About Local 1579 ~ Our History
Local Union 1579 was chartered February 10, 1948. The Charter was installed by W. L. Holst, International Rep. with a membership of 36. Guy T. Solomon was elected Business Manager. Because of financial conditions, the Local was forced to rent a small dark, cold, upstairs room at 636 ½ Broad Street. It was a one man operation through the year 1948 with Business Manager Solomon doing the office work and organizing simultaneously. The regular meetings were held at the V. F. W. Hall at 10th and Broad Streets. With a 3% assessment on the membership and strenuous organizing campaign conducted by the Business Manager, the Local had enough signed contractors to increase the membership to over 100 by March 1949.
As the membership grew, the Local moved to 215 9th Street. The Local had three contractors and a wage rate of $1.75 per hour for Journeyman. Bad economical conditions and inexperience probably accounts for the year of 1948 being the toughest in the history of the Local.
The 1950's and 1960's - Savannah River Project and more
By 1951 the Local had 12 signed contractors and a membership of some 200. The wages for Journeymen was $2.25 per hour. By this time the Local had secured its place in the community and was stable in every respect. Along about this time, the Savannah River Project was started and the Local undertook the largest Electrical job ever to be done. The Local grew by leaps and bounds and was at the time one of the largest locals in the 5th District.
The 1950s brought many projects in addition to SRP, such as Hydro-Electric Plant at Clarks Hill, Urquhart Steam Plant, Talmadge Hospital, and The University Hospital. Thanks to these projects the membership increased to 1200 members with 2500 electrical workers in the jurisdiction.
Business Manager Solomon left the Local for a job with the International in 1960, leaving Assistant Business Manager L. W. Gulledge as the new Business Manager. In 1962 Business Manager Gulledge was defeated by a slim margin for Business Manager by W. S. Carter, who served as Business Manager until his death in 1970.
With the Journeyman wage at $3.45 per hour, the 1960’s proved to be very prosperous for the Local. It brought projects such as The Georgia Railroad Bank, the new 10 story University Hospital and Eisenhower Hospital.
The 1970's and 1980's brought Plant Vogtle, Navel Fuels
The death of Brother Carter left a vacancy for Business Manager. The Executive Board appointed T. E. “Pug” Schneider as Business Manager, He went on to be elected Business Manager and served the Local until 1979. In 1979, T. S. Yarbrough was elected Business Manager.
Bad economical times plagued the 1970s but the Local was fortunate enough to have Plant Vogtle break ground as well as The Regency and The Augusta Malls. Both malls were finished in 1978.
With a scale of $15.80 per hour in 1986, the 1980’s were bad economical times for most of the country, but good economical times for Local Union 1579. Thanks to Plant Vogtle, Navel Fuels and S – Area our jurisdiction had over 3000 electricians working. Business Manager Yarbrough and Assistant Business Manager Edgar Rooks had their hands full giving out referrals, which included over 10,000 traveling brothers and sisters.
The 1990s was a very trying time for the Local. The workforce decreased from 1200 to under 200 electricians at the Savannah River Site. Although there was a few projects going on such as Port Royal, Bridgestone, and The Shaw Carpet Plant, many of our Journeymen were working in other Locals across the country.
2000 and Beyond
At the turn of the century, things seemed to be picking up in our jurisdiction. MMI at International Paper employed about 86 Electricians and over 100 Electricians were Employed at The TEF Project at The Savannah River Site. Many of our members were still working out of town, but some were coming home to work these projects.
In 2006, Business Manager Yarbrough retired and the Local elected Kenneth T. Ward for Business Manager.
Under Business Manager Ward, the Local Union saw changes that were welcomed by most. With health insurance costs skyrocketing, Business Manager Ward worked with the Board of Trustees to get into the multi local NECA-IBEW Family Medical Care Plan. The new health insurance has stabilized the cost to the membership, and has actually improved the membership’s opinion of modern day health insurance.
Pension was a major challenge for Business Manager Ward. In 2008, the stock market tumbled almost overnight causing the pension fund to certify in an endangered zone. This was a very stressful situation for the Business Manager and the Board of Trustees. With the new pension laws passed under the Bush Administration, the trustees had to send a plan to the US Government stating how they would fund the pension over a ten year period. The trustees were very careful to protect the pension benefits but were forced to make some changes while protecting the early retirement age and the lump sum
The work situation under the leadership of Business Manager Ward was good. There were multiple projects in the jurisdiction that kept all members and travelers from around the country working. The Vogtle Project is the highest profiled job, as this job started out as a non-union project. Business Manager Ward worked with the Augusta Building Trades to organize a campaign to attempt to demonstrate that building the reactors union is the best way. This campaign was called Jobs for Georgians. This campaign took union leaders and their members outside the main entrance of Plant Vogtle, holding signs and getting the attention of the news media. Southern Company and Georgia Power eventually decided to contact the Augusta Building Trades requesting a solution. The answer was to ultimately sit down with the International Building Trades Presidents to negotiate a Construction Powerhouse Agreement, not only for Plant Vogtle but for future nuclear plants to be built in the United States.
The Vogtle Project also increased the jobs in the area for welders. Business Manager Ward recognized this and worked with the Home Association for the approval of the IBEW Training Facility, not just for welding but for continuing education as well.
In 2015, Business Manager Ward did not run for re-election and decided to retire. Assistant Business Manager, Will Salters, ran for the office of Business Manager and was elected.
Business Manager Salters took office on July 20, 2015 and is still leading the Local today. With the 21st century constantly changing, Business Manager Salters will have to continue to address the pension and protect it as the baby boomers are retiring at a very high rate.
Business Manager Salters recognizes the fact that education is needed to keep up with the changing industry. He will gradually introduce new post journeyman classes to make the membership more competitive. He feels that this may also gain us market share and regain work in industrial plants that we have not been in for many years.