The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #440 held a 75th anniversary gala in Riverside, California, to celebrate its successes and steady growth in spite of various economic challenges through the course of its history. The event brought together hundreds of members including leadership past and present to reflect on its accomplishments while looking ahead to the future.”
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The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Chapter #440 celebrated its 75th anniversary at a gala held recently at the Riverside Convention Center. The event honored members past and present credited with helping the union persevere during difficult times and eventually thrive to grow into the organization it is today. Hundreds of members including current and former leaders attended the festivities to reflect on the chapter’s accomplishments and look ahead to the future.
Among those on hand, Local 440 Business Manager Bob Frost, said in a video interview for Energy Independence Magazine that much of the chapter’s growth has come in the last 25 years. “Just recently in the last ten years, we’ve gone through the Great Recession. We had a lot of members who were down on their luck, a lot of members out of work. But since then, through our negotiations and partnering with our community we’ve been able to bring jobs back to our community and bring back their livelihoods.” Frost continued, “Back in 1989 when we had our 50th anniversary, we had about 300 members. Today we’re close to 950 members.”
Dallas Steere, who presided over Local 440 in the late 80s and early 90s said he is proud of the role the union plays in Riverside County. “In this high-tech community we live in now, IBEW has been right in step with that, so for us older members, we are very impressed. We grew a lot as a local. It’s been a good life, a wonderful life for me.”
In addition to Steere, all those interviewed at the event agreed that being a member of the local had afforded them and their families a comfortable and secure life that began with their earliest positions as union employees. Rick Purper, head of training for the IBEW / NECA (National Electrical Contractors Association) Electrical Apprenticeship Program said he decided to join IBEW after talking with electrical workers on a job he was at while working with the railroad. “It seemed like a great fit, the camaraderie, the brotherhood, the training they had, the lifestyle they led. All of it together was very attractive to me.” Purper went on to say that after training as an apprentice, he was able to complete his education at Cal State San Bernardino without the need for student loans, after which he accepted his current position to lead the training program.
John O’Rourke, International Vice President of IBEW 9th district, said that the union’s efforts help raise the standards for all members of the electrical trade, whether they are union members or not. “It’s a very important role. We’re the last man standing. Our job is to lift the standards for all electrical workers, represented and unrepresented, so when we have gains at the bargaining table for our members, all others outside of our realm, their standard of living comes up.” O’Rourke went on to explain how Local 440 has risen above the challenges of the recession to create new opportunities for its members. “Training is key to our success and future success and being able to adjust to market conditions. This local has been through some challenging times. Recently in the commercial solar arena, they are getting involved in huge solar installations. It’s cutting edge. It’s innovative. We’re doing the work, and this local union is at the forefront of that work process. I wish them all the best in the next 75 years.”