Do electric linemen deserve a day of recognition? We believe they do.
Linework is a challenging and often dangerous craft, performed in every conceivable terrain and climate. In the early days, one out of two linemen died on the job–mostly from falls and electric shocks. Henry Miller organized the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in 1891 because he realized that linemen needed to take control of this work to make it safer and to make it pay better. Utilities and contractors may own the company, but the work itself is owned by the linemen and the union they created: the IBEW.
Since 2012 there have been efforts to honor linemen with a “national day.” An association with strong ties to management at non-union utilities in the south has been promoting April 18 as “National Journeyman Linemen Day.” In response, the IBEW teamed up in 2014 with the Edison Electric Institute to celebrate March 31 as National Lineman Appreciation Day. Congressional resolutions have been introduced in support of both dates.
If there is to be a national day honoring linemen, IBEW Local 1245 believes that union linemen should “own” this date, just as union linemen have “owned” the work since the days of Henry Miller. Rather than picking some arbitrary date, we believe the appropriate day to honor linemen is the date in 1896 that Henry Miller himself made the ultimate sacrifice. Miller was working in Washington DC late at night when he was electrocuted and fell. That day was July 10.
In March, the IBEW 1245 Executive Board designated July 10 as the date that IBEW 1245 officially recognizes as Lineman Day. With support from IBEW 1245 and IBEW 47 in southern California, Rep. Linda Sanchez recently introduced HR 516 in the US Congress to recognize July 10 as National Journeyman Lineman Day.
Anniversaries are important because they are rooted in who we are, the sacrifices we’ve made, and the things we’ve accomplished. We celebrate our national forefathers on July 4 because that’s the day the U.S. Declaration of Independence was signed. We celebrate our veterans on November 11 because that’s the day World War One came to an end. We should celebrate National Lineman’s Day on July 10 because it’s a day that actually means something to linemen. And always should.