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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