December 2013

Taking Tower Training To New Heights

Most of you are familiar with the Iron Workers Wind Tower Training Program. The National Training Fund and IMPACT sponsor six wind energy training facilities: Local 6 (Buffalo, N.Y.), Local 22 (Indianapolis), Local 27 (Salt Lake City), Local 263 (Dallas/Ft. Worth), Locals 416/433 (Los Angeles), and Local 444 (Joliet, Ill.). In addition to these six locals, Northern New Jersey, Locals 377/378 (Oakland/San Francisco) and Local 14 (Spokane, Wash.) have purchased the tools and equipment needed for the classes and are training their members in these very valuable skills. At these facilities, ironworkers and contractors can be trained in courses that make up our wind energy training program. The classes are structural bolting, hydraulic bolting and high angle rescue training. All of these classes have a wind turbine tower focus. We have trained nearly 700 members at our six sponsored locals and hundreds more in the Bay Area, Northern New Jersey and the Eastern Washington jurisdiction.

If you are a member and wish to attend a wind tower training event at one of our sponsored locals, we can schedule you for one of the many courses that each of these locals conduct annually. If you are a contractor and wish to have a course conducted for your employees, we can also schedule one for you. There is a 10-person minimum to schedule a class. Please contact my office to schedule a class or for more information at 202-393-4800.

Recently the Iron Workers have had some successes organizing in the cell tower erection industry. Tennessee Valley District Council President and General Vice President Dick Ward has organized a company named Firebird Towers LLC. According to Melvin Brewer, business manager of Local 704 (Chattanooga, Tenn.), Firebird currently has 18 members working for them, and since being organized has employed over 70 union ironworkers on cell tower projects throughout Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and other southern regions. The average cell tower crew is between two and six ironworkers depending on the scope of work. Before these men could be dispatched, they needed to have a tower climber certification. To date, James Lockhart, Tennessee district council coordinator and Brent Chambers, Local 704 apprenticeship coordinator, have trained over 100 members throughout the Southeastern portion of the country in cell tower climbing.

In addition to our successes in the south, General Vice President Bill Dean has organized a cell tower company named Great Lakes Aerial Maintenance & Construction Co. Inc. The company, which is headquartered in Monroe, Mich., has 25 newly organized workers and is looking to expand into other states along the Great Lakes providing more of our members with opportunities to erect towers in these areas.

These, as well as other successful inroads into the cell tower erection industry, have indicated a need for increased training on cell towers. Because of this, the National Training Fund has been working with Local 22 and Bill Woodward, president of the Southern Ohio District Council, to set up a cell tower training center in Indianapolis where members can go and become trained in cell tower climbing, as well as the unique safety hazards of erecting and maintaining cell towers. The operation of this new tower training package will be very similar to our wind turbine training package. This training site and package will be available soon to our members and signatory contractors. Contractors wishing to send their workers to these classes will be able to schedule classes for their company through the National Training Fund office.

Once the program is set up in Indianapolis, we are planning on working with interested district councils and set up cell tower training centers throughout North America. There are literally tens of thousands of man-hours every year in cell tower erection and structural maintenance and the vast majority are unorganized. In order to get these man-hours for our members, we need trained and qualified workers. The National Fund is working hard to ensure that we have a skilled workforce to meet these manpower needs now and for the future.