Powering Chicago Member Joins Climate Jobs Illinois Coalition

Originally published on Powering Chicago on November 16, 2020

IBEW Local 134 Business Representative and IREC Certified Master Trainer ™ PV Bob Hattier joins coalition advocating for a pro-worker, pro-climate agenda in Illinois

Powering Chicago announced today that member Bob Hattier has been appointed to Climate Jobs Illinois, a coalition of labor organizations advocating for a pro-worker, pro-climate agenda in Illinois. A state affiliate of the Climate Jobs National Resource Center, Climate Jobs Illinois is independent of energy developers and utilities, and is united around a shared goal of combating climate change while reversing income inequality.  

By focusing on the construction of clean energy sources as a way to combat the climate crisis, Climate Jobs Illinois seeks to spur the creation of a more equitable and clean economy. The coalition is comprised of representatives from a number of Illinois labor unions, including International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 134, and represents the interests of hundreds of thousands of Illinois working men and women who are the best trained and skilled to build Illinois’ new clean-energy economy from the ground up. The coalition will advocate for strong labor standards—such as prevailing wage and project labor agreements, with union apprentice trained workers—to provide a pathway to a strong middle class in Illinois.

“As Illinois continues to pursue a clean energy future, it is paramount that the IBEW and our partner ECA contractors have a seat at the table,” said IBEW Local 134 Business Representative Bob Hattier. “The unionized electrical industry has been at the forefront in the adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, and we provide the qualified workforce these industries demand. As a member of the Illinois Climate Jobs Executive Committee, I will continue to advocate for our members in the drive to strengthen labor standards on all energy projects in our state.” 

The Coalition’s work in the energy, building and transportation sectors will put forward proposals that reduce emissions while creating sustainable jobs in Illinois. In the coming weeks, the group will put forward a series of proposals that will includes supporting new investments in wind and solar projects, improving fleet efficiency and enhancing public transit infrastructure, improving energy efficiency in public commercial and residential spaces, and leveraging Illinois’ clean energy natural resources, strong labor pool, ready-made apprentice programs and manufacturing infrastructure. 

“Labor unions built this country, and it’s only fitting that as we grapple with how to address climate change and reinvigorate the middle class, that labor unions once again play a leadership role in shaping a better future,” said Powering Chicago Director Elbert Walters III. “The unionized electrical industry has made significant investments in renewable energy training in recent years, including a 25-acre training facility at the IBEW-NECA Technical Institute, because we believe that a more sustainable future is possible and we want to be the ones continuing to power Chicagoland for another 100+ years. We’re looking forward to supporting the work that Bob Hattier and the rest of the members of the Coalition are doing in the coming months.”

For additional information about the Climate Jobs Illinois coalition, please visit https://climatejobsillinois.org/our-work/

IBEW REF Launches Students to IBEW Trainee Program

IBEW Renewable Energy Fund (IBEW REF) is proud of our partnerships with Prosser Career Academy, Benito Juarez Community Academy, Simeon Career Academy, Leo Catholic High School, and Chicago Builds.

IBEW REF trained the graduating students from 8/17 to 8/28 in order to prepare them for the start of the IBEW 134 trainee program. The students have also been in a year long solar program at their high schools. This past week the students visited IBEW 134’s union hall for a tour and to spend time on our renewable energy semi truck. IBEW REF provided hands-on training for the graduating students. We trained the students to prepare them for the IBEW 134 trainee program while social distancing and following COVID-19 health and safety measures.

IBEW REF Fund was proud to welcome special guests Senator Michael E. Hastings, Representative Debbie Meyers-Martin, Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin of the Village of Matteson, Mayor Roger A. Agpawa of Markham, Mayor James Ford of Country Club Hills, and Mayor Vernard Alsberry of the Village of Hazel Crest to IBEW 134’s union hall. We went on a tour, spent time on our renewable energy semi truck, and they saw the hands-on training we provided.

The New York Times Highlights Partnership with Benito Juarez Community Academy

‘Herculean Task’: Chicago Public Schools Scramble to Launch Online Classes

Originally posted by The New York Times on April 10, 2020.

By ReutersApril 10, 202

CHICAGO — During a typical school day at Chicago’s Benito Juarez Community Academy, James Klock’s high-school students can be found splicing and connecting wiring, getting the hands-on experience needed to become skilled electricians. 

The coronavirus pandemic has changed all that. 

Beginning Monday, Klock will have to teach his budding electricians online, forcing them to learn by watching, not doing, with their tools and equipment locked away in a shuttered classroom – but that depends on internet access. 

The move to online learning has exposed a digital divide that plagues the entire Chicago public school system, the third largest in the country. Some 70% of its 360,000 students are economically disadvantaged and a third have no access to a laptop or desktop computer. 

“This moment in time is really revealing the systemic and structural inequities that are built into the system,” Klock said.

Klock is one of 25,000 Chicago Public Schools teachers who have scrambled to start online classes by Monday, a deadline set by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker after he extended a stay-at-home order that shut down all 600 schools in the system to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The weeks-long closure of the city’s 600 schools is the latest blow to a school system perpetually bruised by budget shortfalls, classroom overcrowding and labor battles.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has called the shift to online learning a “Herculean task.” 

Chicago teachers have had two weeks to develop online lesson plans and arrange online teaching resources. They have had to set up livestream video and messaging platforms to interact with students. After consulting with parents, many have created flexible teaching schedules to work around their student’s upended lives. 

Chicago is not alone. Many school systems from New York to Los Angeles have launched remote learning programs, after the pandemic forced the cancellation of classes for the vast majority of American students.

“Some pieces of this are playing out all over the country, especially in urban and rural places that are dealing with extreme amounts of poverty and trauma,” said Stacy Moore, executive director of the Chicago chapter of Educators for Excellence, a teacher advocacy organization.

What makes Chicago different is that the school system is coming off a bitter, 11-day teachers’ strike in October. One of the main issues in the work stoppage was a demand that the district do more to address inequalities and inequities. 

“It’s been a tough year in Chicago when it comes to education,” Moore said. “All of those things that already existed are being further exacerbated by the current situation.” 


Many of Klock’s students live in the working-class neighborhood of Pilsen on the city’s west side, where nine of every 10 children live in low-income, minority households, district data showed. Three of four only have cell phones to connect to the web, and a few have had to get grocery store jobs to support their financially strapped families, according to Klock’s own assessment. 

“They’re incredibly resilient,” he said. “They are going to figure it out because that’s what they and their families do.” 

In parts of the city’s south and west sides, more than half of households have spotty internet connections or none at all, according to a recent Chicago Tribune-ProPublica Illinois analysis. The district estimates that 115,000 students, or a third, lack a device for e-learning. 

Officials are scrambling to distribute 100,000 laptops to students while internet service providers are offering special deals for Chicago families. 

In the Englewood neighborhood, one of the city’s most impoverished, Winnie Williams-Hall, a special-needs teacher at Nicholson STEM Academy, braces for what may be in store for her on Monday.

“I have no idea if all of my 14 students will be logged online,” Williams-Hall said. “So there’s a level of uncertainty.” 

She plans to use textbooks, dry erase boards and giant sticky notes to teach her middle-school students reading, math, social studies and science through live and recorded videos.

Williams-Hall said most of her students rely on personal relationship with her. Some are dealing with trauma; others have learning and intellectual disabilities and emotional disorders. A few read at a kindergarten-first-grade level, despite being only months away from high school.

“They can message me and text me, but that’s not the same,” she said. 

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Frank McGurty and Leslie Adler)

Powering Chicago offers free solar safety training for area fire departments

Posted on Solar Power World on March 24, 2020.

Powering Chicago, the voice of Chicago’s unionized electrical industry, announced a free solar safety training program for Chicago area fire departments designed to help firefighters safely handle solar panels while on the job. Launched in late 2019 as a pilot program, more than 150 firefighters from 12 suburban departments have successfully completed the training to date.

With generous federal and state incentives available to homeowners and business owners who adopt renewable energy practices, solar panel installations are on the rise in Illinois.

As the prevalence of solar panels in the state increases, so too do the risks for firefighters who lack proper education and training necessary to safely deal with them in an emergency. Electrocution, exposure to hazardous substances, and roof collapse from improper installations are just a few of the risks firefighters face when they encounter solar panels on the job.

“Solar power is an important element of Illinois’s renewable energy future, but it presents unique challenges for first responders when they arrive on the scene,” said IBEW Local 134 Business Representative Bob Hattier, who leads the program in his capacity as an IREC Certified Master Trainer PV. “We offer this training as a free workforce development program to ensure firefighters are knowledgeable about the latest technologies and can work with their municipalities to enact codes that ensure public safety.”

The training program, which can be completed at the fire department’s facilities or at the IBEW/NECA Technical Institute in Alsip, Illinois, focuses on system awareness and identification, safety concerns and hazard mitigation, and codes and standards affecting solar and energy storage. The program is offered in two formats to best meet the needs of those participating, either as a three-day unit to reach all shifts from the participating fire department or as a one-day session only for key personnel.

To date, firefighters from Alsip, North Riverside, Berwyn, Tinley Park, Park Forest, University Park, Crete, Lockport, Dolton, Chicago Heights, Oak Forest and Cicero have participated in the training program.

“The training Powering Chicago’s members receive in renewable energy sources like solar panels is among the most advanced in the country,” said Gene Kent, director of the IBEW/NECA Technical Institute. “We want those who help keep our communities safe to benefit from those same training resources, which is why we’re providing this program free of charge. We know that in doing so, the firefighters who participate will be better able to identify potential problems, respond in a safe manner and serve their communities.”

News item from Powering Chicago