You can tell when people are proud of their work. At the City of Lompoc, you can see it in their faces, hear it in their voices.
“It’s commitment to our community. We live here, so we want our community to work as well as possible,” says Jaime Tinoco, a Lineman for the city.
This isn’t some theoretical proposition. The employees represented by IBEW 1245 are responsible for electric service, line clearance tree trimming, water, waste water, gardening, police and fire service, sanitation, landfill, building maintenance, fleet maintenance, airport maintenance—just about everything it takes to make the city run.
At the water treatment plant you’ll find Lead Operators Robert O’Brien and Joe Torres filling tanks, washing filters, or checking the quality of the water from each of the city’s 10 water wells. “We’re on our toes for the whole eight-hour shift,” says Torres.
In the repair shop you’ll find Radio Repairman Mike Keasler equipping a new police car. In case you think this cop car rolled off the assembly line ready to go, it didn’t. It’s not going to be catching any criminals until Keasler hooks up the lights, siren and spotlights, mounts the radio in the back of the vehicle and runs specialty wiring that gives control of everything to the cops sitting up in front. Keasler may use new components, or may salvage and refurbish parts from old vehicles, sometimes getting deep into sheet metal work to fabricate the needed assemblies.
“You don’t just take it out of the box and bolt it into place,’” he points out.
Hop in that car and cruise around town (please don’t use the siren), and you’ll find Lompoc employees literally holding the place together.
Heavy Equipment Mechanic Pat Whitham is rewiring a wench for a trailer. Fellow mechanic Seth Cannaday is troubleshooting a tree trimming truck that came in with its “check engine” light flashing. Building Maintenance Worker Angelito Tabin does everything from plumbing, carpentry to HVAC, but at the moment he’s changing an outdoor light bulb that burned out.
Over at the Wastewater plant you’ll find Operator Brian Stevens checking the DO probes. You have to keep the dissolved oxygen within a specific narrow range, he says, in order for the “right range” of bugs to survive and break down, well, you know what they break down.
Drop by city hall and you’ll find billing and accounting clerks keeping track of the flow of money that is the lifeblood of the City.
At a large local church you’ll find an electric crew “ringing out” some secondary cable installed by a contractor to increase power for a local church. Down the road at the land fill you’ll find Lompoc residents dropping off stuff they don’t want to deal with anymore—and they don’t have to because City employees are there to take care of it for them.
Lompoc employees want what every employee wants—decent pay and working conditions, and a chance to have a say in the workplace. They voted for IBEW representation in 2013, ratified a one-year agreement which is about to term out, and are in the process of bargaining a new one. Union Steward William Kalin, a member of the bargaining committee, is one of the people who will have to balance the interests of the City’s many different work groups.
“You’re never going to get everybody everything,” Kalin says, but “if you can help the greater number of people that’s what you want to do.”
Kalin says IBEW 1245 has brought Lompoc employees something that was lacking when a different union represented them some years back: “A stronger voice, more transparency, more working together with the union.” With every little step in negotiations, he says, “we’re getting closer to where we want to be.”
Another negotiating committee member is Theresa Ann Ramos Hernandez, a purchasing assistant you’ll find working over at the warehouse. On the way there, you might pass under Lineman Tony Vickery, up in a bucket replacing a 150 HPS (high pressure sodium) light with a new 73 watt LED. Over the past six months, Vickery notes with pride, city crews have converted all 2200 street lights.
But anyone can see that the work of a city is never done, and Lompoc is fortunate to have City workers who serve their community with pride, and let that pride show through in everything they do.