posted. 

I believe the success or failure of IBEW Local 175 lies within the hearts of our members. When we prioritize Union meetings, Unit meeting, special events, community work events, and the like, the future is bright!

When compared to Church, Synagogue, Mosque, Fraternity, Sorority, Social Club, etc., it is the Local Union organization that fights for a safe workplace thru expanded safety training, a higher standard of living thru supporting good wages, a better quality of life thru negotiating for health insurance coverage, end of career benefits thru negotiated pension plans that allow us to retire with dignity following a successful career. These are but a few of the benefits of being a member of the IBEW. The Local Union gives us opportunities to grow into better leaders, better citizens, and yes, better employees.

As I close, I would like to thank those who serve as Officers throughout IBEW Local 175, Local 175 Office Manager Quennia Greene, Bookkeeper Wendy Culpepper, Secretary Shelly Bridges, and each of the Assistant Business Managers at Local 175 for maintaining the hearts of servants. These are the people that do the work to make IBEW Local 175 YOUR Local Union.

Until the next issue: 

Be SAFE, Be Proud, Be Blessed.

Gary Watkins

Letter From IBEW Local 175 President Winfred Gearrin

Greetings Brothers and Sisters,

It is with best wishes I begin this writing to all of our members. There are a lot of events  coming up in October. We have the 2nd Annual Fall Motorcycle Ride along with the Fall Family Festival on October 7th. We are looking forward to a large turnout and a lot of fun and fellowship for all. Bring the family and come on out.

On October 16th, Local 175 will have a pin presentation for members with 5 to 35 years of service. The 40 year and above pins will be presented at the next regularly scheduled meeting on November 6th.

I must also stress the importance of keeping your monthly dues paid to the current month. You have an International pension and a life insurance policy directly connected to your dues. If your dues aren't current, you or your beneficiary will not see those benefits and coverage. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.

Once again, I have to emphasize the importance of safety in our industry. Safe work practices are critical regardless of what we are doing. It is our duty to strive to prevent any accident if we're on the job or at home. It has to become a lifestyle. Two weeks ago, we had a second-year apprentice critically injured. Brother Mike Warren fell from a pump station platform into a forty foot pit. Brother Warren is now in Intensive Care. Please keep Brother Mike Warren and his family in your thoughts and prayers. In this Brotherhood we are our brothers' keeper.

Our regularly scheduled local union meeting as always are the 1st and 3rd Mondays at 7:30 P.M. On Monday, October 16th the meeting will begin at 7:00 P.M. to accommodate for our pin presentations. Please make plans to attend. Any organization is only as strong as its members. See you there.

May God bless each of you and yours.

With best regards I am,

Winfred Gearrin

IBEW Local 175 Sponsors UTC Football Game

IBEW Local 175 is very proud to be a part of the strong tradition of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. Over the years, Local 175 has built and maintained most of UTC's infrastructure and facilities. Our membership have benefited tremendously from the partnership between Labor and the University.

On September 30th, UTC showed their appreciation to over 100 Local 175 members and their families during the Western Carolina vs UTC football game. Our members enjoyed food, drink, and live entertainment in a family atmosphere that made for a great afternoon of Brotherhood and football. During the first timeout, IBEW Local 175 President Winfred Gearrin was presented an official game jersey as recognition of Local 175's sponsorship of UTC Athletics and the University's commitment to putting our members to work. GO MOCS!

Pictured: (Left to Right) Assistant Business Manager Caleb Long, Business Manager Gary Watkins, and President Winfred Gearrin

University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Wrestling Coach Heath Eslinger Talks to Apprentices from the Chattanooga JATC

What does it take to be successful? What does it take to persevere against all odds? What allows individuals and organizations to achieve great things? Local 175 apprentices and Coach Heath Eslinger had that discussion.

Prior to our most recent Union meeeting, Coach Eslinger brought the same fire and intensity to a group of 80 apprentices and Local 175 membership that he brings to the UTC Wrestling program. Coach explained the hard work and effort that it takes to get through a five year apprenticeship is almost exactly the same as the requirements needed to be successful in the wrestling room. Coach Eslinger spent a hour and a half exchanging with the group on the importance of self discipline, on how setting boundaries for oneself can be liberating, and how commitment to achieving a set goal is vital to being a member of an organization. If we build a better apprentice; we also build a strong Union. This bond will make all of local 175 stronger.

Pictured: (Left to Right) Business Manager Gary Watkins, Local 175 5th Year Apprentice Tyler Lawson, UTC Head Wrestling Coach Heath Eslinger, and President Winfred Gearrin

IBEW Local 175 Hosts Retirees' Breakfast

The Local 175 Retirees' Breakfast is one of the most important events on our calendar.

On September 21st, Local 175 had the distinct honor and pleasure to host the IBEW Local 175 Retirees' Breakfast. The 96 brothers and sisters in attendance represent some of the finest craftsman and Union representatives this country has to offer. The quarterly breakfast is an excellent opportunity for retired members to fellowship and reminisce. 

Local 175 expresses great appreciation for those who were in attendance. Let it be known, Local 175 is the Local it is today because of the effort, dedication, and craftsmanship of these great brothers and sisters. Thank you so very much.

The next Retirees' Breakfast will be in January 2018. We look forward to it.

IBEW Local 175 Members at North Alabama Electric Cooperative Elect Unit Officers

Last month, The Relay announced Local 175's organizing victory at North Alabama Electric Cooperative.

On September 22nd, the Local 175 membership held its first unit officer election. The newly elected officers are Unit President - Brian Stewart, Unit Vice President - Eddie Alred, and Unit Recording Secretary - Bart Nelson.

Local 175 would like to recognize the Negotiating Committee; these members include Brian Stewart, Eddie Alred, Travis Baugh, Galen Dean, And Brandon Evans. Congratulations to all newly elected officers.

Pictured: (Seated Left to Right) - Unit President Brian Stewart, Local 175 Assistant Business Manager Jim White. (Standing Left to Right) - Gaylen Dean, Brandon Evans, and Travis Baugh.

Posted by IBEW Admin | Topic: 2017  | Category: Newsletter | 0 Comments | Leave a Comment

The Relay - August 2017

September 7th, 2017

The Relay

The IBEW Local Union 175 Newsletter

Vol.1, No. 8 August 2017

"Unions have been the only powerful and effective voice working people have ever had in the history of this country." Bruce Springsteen

Welcome to THE RELAY. Many years ago, the leadership of IBEW LU 175 published THE RELAY in an effort to strengthen the communication of information to LU 175's membership. The copy was in paper form, mailed via the United States Postal Service, and read in the hands of our Brothers and Sisters that built this Local into one of the finest in North America. The newest version of THE RELAY will now carry on that proud tradition to all generations of LU 175 membership via a 21st century internet.

Letter From IBEW Local 175 Business Manager Gary Watkins

Greetings Brothers and Sisters,

I trust that you all had a GREAT Labor Day holiday. While this is posted the day after Labor Day, it is always a great day when we learn something new. Labor Day is the only holiday that celebrates the accomplishments of working people. I won’t ramble on now, I’ll be back later this week with an August update/September outlook. Thank you all for everything you do for working people everywhere!


Linda Stinson, a former U.S. Department of Labor’s historian, provided us with some answers about the history of Labor Day in 2011.

Q: What's the history of Labor Day? How did it all begin?

A: The Labor Day holiday is interesting because it evolved over a period of years. In 19th century America, there was already a tradition of having parades, picnics and various other celebrations in support of labor issues, such as shorter hours or to rally strikers. But most historians emphasize one specific event in the development of today’s modern Labor Day. That pivotal event was the parade of unions and a massive picnic that took place in New York City on Sept. 5, 1882.

At that time, the labor movement was growing stronger. Many of the unions in New York prospered by joining together into one Central Labor Union made up of members from many local unions. On May 14, 1882, a proposal was made at the Central Labor Union meeting that all workers should join together for a “monster labor festival” in early September. A committee of five people was appointed to find a park for the celebration. They chose Wendel’s Elm Park at 92nd Street and 9th Avenue, the largest park in New York City at that time; the date was set for Tuesday, September 5. By June, they had sold 20,000 tickets with the proceeds going to each local union selling them. In August, the Central Labor Union passed a resolution “that the 5th of September be proclaimed a general holiday for the workingmen in this city.”

At first they were afraid that the celebration was going to be a failure. Many of the workers in the parade had to lose a day’s pay in order to participate. When the parade began only a handful of workers were in it, while hundreds of people stood on the sidewalk jeering at them. But then slowly they came – 200 workers and a band from the Jewelers’ Union showed up and joined the parade. Then came a group of bricklayers with another band. By the time they reached the park, it was estimated that there were 10,000 marchers in the parade in support of workers.

The park was decorated with flags of many nations. Everyone picnicked, drank beer and listened to speeches from the union leadership. In the evening, even more people came to the park to watch fireworks and dance. The newspapers of the day declared it a huge success and “a day of the people.”

After that major event in New York City, other localities began to pick up the idea for a fall festival of parades and picnics celebrating workers.

Q: Can you clear up some confusion: who is the father of Labor Day?

A: When studying the history of Labor Day, two names stand out, and the funny thing is that they sound just alike. One is Peter J. McGuire, a leading official in the American Federation of Labor and organizer of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. The other is Matthew Maguire, a machinist from the Knights of Labor. The problem with declaring a single “founder” of Labor Day is that, at the time, no one realized that a new national holiday was being born. It was only after the fact that people tried to pinpoint a single founding father.

Seven years after that first New York Labor Day parade, the union journal for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters published an article claiming that their union brother, McGuire, made the original proposal to have the Labor Day event in New York and called for one day a year to be set aside as Labor Day. This article was reprinted yearly, and it became the common assumption that these were the facts.

However, in 1967, a retired machinist from Maguire’s union stepped up and claimed that his union brother was, in fact, the true originator of the movement for a national Labor Day. He pointed to an old newspaper article written nine years after the New York Labor Day parade titled “Labor Day: Its History and Development in the Land.” This article claimed that the first Secretary of the Central Labor Union, Maguire, was the one who arranged the parade. This claim was supported six years later when the grand marshal of the New York parade of 1882 himself reminisced about how Maguire from the Knights of Labor had first suggested that the Central Labor Union call upon the unions of New York City to join together in a labor parade.

So the historical conundrum seems to hinge on the fact that the two names sound alike and were probably mixed up in the common consciousness. Toss in the years of bitter rivalry between the American Federation of Labor and the Knights of Labor and, of course, you’re going to have multiple heroes emerging in the legend of Labor Day.

I don’t really know if there is only one true parent of Labor Day. But when former Secretary of Labor W. Willard Wirtz spoke at the convention of the International Association of Machinists in 1968, he said: “My decision…is that there is no question as to who is the father of Labor Day in this country. Officially, as of this moment, insofar as the Department of Labor is concerned, it is Matt Maguire, machinist!” So in the question of McGuire versus Maguire, I don’t really know. But my money backs Bill Wirtz every time!

Q: When did it become a national holiday and why?

A: Labor Day as a national, legal holiday had an interesting evolution. The legalized celebration of Labor Day began as individual state celebrations. In 1887, New York, New Jersey and Colorado were among the first states to approve state legal holidays. Then other states joined in to create their own state Labor Days. Finally, in response to a groundswell of support for a national holiday celebrating the nation’s workers, Sen. James Henderson Kyle of South Dakota introduced S. 730 to the 53rd Congress to make Labor Day a legal holiday on the first Monday of September each year. It was approved on June 28, 1894.

Letter From IBEW Local 175 President Winfred Gearrin

Greeting to all our Brothers and Sisters,

It's always with hope that this writing finds everyone doing well and in good health. With that in mind, it was good to have Sister Marilyn Graham in attendance at our last Union Meeting after finally receiving a liver transplant. By her own admission, Marilyn is a walking miracle. She wishes to thank everyone for their prayers and financial support in getting through this. It has shown the real spirit of Brotherhood that exists in our Local.

It is with a heavy heart to mention we have lost, the original Naked Head, former Business Manager Brother Paul Gass. Our prayers and thoughts go out to the entire Gass family. Paul was a great leader in our organization.

Now looking forward, it is good to report the Thomas & Betts/ABB contract has been completed, approved, and is now going to print. It's a 5 year contract with a range of percentage increases between 2% and 2.5%.

Resolute Forest Products (Bowater) has announced the shut down of 2 paper machines. Resolute attributes the loss of production to the decline in demand for newsprint. This will result in the possible loss of one-third, approximately 220 total jobs, of the total workforce at the mill. We will begin negotiations on September 5th in an effort to save our IBEW Electrical & Instrumentation jobs.

Work around the country is still strong. We have had calls from several locals looking for help with manpower. Most everyone that is willing to travel is working. It is still our belief that work is going to pick up within Local 175's jurisdiction during the next year. It will be good to get our members that are on the road back home with the progression of the Bellefonte Plant, Nokia Tire Plant coming to Dayton, TN, Google-Yellowhammer, and the Chickamauga Dam Project.

I want to thank our brothers and sisters that are out there working in other jurisdictions for the good job they are doing representing Local 175. We have had calls from Business Managers and Locals with word of appreciation for the work and the professionalism you are showing.

Local 175 is having it's annual Motorcycle Ride and Fall Festival on October 7th. It will include a car show and jump park for the kids. We'll have local vendors, good food, and great brotherhood for the entire family. Please make plans to attend. 

See YOU at the next union meeting! Thanks and God bless all of our Brothers and Sisters.

With best regards I am,

Winfred Gearrin

IBEW Local 175 Organizes North Alabama Electric Cooperative and Culbert Electric 

IBEW Local 175 is pleased to announce that North Alabama Electric Cooperative and Culbert Electric are now signatory to IBEW Local 175. The effort to gain market share and to grow the union employer/contractor base is a tremendous task. The IBEW Constitution mandates that one of our key OBJECTS shall be: To organize all workers in the entire electrical industry in the United States and Canada, including all those in public utilities and electrical manufacturing, into local unions. Simply put, our chief goal shall be to organize all who do electrical work.

North Alabama Electric Cooperative

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again! In the late 1990s, Local 175 had an unsuccessful organizing campaign at North Alabama Electric Cooperative. The typical forces were in place against union organizing and Local 175 came up short. Local 175 can now enjoy a fresh win and considers this a huge organizing achievement. 

Assistant Business Manager Jim White began the conversation with North Alabama Electric Cooperative on August 8, 2016. The employees at NAEC had lost a pay benefit and that's essentially what renewed the conversation with Local 175. Brother White had two difficult objectives to complete and ultimately achieve. The first goal was to organize the membership and to gain recognition for IBEW Local 175 as the bargaining representative. The second, was to negotiate the first contract with North Alabama Electric Cooperative on behalf of Local 175 newest members. Brother White achieved both. On August 24, 2017 the contract was ratified. 

NAEC services 8 geographical districts including Bridgeport, Stevenson, Hollywood, Scottsboro, Woodville, Paint Rock, Grant, and Guntersville. NAEC employee classifications include Line Foreman & Service Foreman, Journeyman Lineman, Apprentice Lineman, Construction Equipment Operators, Warehouse employees, Right-Of-Way Foreman, Treeman/Right-Of-Way employees, Right-Of-Way Equipment Operators, Meter Techs, Engineer-Substation Techs, and Dispatchers. The bargaining unit has 26 employees that now include 22 new IBEW Local 175 members. Congratulations to the newest members of Local 175. 

Culbert Electric

IBEW Local 175 Business/Membership Development/Organizer Mike Grant was able to fulfill the never-ending Object to "organize all" when Jeff Culbert came to Local 175 to sign his letter of assent. Local 175 first made contact with Culbert Electric in early February. Culbert Electric has been successful in the residential, commercial, and industrial bid market in Chattanooga as well as in Georgia and Alabama. "The Locals that are the most successful in organizing are the ones who have their membership engaged in the field, actively organizing, and supplying job information to Local leadership. The process was a team effort between Local 175, Chattanooga JATC, and many individual Local 175 members. Culbert Electric is going to be a great addition to our contractor base and will be an asset in securing work for our members," said Grant.

Volunteers Needed For Local 175 Fall Festival

IBEW Local 175 is calling on our membership to volunteer for the Local 175 Fall Festival.  The Fall Festival is a family-friendly event that teams with the 2nd Annual Fall Motorcycle Ride. We need at least 20 additional volunteers for traffic control, crowd flow, set-up and tear-down. You don't have to volunteer for the entire event, just let us know when you can serve and we'll get you "plugged in".  

Please contact Matt McCoy at or for information about serving during the Fall Festival. 

 Please don't wait until the last minute to sign up for the Ride!

IBEW Local 175 Member Featured in Chatter Magazine.

Find out what being a VOL FOR LIFE means to Local 175 Brother Phillip "Pee Wee" Kirksey. He might even have a few decorating tips...

Posted by IBEW Admin | Topic: 2017  | Category: Newsletter | 0 Comments | Leave a Comment

The Relay - June 2017

July 7th, 2017

The Relay

The IBEW Local Union 175 Newsletter

Vol.1, No.6 June 2017

"Our economy is out of balance. Growing labor unions, rather than decimating them, is one way to bring a measure of economic stability to our nation." John Patrick

Welcome to THE RELAY. Many years ago, the leadership of IBEW LU 175 published THE RELAY in an effort to strengthen the communication of information to LU 175's membership. The copy was in paper form, mailed via the United States Postal Service, and read in the hands of our Brothers and Sisters that built this Local into one of the finest in North America. The newest version of THE RELAY will now carry on that proud tradition to all generations of LU 175 membership via a 21st century internet.

Letter from IBEW Local 175 Business Manager Gary Watkins

Greeting Brothers and Sisters,

Well, Summer has finally come to Local 175. We've enjoyed some unseasonably nice weather and we know that we're going to move into a heat wave at just any time. Speaking of heat wave, with Summer comes the added safety concerns for workers of overheating, sunstroke, dehydration, etc. Be aware of those around you who may suffer from any of these conditions.

June 2017 brought the Riverbend Festival to Chattanooga. We know many of you went and enjoyed the shows. This huge festival employs several Union members that you might not realize are our brothers and sisters. Folks like:

  • IBEW Local 175 - Triple E Electric 
  • International Brotherhood of Police Officers LU 673  
  • International Association of Fire Fighters Local 820
  • International Association of Stage and Theatrical Stagehands Employees Local 140

Our thanks go out to our MANY brothers and sisters who support union workers and our rights in the workplace.

I want to take a minute to clarify a couple of terms that I hear mentioned frequently. "Right-to-Work" and "Employment At Will". These are two distinct and separate items. When the Right-to-Work law was passed in Tennessee in 1949 there was an effort to limit the influence of unions. In the eyes of management, Unions had far too much say in the rights of workers. When the RTW law passed, it allowed workers to enjoy the benefits of a union-earned and negotiated contract without paying for them. This created a situation for Unions that is not practiced in the business world. Free representation.

There are no other organizations who are forced to represent you although you choose NOT to be a member. The Chamber of Commerce requires its affiliates or associates to pay dues or not enjoy the benefits of membership.  So it is with all other similar representative bodies. Working on a Union job and not being a member is the fastest way to lose wages, benefits, and strength gained in numbers.

Besides those items above, IBEW "A" membership provides benefits such as a pension for simply keeping your dues paid; and a couple of death benefits that will protect your family. There are many other benefits of membership. If you are someone who thinks that they are better off on their own, I challenge you to schedule a time to sit down and talk with one of Local 175's agents to discover the benefits that you are missing out on. I'm sure your spouse and family would agree that 2 separate death benefits would provide a degree of security in the event of your accidental or untimely death.

IBEW Local 175 also has a separate death benefit that any member can participate in. The cost to join is $5 with a $3 payment upon notification of the passing of a participant. When notified, each participant makes a $3 payment to IBEW Local 175 in the name of the deceased Brother or Sister. Upon notification from the IBEW International Secretary's Office, Local 175 sends a check in the amount of $2.75 multiplied by the current number of participants in the Death Benefit Fund.

So, I'll continue on the path of RIGHTS and BENEFITS for a little longer.

Two of the MOST IMPORTANT things we do for our families is:

  1. Keep dues paid current - more than 2 months delinquency WILL affect benefits.
  2. Make sure that you have the CORRECT BENEFICIARY on your health insurance, Southern Electrical Retirement Fund, IBEW Local 175/International Office and IBEW 175 Credit Union.

You may have other accounts that should be addressed as well. Following a divorce or death, changing the beneficiary is urgent. You must make it a priority. Make sure YOUR FAMILY is protected.

Now let's address "Employment At Will". In the State of Tennessee, if you are not working under a Collective Bargaining Agreement, you are an AT-WILL employee. What this means is that your employer can terminate your employment for any or no reason. You work"At the Will" of the employer. Period! That's the difference in Right-to-Work and Employment At Will.   I've included links to these two topics. Please check them out for yourself. 

The month of May brought the Inaugural Spring Ride: Off Road Edition to Local 175. We posted the video, produced by the International Office, later in this newsletter.

June brings planning sessions for a larger Fall Motorcycle Ride and a Family Day at 175 and the Chattanooga JATC. In 2016, we had over 40 riders in our Inaugural Fall Ride. We hope to see increased participation in both events going forward.

Also in June, negotiations continued with North Alabama Electric Cooperative. Special thanks again to IBEW 175 Assistant Business Manager Jim White, IBEW 10th District Representative Jim Springfield, and the Brothers at NAEC for their persistence on this 1st contract.

In late June, Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative and IBEW Local 175 successfully negotiated a new 3 year contract. Special thanks to MLEC Unit Chair David Qualls, Mike Hickerson, Michael Bradley, Barry Wilson, Troy Walton, and Aaron Hinson. Thanks also goes to IBEW Local 175 Assistant Business Manager Matt McCoy who serves the MLEC Unit. We'd also like to thank MLEC President and CEO Keith Carnahan, VP of Operations Ed Greenwell, VP of Employee and Member Services Miranda McCaleb, and the rest of the MLEC negotiating team for their diligence in reaching a Win-Win outcome.

With June behind us, I wish you a safe and happy July 4th. Special thanks to those in uniform who work diligently to keep us safe and free, as well as, our civil servants who must respond to whatever may present itself. Our prayers go out for your safety, vision, and leadership.

May we all be blessed with the realization of just how blessed we truly are.


Gary Watkins

Letter from IBEW Local 175 President Winfred Gearrin

Greetings to all our Brothers and Sisters,

I hope this letter finds everyone in good health and enjoying the beginning of Summer. As the months progress, take time to remember our veterans and service people while we celebrate the 4th of July. We owe them all a debt of gratitude. 

While we don't have any confirmation yet we still anticipate the work in our jurisdiction to pick up by the end of this year. If you are working on the road always be mindful of jurisdictional courtesy. You are representing Local 175 and keeping our reputation and standards high so that others will admire your work and do the same when they are working here. I thank you for what you are doing and encourage you to stay safe.

The recent loss of one of our brothers reminds us of the importance of keeping our union dues current. This brother was a member of Local 175's Death Benefit and because his dues were not current, his family/beneficiary was not able to receive his benefit when it was needed. Please keep your dues paid current. This should be priority. It not only helps your retirement, it gives your family a financial safety net should, God forbid, anything happen to you.

The members of an organization are what makes it strong. I am proud of the fact that we have over 3100 total members from all walks of life. There is strength in numbers. This is why it is important to attend the union meeting. Make plans to attend and be active. Get involved. Union meetings are the most basic way for your voice to be heard. UNITED WE STAND.

It is my wish that God bless and enrich each and every one of our Brothers and Sisters and the future of this Local Union.

With best regards I am,

Winfred Gearrin

IBEW Local 175 Spring Ride: Off Road Edition Featured On

Ralph White Electric & WELBRO Building Corporation Partner to Resurrect Chattanooga's "Gold Building" 

The "Gold Building" has been an undeniable fixture on the Chattanooga landscape for over 40 years.  The former BlueCross/BlueShield office complex's reflective exterior has not shined as bright in recent years as it has been unoccupied. The vacancy provided local investors, Ken and Byron Defoor, the perfect opportunity to revitalize the landmark and transform the structure into a new Westin Hotel and convention space.

When it comes to providing engineering and construction services to the hospitality industry few do it better than Ralph White Electric. Ralph White Electric, powered by IBEW Local 175 journeyman wireman and apprentices, was awarded this project and took on the heavy task to turn the structure back into one of Chattanooga's great landmarks. 

Randy White, Vice President/Project Manager and dues-paying member of Local 175, recently gave IBEW Local 175 a tour. "We brought over $1 million in cost saving for our customer by designing around some of the existing infrastructure. That value based engineering helped us get the job," said White. White also highlighted the Journeyman and Apprentices he has working for Ralph White Electric. He proudly highlighted that Ralph White Electric had several journeyman on the job that had worked several years for the company. "We have Apprentice of the Year Colin Cole working on this project. We have experienced journeyman like Mike Bowman with 32 years of service, Stanley "Flip" Hullander with 31 years, and Nick Phillips with 15 years." This IBEW/NECA partnership illustrates the value that we bring to the marketplace.

Once completed, The Westin will feature 228 guest rooms, a convention hall, business meeting rooms, and a top floor Sky Bar.

Local 175 Members on the job: Mike Bowman, Ronnie Raby, Gregg Tate, Nick Phillips, Avery Cooper, Mark McKaig, Colin Cole, Jason Layne, Stanley Hullander, Daniel White, and Rob Cofer.

IBEW Local 175 Member Featured in Field & Stream.

Find out what a lifetime of coon hunting means to Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative employee and IBEW Local 175 Brother Mike Hickerson...

Posted by IBEW Admin | Topic: 2017  | Category: Newsletter | 0 Comments | Leave a Comment