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IBEW Local 1245 member Steve Marcotte was awarded the “Editor’s Choice Award” for his submission to the IBEW’s annual photo contest. The image, taken at the Sacramento Veterans Day Parade, depicts Local 1245 members and veterans Pam Pendleton and Walter Carmier, as they share a smile along the parade route.
“Local 1245 showed up to parades all over our jurisdiction to support the members who did serve and make sure veterans know the IBEW is a path for veterans to a middle class life,” Marcotte said.
Marcotte’s award-winning photo is below. To see the other winning photos, click here.
by Eileen Purcell, IBEW 1245 Staff Organizer
Photos by John Storey
About 18 months ago, Vicki Bunag, a member of the IBEW 1245 Veterans Group and Senior Customer Service Representative at PG&E’s Fresno Call Center, came up with the idea to expand the company’s “Power Pathways” training program for vets to include clerical lines of progression. When she had the chance to chat with PG&E CEO Tony Earley — a veteran himself – at a Veterans Group meeting at the Union Hall in Vacaville, she took the opportunity to mention it to him.
Now, Bunag’s idea is becoming reality, as eighteen male and female veterans have been selected to participate in the first ever “Power Pathways” Customer Service Representative (CSR) training class at PG&E. On Sept. 30, leaders from Local 1245 and Veterans Group members met with the inaugural Power Pathways CSR class in Fresno as they prepared to embark on their seven-week training.
IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell welcomed the class and said, “This is the start of your career. Call Centers are the gateway into PG&E. After you get settled, you’ll find lots of opportunities at work and lots of opportunities to get involved in your union.”
IBEW 1245 Senior Assistant Business Manager Bob Dean – a veteran of the US Navy – encouraged trainees to focus on learning the job, and invited them to use the 1245 Veterans Group website (www.IBEW1245VETS.com) and the Local 1245 website (www.IBEW1245.com) as valuable resources. IBEW 1245 Senior Assistant Manager Jenny Marston introduced the class to the clerical contract.
“Coming from a military background makes us uniquely qualified. We are punctual, responsible, and superb in crisis,” Bunag told the group. “This is a great job. Come to work regularly, and you’ll thrive here.”
“This is a great place to work, and one of the few places you are paid to be nice,” added Joe Sanchez, a founding member of the IBEW 1245 Veterans Group and Customer Service Rep at PG&E’s Fresno Call Center. “These are highly sought-after jobs. On a regular day, 1,800 applicants will compete for one of the seats at this table where you eighteen find yourselves!”
The veterans in the training program – whose military experience ranged from 4 to 22 years of service — were excited and thrilled to meet the union leaders and the veterans who advocated for the program.
“It was a great day,” said Dalzell. “Seeing the pride and sense of accomplishment on the faces of veterans who have served their country and made the transition into civilian life … it’s a reminder of what we can accomplish when we come together as a union.”
Support at the local level
Dalzell founded the IBEW 1245 Veterans Group two years ago in an effort to create a vehicle for members to build support for fellow veterans at the local level. The group quickly defined their top priorities:
The members of the Veterans Group published their personal contact information on flyers and created unique content that now lives on the IBEW 1245 Vets website. The website contains many elements that have become valuable reference points for veterans, including the Local 1245 veterans’ personal stories, as well as the list of union employers and phone numbers of HR staff dedicated to supporting veterans.
Veterans’ Group members have partnered with local veterans’ organizations, raised funds to support vets, built monuments, and shared their stories of transitioning to civilian life. They have accompanied vets as they go through job application processes. They have organized IBEW 1245 contingents in Veterans’ Parades in the city of Shasta Lake, Fresno, and Sacramento. Over the summer, Vets Group members Jaime Tinoco and John Grandmain mobilized vets to raise money for a co-worker at the City of Lompoc who donated his kidney to his son. This fall, Eureka-based member Erick Varela spearheaded a “Boots for Vets” drive in support of the annual “Stand Down” gathering at the Eureka Fair Grounds which supports vets.
Jobs remain the top priority of most vets. Vallejo-based member Pam Pendleton has been providing hands-on job training for a couple of veterans applying for work at PG&E, while Redding-based member Mike Grandmain is working with Veteran Resource Centers of America in Redding to reach out to homeless veterans. In April, Dalzell met with Vice President Joe Biden to lobby for more resources for support services and job training for veterans.
But the Power Pathways breakthrough is the biggest accomplishment to date – institutionalizing a way to recruit and train veterans and place them into hard-sought, middle-class union jobs.
By Rebecca Band
Ask just about any parent and they’ll tell you: “I’d give up just about anything if it meant keeping my kid healthy.” But few parents will ever experience the kind of sacrifice that IBEW 1245 member Patrick Whitham has made to save his son.
Ten years ago, Whitham and his wife discovered that their son Jake – who was just two years old at the time – suffered from a rare condition that was causing major damage to his kidneys. For the past decade, young Jake has been undergoing medication-based treatments to prevent full-on renal failure. Whitham knew that it was only a matter of time before Jake would need a kidney transplant.
That time finally came in early 2015. The doctors found that Jake, now 12 years old, had critically high levels of creatinine in his blood and would need to either go on dialysis or get a new kidney. Whitham didn’t think twice. He immediately began preparing to donate his own kidney to his son.
The process was intense and took many months. “I had to ready myself, spiritually, physically and financially,” Whitham said. “I began running so I would be in good enough shape to be a donor. I underwent a lot of tests… And I did extensive research to make sure I had all my ducks in a row.”
During his research, Whitham discovered a California state law, SB 1304, also known as the Organ & Bone Marrow Donation Leave Law. The statute provides certain rights to individuals who donate organs or bone marrow, including a paid leave of absence from work.
Whitham, who works as a Heavy Equipment Mechanic for the City of Lompoc, approached his HR department to request a leave of absence under SB 1304, but he was denied. He continued to pursue it for weeks, to no avail. Eventually, he went to his union shop steward (and IBEW 1245 Veterans Committee member) Jaime Tinoco, and told him what was going on.
“When I first talked to Jaime about it, it was just because I wanted to keep him and the union in the loop. I didn’t expect anything to come from it,” Whitham said. “But Jaime really took the ball and ran with it. He took it to heart. He went to bat for me, and I really appreciate that.”
As a father himself, Tinoco felt compelled to do everything he could to help his union brother out.
“This organ donation really hit me real hard emotionally,” said Tinoco, “because it shows the true definition of a father.”
It was Tinoco who discovered that the organ donation leave law does not apply to City employees, which was why Whitham’s leave request was turned down. So he reached out to IBEW 1245 Assistant Business Manager Ray Thomas to see if there was anything the union could do.
Thomas was also touched by Whitham’s story and went out of his way to get the leave request approved.
“I directly contacted City of Lompoc Human Resources Director Gabe Garcia,” Thomas said. “Mr. Garcia immediately empathized with Patrick and Jacob’s situation, and proceeded to champion the effort to allow for paid and excused time off provisions for Patrick while he donated a kidney to his son.”
Tinoco also contacted the Mayor and made an appointment with City Administrator Patrick Wiemiller in order to lobby for the paid leave. On June 19, just days before Whitham was scheduled to have the surgery, Tinoco and fellow IBEW 1245 Veterans Committee member John Daniel met with Wiemiller, who agreed to make an exception and approved Whitham’s leave of absence.
On June 23, Whitham and his son took the four-hour trip to UCLA Children’s Clinic and underwent the extensive and highly invasive procedure. The transplant was a success, and father and son are both recovering well.
“[Before the surgery] I had mixed feelings; there was apprehension, but I was also looking forward to getting through it,” Whitham said in an interview two weeks following the transplant. “There’s such a sense of relief to have this behind me. We’re both still in pain, but we’re so happy.”
Young Jake’s recovery is ongoing. Whitham’s wife has to take their son up to UCLA Medical Center twice a week, every week, for the next few months for follow-up appointments with the doctors. Even though Whitham had been saving up for this and his paid leave request was approved, the medical bills, travel to LA and other expenses associated with the transplant still hit the family pretty hard.
Tinoco recognized that the Whithams could use some financial support, so again he took action.
“We requested to do a City-wide BBQ fundraiser for Patrick and his family. The City Administrator strongly supported our request,” Tinoco said. “Even the Police Chief got involved in the fundraiser effort.”
The Local 1245 leadership pitched in as well. When the Lompoc unit informally requested a $500 donation from IBEW 1245 to purchase meat for the BBQ, the Local 1245 Executive Board members reached into their pockets and generously donated their own money to purchase the meat for this event, instead of requesting a formal unit motion for a Community Fund contribution (which would be the standard procedure for this type of donation).
The BBQ took place on July 16, and about 250 friends, co-workers and supporters came out. The event ended up raising $3,147 for Whitham’s family.
“The support we’ve gotten — not only from friends and neighbors, but all the union members and people from the City — it’s almost overwhelming,” said Whitham. “I was planning to do this on my own, kind of under the radar. But the fact the people want to help is really appreciated.”
“The Jacob Whitham Act”
Whitham’s ordeal has prompted the City to change their Personnel Procedure Manual in order to incorporate the Organ & Bone Marrow Donation Leave into its policy, in the event any other City employees ever have to donate an organ in the future. The members of the Lompoc unit lobbied in support of the resolution, which was unanimously approved by the City Council by a vote of 5-0 on July 7th.
“[HR Director] Gabe Garcia went all out for Patrick and the subsequent city-wide resolution,” Assistant Business Manager Ray Thomas noted, “so I was not surprised at all when Gabe told me that, to him, this organ donation resolution at the City will always be known as the ‘Jacob Whitham Act.’”
Whitham hopes his ordeal and the new changes to the City’s policy will raise awareness and embolden other Lompoc employees to become organ and tissue donors.
“This is something we should all be proud of. The city did the right thing for its employees and it’s a win-win for both [the City and its workers],” said Whitham. “If this sways someone else to save another person’s life or give them a better life, then it’s a good thing.”
By Eileen Purcell, IBEW 1245 Organizer
Redding retiree Mike Grandmain, a long term member of IBEW 1245, continues to be the leading standard bearer of IBEW 1245 Veteran’s Group in Redding, Ca.
The Veterans’ Group launched in late 2013 and is a member-driven initiative. Committee members from Lompoc and Fresno to Sacramento, Redding, Eureka and Reno have sponsored local activities that honor veterans’ service and support local programs that help vets transitioning from military to civilian life. The Union has also been working closely with corporate leaders to raise awareness about the need for quality job training programs for veterans.
In mid April, IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell and PG&E Tony Earley met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to promote the Power Pathways job training program sponsored by PG&E, SMUD and other business leaders.
Grandmain, who served in the US Navy for five years (1975-1980) as a HT2-E5 Firefighting/damage control/ship maintenance in San Diego/Long Beach, worked at the Bella Vista Water District for twenty three years before retiring. Moved by the desire to help others, he volunteered to build support for veterans in Redding by participating in the IBEW 1245 Veteran’s Group.
In Redding, Grandmain and fellow retiree, Phil Alleman, have worked with their 1245 Redding Unit to raise funds for local vets organizations. In addition to passing a motion to secure funds through the 1245 Community fund, they passed the hat, doubling the donation in 2014. They also organized a pancake breakfast/clay shoot, participated in panel discussions on Veterans and spearheaded the first IBEW 1245 contingent in Redding’s annual Veteran’s parade last November.
This year, Grandmain urged his IBEW 1245 Unit to adopt a motion to request $500 from IBEW 1245’s Community Fund to support the Redding Veterans Resource Group (VRC) for the second year in a row. Brad Long, the VRC’s site director,thanked IBEW 1245 for our monetary support. “Without the gracious support of organizations like the IBEW many veterans in our area would continue to struggle with maintaining adequate housing.”
Grandmain continues to volunteer weekly at the VRC and other local veterans’ organizations. Just recently, he helped two returning vets navigate their job search, steering them to the IBEW 1245 vets web site and coaching them as they figure out where to throw their hat in the ring. “If there’s one lesson I can share with other vets who are just returning to civilian life, it’s to hang on to the discipline you learned in military. Be on time, and show up ready to work. And don’t be afraid to assert yourself – and ask for help — when needed,” Grandmain said.
Oakland – Vice President Joe Biden joined IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell, PG&E CEO Tony Earley, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and 15 students in PG&E’s job training program, PowerPathway, on April 10 to highlight the importance of training and hiring America’s veterans. The event, held at the Oakport Service Center in Oakland, included a roundtable where Biden spoke with the 15 students, who between them represented all five branches of service.
“Vice President Biden did a great job underlining the value in hiring America’s vets,” said IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell. “We’ve been working on these issues for years, and it’s great to see the Administration acknowledging how important it is to provide education and workplace training for our returning heroes. Vice President Biden has long been a champion of both the labor movement and our nation’s veterans, and I think he appreciated seeing the work we’re doing to bring those two groups together.”
IBEW 1245’s Vets program, which connects 1245 veterans with those who are returning home and looking for work, aims to “to be a band of Union brothers and sisters – veterans who support each other and vets outside IBEW.” You can learn more about their work here.
Veterans Day isn’t supposed to be a somber occasion; it’s a celebration honoring the brave service men and women who risk it all to defend our freedom and keep us safe. This year, the IBEW 1245 Veterans Committee participated in Veterans Day parades in Sacramento, Fresno and Redding to reinforce our union’s commitment to current and former military personnel and honor all who have served our nation.
In Sacramento, more than 30 IBEW 1245 veterans, members, family and friends joined the marching contingent at the city’s 4th annual Veterans Day Parade. The marchers held an IBEW 1245 Veterans Committee banner and donned matching tee shirts, and were accompanied by an IBEW 1245-themed pickup truck, decorated with flags, banners and signs. Veterans Committee members Walter Carmier and Pamela Pendleton organized and led the contingent, while IBEW organizers Jammi Juarez and Jennifer Gray drove along in the truck.
“Right before march time we lost the sun; the morning chill was back,” said Carmier, a US Army Vet and 1245 member who works at Frontier Communications. “But when we marched onto the Sacramento Capitol Mall, we were honored by hundreds of Sacramentans standing and cheering, and fellow veterans saluting… we were all warmed and honored [to be a part of it].”
At the Fresno Veterans Day Parade, approximately 35 people joined the Local 1245 contingent, including veterans, members and their families. The Fresno event is widely known to be the biggest Veterans Day Parade on the West Coast, and the IBEW 1245 marchers noticed many friends and co-workers in the crowd that lined every inch of the mile-long parade route. IBEW 1245 Veterans Committee members Joe Sanchez and Vicki Bunag worked to coordinate the contingent, and Sanchez was pleased to have the opportunity to have his daughter marching by his side during the parade.
“Honoring our veterans and supporting our Union is going to be a lasting memory for my daughter because of this parade,” said Sanchez, a Marine Corps veteran and Local 1245 Shop Steward from PG&E. “I believe that we will have a stronger presence in next year’s parade, along with a float to ride along in. It’s going to all come down to planning. As this was my first time ever planning an event like this, I now understand all that is needed to have a successful event.”
In the Redding area, the IBEW Veterans group did in fact enter a float in the Shasta Lake Veterans Parade, which they decorated with two dozen American flags, patriotic streamers and two IBEW Local 1245 Veterans Committee banners. IBEW 1245 member Dave Vandermeer drove a City of Shasta Lake line truck behind the float with a banner that read “Supported by IBEW Local 1245” while Assistant Business Manager Ray Thomas navigated the parade route in the IBEW 1245 van. IBEW Veterans Committee members Phil Alleman and Mike Grandmain coordinated the Shasta Lake contingent, which included Local 1245 members as well as several honored guests from the Redding Veteran’s Resource Center.
“It was a proud day for all of the float riders because none of them had ever been on a float in a Veteran’s Parade before, and were thankful to be honored by IBEW Local 1245 for their military service,” according to Alleman, a Local 1245 retiree and Army Veteran who served in Vietnam. “To all our fellow Veterans, thank you for service and sacrifices to make this country a Land of the Free Because of the Brave. We salute you.”