Wayne Greer had a knack for spotting leaders.
The former IBEW 1245 Business Rep, who passed away on June 11, understood the importance of recruiting talented stewards to carry out the work of the union in the workplace. Seven of the stewards he recruited went on to become part of the union staff: Business Reps Kit Stice, Arlene Edwards, Sam Glero, Bryan Carroll, Lou Mennel, retired Business Rep Darryl Norris, and retired Assistant Business Manager Art Murray.
A business rep can only do so much, the day being limited to 24 hours. But a business rep with a full stable of effective stewards multiplies the union’s impact in the workplace. Upon Greer’s retirement in 2003, fellow Business Rep Frank Saxsenmeier noted that Greer “is such an organizer that he can take a group of shop stewards and organize them in such a way that he can get them doing everything.”
“IBEW 1245 really benefited from Wayne’s gift for recognizing talent,” said Business Manager Tom Dalzell. “Wayne’s pool of shop stewards was a veritable farm club for the union to go to when it came time to hire union business representatives. For the union, that was a gift that kept on giving.”
During his 23 years on the union staff, Greer represented PG&E employees first in the San Jose Division, then the East Bay Mission District, and finally in Sacramento. In 1999 he took on his final union assignment, representing IBEW 1245 members at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
In the Family
Unionism ran in Greer’s family. His father Clyde took young Wayne to his first union meeting at the tender age of four–a Teamsters meeting no less, Greer recalled in a 2003 interview.
“The cigar smoke was so thick you could cut it with a knife. A lot of ideas passed back and forth, especially at contract time,” Greer said.
His mother was a union activist with the retail clerks’ union at Montgomery Ward in Oakland.
After a stint in the US Army, young Greer found his way to PG&E in 1966, and by 1967 he had found a place in the Gas Service Department.
As a new member, Greer wasn’t shy about checking up on his union. In 1969 he went to all four unit meetings in his area. He said he did it because he “wanted to know if the union was telling the same story at all the meetings.”
His Business Rep, Jack McNally, soon recruited Greer as a shop steward.
Gas Servicemen had plenty of safety concerns in those days, a lot of them involving potentially hazardous duties, like going into vacant buildings, collecting cash, and performing non-pay turnoffs. Greer personally had his share of hazardous experiences.
He once fell into an elevator shaft while removing a meter on Telegraph Ave. in Oakland. He remained there for four hours, until the police noticed his unattended PG&E truck double-parked outside the building and notified his supervisor. On another occasion he was locked up in a cage in a dog kennel by someone robbing the place.
Once when Greer was performing a turn-on after dark, the window came up and Greer came face to face with a customer pointing a gun right at his head.
“I’m turning it on,” Greer quickly explained.
“You’re turning it off,” the man replied, still pointing the gun.
“No,” Greer insisted, “I’m the turn-on man.” The turn-on man made a safe get-away.
Today IBEW 1245 actively recruits members into leadership positions with its organizing stewards program. A central element of the program is to bring in union and political activists to share their experience and knowledge with young activists.
But Wayne Greer did it first. He had once walked a picket line with United Farm Workers legend Cesar Chavez and decided to renew the relationship.
“I called Cesar and asked him if he’d be available to come to my shop steward conference,” Greer recalled in 2003. “He said he’d do it for free if I’d pick him up at the airport.”
It bothered Greer that some members assumed that good wages and working conditions were a part of the natural order of things.
“You have to inform them,” he once said, “that these are things that were fought for through collective bargaining, everything from wages to working conditions. The Serviceman who comes in now thinks his wages and benefits are the way it’s always been, but it hasn’t always been that way.”
IBEW 1245 mourns the passing of our brother and colleague, Wayne Greer. Plans for services have not yet been announced.