Around the Capitol, it’s common knowledge that IBEW Local 1245 is a powerful and influential voice for working families in California. Our members and leaders know how to exercise that power to push critical pieces of legislation into law – as evidenced by the passage of the high-profile wildfire bill known as SB 901 in 2018, and a follow-up bill, AB 1054, in 2019.
During the final weeks of the 2019 legislative session, members and leaders from IBEW locals across California — including 27 members and retirees from Local 1245 — joined together at the Capitol to talk with legislators face-to-face about a number of key IBEW-backed bills and what they would mean for workers and the utility industry at large.
Local 1245’s top priority, SB 247 (Dodd), would accomplish two very critical things relating to wildfire mitigation by utilities and worker safety. If passed and signed into law, the three Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) would no longer have the ability to self-certify their vegetation management and line clearance work — instead, Cal-FIRE would perform the post-work inspections of all line clearance work performed by tree clearance contractors. This would hold the utilities to a higher degree of accountability, and would ensure that contractors meet the requirements of the Public Resources Code in regard to utility line clearance. Secondly, the bill requires the utilities to invest more in training and wages to the IBEW crews that perform this work. Specifically, SB 247 requires utilities to establish a training program and certification program for this workforce – which has an unacceptably high injury and fatality rate — and ensure that they are paid the prevailing wage scale for this work.
Thanks to the effort that the IBEW activists put in to explain the bill and its importance to lawmakers, SB 247 passed the Assembly and Senate during the final week of the legislative session without any opposition, 77-0 in the Assembly and 40-0 in the Senate. In fact, in ten different votes before various committees and the full Assembly and Senate, there was only one NO vote recorded (six legislators did not cast votes). That is a strong statement of success. The bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.
During their visits to lawmakers, the IBEW teams made to sure to thank the legislators who voted in favor of AB 1054, and took some time to discuss the importance of new law’s critical worker protections, enshrined via a CPUC statutory review process that Local 1245 advocated for. Since the signing of AB 1054 over the summer, a small but vocal group of legislators have sought to remove that review process, so the IBEW members made sure to underscore its value and potential impacts of not having CPUC review. They urged legislators to protect workers and ratepayers and oppose any efforts to repeal these critical protections.
The member-lobbyists also advocated for several other bills of high importance to both 1245 and our sister locals, including
- SB 524 (Stern), which would ensure a skilled and trained union workforce to improve the quality, safety and longevity on CPUC-authorized energy efficiency projects. This bill passed the appropriations committee, but did not make it to a floor vote before the end of this legislative session.
- AB 1249 (Maienschein), which would cut out the middle man and allow Taft-Hartley Trust Funds to contract directly with health care providers rather than contracting with Health Plans, cutting costs by an average of 15%. This bill was passed by the Senate and Assembly and now awaits the Governor’s signature.
- AB 560 (Santiago), which would prohibit the use of utility ratepayer funds to finance union-busting campaigns, consultants and law firms. This bill passed in the Senate and Assembly and awaits the Governor’s signature.
- The issue of C-46 vs C-10 contractors installing energy storage systems, as C-46 solar contractors have been putting the public at great risk by illegally installing battery energy storage systems. There was no new legislation associated with this issue, but legislators were asked to express their support for a petition to clarify existing law that allows only a licensed C-10 contractor utilizing licensed electricians to install energy storage systems.
“I have been to the Capitol before, but I was able to see it in a different light this time,” said Local 1245 Organizing Steward Cynthia Lopez. “Going into each assemblymember’s office was very humbling yet so honorable. Being able to sit with them and discuss very important topics really showed me how IBEW is valued. I am so proud to be a part of a union that is engaging and active with current events that can determine the lives and livelihoods of their members for the better.”
“This was my first time attending Lobby Day and I thought it went great!” reported Organizing Steward Brittney Santana. “It was awesome that the assemblymembers had appointment times with us and were ready to sit down and hear what we were asking for. We were able to talk to every member that was on our schedule.”
“IBEW 1245 is starting to harvest the fruits of an experienced Organizing Steward program,” remarked longtime Organizing Steward Kevin Krummes, who has witnessed how much more receptive lawmakers have become to 1245’s priorities as the organizing steward program has grown over the years. “We have become a force that must be reckoned with, an army of not one, but many.”
–Rebecca Band, IBEW 1245 Communications Director