The Relay – June 2022

June 01, 2022

Vol.2, No.6 June 2022

There is no greater calling than to serve your Brother. And, no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.

–Walter Reuther

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.

For the Membership: A letter From Gary Watkins, Business Manager-IBEW Local Union 175

Gary Watkins, IBEW Local 175 Business Manager

Greetings IBEW Brothers and Sisters,

I pray this article finds you all well and prosperous. My how time continues to march forward. By the time you read this July will be upon us. It’s looking like this may be one of the hottest summers in history. As high temperature records fall around the world, we continue to promote safety. Everyone knows to keep hydrated and be aware of signs of heat stroke.

One area where we can improve is exposure to the Sun’s rays. I’ve seen many Brothers and Sisters, particularly on the Outside who, when they remove their hat and glasses, have the “raccoon mask” from exposure. Now I’ve been spared from having melanomas or skin cancers so far. But I can point you to some of our Brothers and Sisters who have not. In fact, skin cancer has taken the lives of many who spend time in the outdoors.

Would you be surprised to learn that your skin is your largest organ? With that knowledge, doesn’t it make sense to protect it at all cost? Science and technology have provided us with many easy ways to prevent excessive exposure to the sun’s damaging rays. Please make no mistake, we’re all ten feet tall and bulletproof…until the first time we have to meet a cardiologist, a skin doc, or an oncologist. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” is certainly true in this instance.

As you may see, I’m a believer in sunscreen, wide brim hats, sunglasses, etc., that are in the best interest of our health. Technology has improved clothing to be sweat wicking, UV blocking, cooler and lighter, among the many changes. We have to use these tools to protect ourselves, as well.

One of my dearest friends has dealt with skin cancer frequently over the past 15 years. He always enjoyed golf, baseball, outdoor recreation, in addition to working outdoors a lot. Most of us don’t’ think about how outdoor sports increases exposure to rays that harm our bodies.

I don’t promote staying inside all the time, but I well tell you this – folks who are dealing with or are susceptible to more skin cancer- spend most of their time out of the sun.

You may be the toughest person on earth, but the day you’re diagnosed with skin cancer – all that goes away. Your humanity is exposed. Your youthful immortality disappears.

You alone will make the decision, day by day to protect yourself and family from this dread disease, or not. If there was any way to prevent an accident that you knew was coming, you would act to prevent it. This is no different. I leave you with the challenge to take care of yourself physically, mentally, socially, and wholly. Your family and friends depend on you. Being a great example begins with you, and you alone.

Sincerely and Fraternally,
Gary M. Watkins
Business Manager – IBEW Local Union 175, AFL-CIO 

For the Membership: A Letter From Danny Painter, President-IBEW Local Union 175

Danny Painter, IBEW Local 175 President

Welcome Sisters and Brothers,

This will be my last contribution to The Relay. The middle of this month I will be retiring after 45 years as a member of the IBEW. I would like to take this time to thank all the Sisters and Brothers of this great union. It has been an honor to serve you as an Assistant Business Manager for the last 9.5 years. I also thank you for electing me as your President for the last 3 years. The IBEW has been good to my whole family, I have 2 grandfathers, 3 uncles, and my father was a member and a contractor. My brother Ronnie and I are 3rd generation, and my son Zac is the 4th generation from our family.

I would like to give special thanks to Business Manager Barry Key for hiring me and Business Manager Gary Watkins for keeping me. I learned a great deal from both of these brothers, and the same could be said of all the staff members I have worked with these past years.

Thank all you again.

Danny Painter
President – IBEW Local Union 175, AFL-CIO

For the Membership: A Letter From Caleb Long, Dispatcher and Assistant Business Manager for Manufacturing and Professional & Industrial Maintenance-IBEW Local Union 175

Caleb Long, Dispatcher &Assistant Business Manager

Brothers and Sisters,

I have two things to offer in this month’s Relay.

  1. A promise made, is a promise kept. I was asked, after members posed questions on social media,  to comment on issues relating to Family Medical Care Plan. I promised to dedicated a portion of this Relay post to those questions; so here goes. 
  2. Resolute Forest Products has new ownership.

One: In a previous Relay, I offered my cell phone number. I did that to make sure members had a way to reach IBEW Local 175’s dispatcher. I take this responsibility very seriously and see it as duty For the Membership. Use it. Blow it up. Don’t hesitate to call when you have questions. 

This month, I’ll make another offering: I’ll never lie to you. The following is an attempt to answer Family Medical Care Plan questions that came up on social media. It’s not “spin”, but my best attempt to offer good information.

Some of the social media comments had phrases like “my bank hours”, “where does the money go after bank hours are maxed out”, and “heard the difference between what my benefits cost vs. the higher H & W benefit I receive from working Book II goes to a 175 slush fund”. 

When it comes to Funds, Pensions, and Group Benefits, IBEW members hopefully come to understand that there is strength in the participation. The purchasing power of IBEW members and the function of the Family Medical Care Plan is not based on the individual, but actually represents the truest sense of ECONOMIC BROTHERHOOD that exist within our Union.

Think of it this way: Brothers Henry Miller, Danny Painter, and Lonnie Stephenson are on their tools and receive union-negotiated benefits. These negotiated benefits pay health insurance premiums regardless if they never go to the doctor, occasionally go for routine check-ups, require minor surgery, or suffer terminal illness where hundreds of thousands of dollars are charged to get them well. We buy consistent coverage, at a negotiated cost, despite varying levels of need/use. That’s reliability.  To go even further, the healthy Brothers Miller, Painter, and Stephenson contribute to a Fund that helps keep the sickest of the participating IBEW members well, covered, and sometimes alive. Availability to bank hours, premium costs, and coverage remain constant, despite varying health conditions, because it functions as our Fund, rather than “my” bucket.  

IBEW Local Union 175 receives no money, nor is it a “pass-through” for benefit money paid by contracting employers. There is no Local Union slush fund, no account that benefit money goes into, and the General Fund does not co-mingle with FMCP, SERF, or NEBF accounts.

Hope this helps. If not, you can always call my cell when you have questions.

Two: On December 16th, the Canadian owned Resolute Forest Products announced the idling of Pulp & Paper operations at the Calhoun, TN mill. The Mill formerly known as Bowater has, for decades, been a place where generations have earned a union wage. With that announcement, the United Steel Workers Local 790 and 899 and IBEW Local Union 175 requested to bargain the deision and effects of idling the Calhoun operation. We were effective in negotiating enhanced severance and seniority protections. For months though, our concerns focused on the future of the Mill.

The following public notification might indicated that new ownership will bring production back. This is a developing situation, especially with contract negotiations set to begin in early 2023.

Thank you for the work you do.

Caleb Long
Dispatcher/Assistant Business Manager – IBEW Local Union 175, AFL-CIO

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