ST. LOUIS --- The International Brotherhood of
Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local One and the St.
Louis Chapter, National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA),
have ratified a new three-year contract that breaks with long-held
traditions to offer construction buyers pricing that is aggressively
The 8.23 percent across-the-board cut in IBEW electricians’
compensation and other significant contract changes dramatically reduce
the cost of union electrical construction with the IBEW’s highly
trained, highly skilled work force. That cut escalates to 8.77 percent
on January 1, 2011. Additional contract changes make the total cost
savings to construction buyers, general contractors and home builders
even greater for many projects.
“The contract changes adopted by IBEW Local One and NECA are
unparalleled in terms of listening to what customers say they need and
responding with more than anyone expected,” said Jim
LaMantia, executive director of PRIDE, the St. Louis
area’s construction industry labor-management-owner industry
cooperative group, founded in 1972. “This sets the bar higher than
it’s ever been lifted to offer real solutions to bolster our lagging
The new IBEW-NECA contract, effective June 1:
Enacts significant wage and fringe benefit reductions.
Reduces total crew cost through flexible use of apprentices
with different skill levels to enable IBEW/NECA union electrical
contractors to compete more aggressively and simultaneously increase
Trims shift work pay, overtime pay and fringe benefit costs.
Initiates the IBEW Code of Excellence,
which solidifies joint employer-employee efforts to meet customers’
needs and deliver the best value for every dollar invested in
The Code of Excellence requires employers and electricians to work
together to consistently satisfy customers by delivering the highest
levels of performance, professionalism and productivity. The code
institutes a process for continual improvement to deliver maximum
jobsite efficiency and professional performance. Highlights of the code
include the following:
All IBEW workers adhere to contractual obligations for a
productive work day with minimal idle time.
IBEW workers and NECA contractors consistently work
together to assure delivery of the highest level of value to
IBEW workers commit to abide by owner and contractor
rules and conduct work professionally at all times.
Electricians and contractors pledge to achieve maximum
levels of jobsite safety.
IBEW workers pledge to be fit for duty at all times with
zero tolerance for substance abuse.
IBEW workers and NECA contractors pledge to work together
to maximize productivity and jobsite efficiency.
Employers provide appropriate tools, planning,
supervision and materials to assure the highest levels of
IBEW Local One adopted a compensation rollback only once before in
its 119-year history, a 19.6 percent reduction in 1930 as the country
entered the Great Depression. NECA contractors, who collaborate with
IBEW Local One through the labor-management group, the Electrical
Connection, pledged to compete with aggressive marketing
and pricing. The new contract allows contractors to use electricians
at different stages of training to lower costs while ensuring high
quality, safe installations. The terms maximize the industry’s ability
to attract new electricians as jobs develop and start new apprentices
throughout the year.
IBEW & NECA Aim to Get Stalled Projects Out of
“We looked at our community and our industry in recession and
together considered how we could generate jobs, and position our
contractors and workforce to be the highest value choice for our mutual
customers,” said Douglas R. Martin, executive
vice president of the St. Louis Chapter, NECA. “This is an example of
labor-management cooperation at work. Our NECA contractors and Local
One understand our customers’ needs and the importance of lowering
construction costs to help attract and retain business for St. Louis
and our eastern Missouri markets. We hope our actions
inspire our customers to move stalled projects out of the starting
blocks and take advantage of the lower costs we can deliver, along with
the exceptional skills, education and training of our workforce.”
Stephen P. Schoemehl, business manager of
IBEW Local One, added, “When construction investment increases,
employment rises and everyone benefits, from neighborhood businesses
and restaurants to homebuilders and car dealers. And because taxes are
paid based on spending, income and business revenue, construction
spending helps generate more tax dollars to better meet public needs.
Since our last contract, we have been delivering small and massive
projects of ever-increasing technical complexity. As St. Louis
competes with cities across the country for the high-tech industries of
the future, including renewable energy, our collective skills are
among St. Louis’ greatest assets. We want to be buyers’ first choice,
and IBEW members were willing to make personal sacrifices to move our
region forward and invest in its future.”
The new three-year contract covers about 3,100 IBEW Local One
members working for 147 electrical contractors in
Missouri plus a number of contractors in Illinois, represented by NECA.
It applies to work in the City of St. Louis and 25 Missouri counties,
stretching from the northern border of Lincoln County south to the
Arkansas border. The contract was approved 12 days prior to its June 1
New Contract Boosts Value, Lowers Costs
“The changes we’ve adopted are an enormous tribute to the
commitment of IBEW members to St. Louis and to our mutual customers,”
Martin said. “As a construction team – labor and management – we must
constantly improve our value and performance. Our new IBEW-NECA
contract is a dramatic signal of our ability and willingness to do just
that amid great economic, political and financial uncertainties.”
Terry Bader, senior vice president of
development for VisDev Ventures, a Navvis
company providing healthcare consulting nationwide, has bought
healthcare construction throughout the country for 25 years in both his
current role and for 23 years at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center and
as director of planning, design and construction for the Mercy System.
“Construction has its cycles, but the current economy is new territory
for everyone. Today, it’s all about the availability of money or lack
thereof, due to the economic pressures everyone is under,” he said.
“It is unprecedented to have a union scale back wages. I have to give
the IBEW union enormous credit for being this proactive about getting
their members back to work. In addition, other features of the new
IBEW-NECA contract allow electrical contractors to get creative and
competitive with the nonunion sector. As an owner buying construction
services, there is no doubt about the high quality of work provided by
IBEW members and NECA contractors. We are spoiled here in St. Louis.
I’m doing work all over the country and the quality doesn’t measure up
in many cities around the country. This is a great example of how the
construction industry can work together to find a way to climb out of
the hole we are presently in.”
“I am amazed by what the IBEW and NECA have done together with their
new contract. It’s a great way to promote value for our construction
consumers and clients,” said Bob Fritz, vice
president of Clayco and 2010 chairman of the Associated
General Contractors (AGC) of St. Louis. “We have some
of the best construction craft training programs in the country, and we
offer the best quality construction in the nation. But we also have
to think globally as an industry, and work as contractors and labor to
be competitive in order to win the work. The new IBEW-NECA contract is
a big step in the right direction.”
Len Toenjes, president of the AGC of St.
Louis, said the new contract bolsters efforts by the AGC for several
years to strengthen the competitiveness of the St. Louis commercial
construction market. “The new labor agreement between the St. Louis
Chapter of NECA and IBEW Local One puts St. Louis in a far more
competitive position to attract projects and increase development. AGC
of St. Louis congratulates everyone involved and recognizes the hard
work it takes to make significant changes that spur increased economic
development. This contract shows a mutual commitment to build
opportunities for additional construction projects in the St. Louis
region and generate jobs for construction contractors and the
craftworkers they employ.”
The latest national construction employment report issued by the Bureau
of Labor Statistics ranked overall construction
unemployment in February 2010 as the worst in 10 years, reaching 27.1
percent – far worse than overall unemployment. In St. Louis, average
unemployment among the building trades tops 30 percent.
“With current unemployment levels among electricians at about 35
percent, the contract changes for IBEW Local One union electricians –
some of whom have been without work for more than a year – represent an
even greater sacrifice,” Schoemehl noted. “The risk of brain drain,
feared among the scientific and business communities here, is just as
great among the AFL-CIO Building
& Construction Trades if we fail as a community to
The downturn in construction spending since the nation entered the
current recession more than two years ago has been pervasive across
nearly every sector. McGraw-Hill’s report in the
May 12, 2010 edition of Engineering News-Record
showed a 14.1 percent decline in construction revenue from 2008 to
2009 among the nation’s Top 400 contractors. The general building
market has been the biggest loser, with backlogs in the private sector
essentially evaporating overnight.
St. Louis has the capacity to provide a world-class workforce to
build high tech industries. IBEW apprentices complete at least
four-and-a-half years and a minimum of 8,000 hours of training to
become journeyman wiremen in a program that meets the standards of the U.S.
Department of Labor. IBEW electricians regularly
continue their education at the St. Louis Electrical
Industry Training Center to be ready to deliver the most
efficient installations for emerging technologies and innovations.
Editor’s note: The
IBEW-NECA contract applies to work completed in the City of St. Louis
and the following Missouri counties: Bollinger, Butler, Cape
Girardeau, Carter, Dunklin, Franklin, Iron, Jefferson, Lincoln, Madison, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Perry, Reynolds, Ripley, St. Charles, St. Francois, St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve, Scott, Stoddard, Warren, Washington and Wayne.