Whenever other IBEW locals are under attack, Local 1245 never hesitates to dispatch our own activists to assist our brothers and sisters in their fight. Now, as Local 1245 members in Nevada are facing a massive attack of their own, IBEW locals from all around the country, including many locals that we’ve supported in the past, are flocking to our jurisdiction to return the favor.
Over the past week, IBEW members from Locals 47, 57, 77, 109, 124, 125, 465, 499, 659 and 1547 joined with members and leaders from Local 1245 and Las Vegas-based Local 396 to get the word out about Nevada’s Question 3, a deceptive and dangerous energy deregulation measure that could lead to widespread job loss, increased energy costs, unreliable power, rolling blackouts and consumer fraud.
With just a few weeks remaining before Election Day, the heat is on to make sure Nevada voters truly understand what’s at stake with this risky and costly measure. So Locals 1245 and 396 partnered with NV Energy to host a canvassing blitz in the Las Vegas area, with the intention of reaching as many voters as possible and encouraging them to vote No on Question 3.
Before they hit the streets on Oct 17, the IBEW members, many of whom traveled hundreds of miles from their home local to participate, came together to hear from some inspiring speakers, including notable labor leaders, utility execs and elected officials.
“Looking out over this group … what a dream come true. I think that this is truly unprecedented solidarity among the different IBEW locals, as well as remarkable labor-management cooperation, the likes of which are rarely seen in the United States.” Dalzell told the group as he kicked off the day. “You can’t put a price tag on what we have in this room. Your honesty, and your truth, and your enthusiasm, and your passion, and your devotion and commitment … that’s what will win it.”
“You’re out there doing the hard work that needs to be done… We couldn’t do it without all of your help,” echoed IBEW International President Stephenson. “And I want to acknowledge, of course, Tom Dalzell. He’s pretty reserved and he doesn’t take much credit, but I can tell you he’s been a big catalyst that has really brought us together. He spearheaded a coalition of all the IBEW local unions that have members working at Berkshire Hathaway properties. And we have seen our relationship build and grow at each one of those properties across the country.”
Dalzell’s leadership, coupled with the forward-thinking perspective of NV Energy CEO Paul Caudill, has brought about a new era of collaboration between IBEW and NV Energy after many years of contention and strife.
“We knew that we couldn’t position this company, and frankly, the state of Nevada, to be able to take on the changes in the market without the IBEW,” Caudill told the IBEW activists and supporters. “But this [campaign] is not about NV Energy. It’s about the people in the state of Nevada that will be impacted by this. And, frankly, it’s about people who can’t afford to pay more for their electricity as they go forward … So, it’s a good one to fight. We’re not backing down from anybody, and I just can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you guys are doing, and the relationship that we’ve got with Tom, and Jesse, and Lonnie.”
AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, who comes out of IBEW 125 in Portland, put the No on 3 campaign in the context of other notable labor victories we’re seen this year, including the teachers’ strike in West Virginia, and the defeat of right-to-work in Missouri.
“Some of you were out there working to defeat Prop A in Missouri. And that’s a lesson, that when we come together, no one can stop us,” Shuler said. “This is the moment that we are in … and No on 3 here in Nevada is going be the next victory, the next milestone for working people in this country.”
“Make no mistake, this isn’t just about some mundane energy regulatory matter,” added Nevada Assemblymember Brooks, a No on 3 stalwart who formerly worked as a journeyman wireman out of IBEW 357. “This is an attack on workers, it’s an attack on regulations that govern the way that we make our energy, and how we deliver it to all the citizens in Nevada.”
Open to Listening
After the rousing speeches concluded, the IBEW members quickly went right back to work, knocking on thousands of doors to talk with voters about Question 3 and what deregulation would mean for everyday Nevadans.
For IBEW Local 47 Staff Organizer Erin Koh, the issue of deregulation hits close to home. As a former SoCal Edison employee who was working for the utility in the wake of California’s own deregulation debacle, Koh was able to incorporate her own first-hand experience into her conversations with voters.
“It was actually easy for me to explain exactly how bad [Question 3] would be for Nevada,” she said, noting that she had a front-row seat to the harm that a similar type of deregulatory maneuver brought to California. “It was really good, people were definitely open to listening to us and understanding that deregulation is not something that Nevada needs.”
As a seasoned campaigner, Koh found door-to-door canvassing in Vegas to be highly effective. Even in neighborhoods where the majority of people weren’t home when she came knocking, she was still able to speak with many voters virtually face-to-face, thanks to the prevalence of new video-surveillance doorbells that allow residents to see and communicate with people on their doorstep remotely through a mobile app.
While some of the IBEW canvassers, like Koh, brought a wealth of campaign experience, many of them came to Vegas without having ever participated in a get-out-the-vote effort before. Matt McEntire, who hails from IBEW 659 in Medford, OR, works as a lineman for Pacific Power, another Berkshire Hathaway-owned utility. He doesn’t have any experience working in politics, but he saw a call for volunteers in his local union bulletin, and without knowing anything at all about Question 3, he signed up — and soon found himself going door-to-door in Vegas.
“It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but I’m getting used to it,” he said, noting that he received excellent mentorship from some of the more experienced organizers from other IBEW locals. “A lot of the younger people here are pretty receptive once you make contact and tell them what it’s all about … when you start talking dollars, they start paying attention.”
Both Koh and McEntire spent a little over a week canvassing in Nevada, and found the experience challenging but rewarding, as did their colleagues. Many of the other IBEW local volunteers expressed appreciation for Local 1245’s powerhouse team of organizing stewards, who help to coordinate, organize and assist the other teams.
“We now have 32 IBEW members who are out here with us knocking on doors. We are helping to get everyone trained and briefed, and then we’re passing out turf [precinct walking lists]. Once everyone is out, we are grabbing some turf for ourselves and heading out right behind everyone!” Organizing Steward Brittney Santana reported. “We approached a group of neighbors who were just talking about Question 3 when we walked up, and they were happy to see us out talking to them and their neighbors for a No vote!”
There’s no question that the No on 3 campaign has been highly effective, particularly in regards to connecting one-on-one with voters. Polls are showing that far more voters oppose the measure than support it now, despite the fact that the measure passed by a 2-to-1 margin when it first came up in 2016. This is due in large part to the time and effort that IBEW members have committed to this campaign, and that commitment will continue right up until the polls close on Election Day to ensure that we defeat this risky and costly measure.
–Rebecca Band, IBEW 1245 Communications Director
Photos by John Storey