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Lineman Recognition

Went to New York to see Lady Liberty and enjoy our retirement. It was a wonderful experience seeing all the boroughs and Times Square.

The first power lines were built there. Tesla and Edison lived and worked in New York. Of course, I promised myself I would stop patrolling when I retired but old habits die hard. The variety of power lines and underground designs took me back to years gone by. I found poles still in service that were almost a hundred years old. Not in Manhattan (the gold zone), of course.

I would like to recognize those old timers that were creating an industrial world with work practices and tools that would curl your hair. Fifty percent of the crews were getting killed or hurt, which created the need for unions and safety standards. Hard work and resourcefulness kept those power pioneers alive. This brings me to the reason it is high time linemen and women deserve far more recognition that we get! 

At Ground Zero, there was an incredible monument to the memory of 9/11 and the thousands of lives lost during the attack. My visit was moving, and I found myself looking for any tribute to the Local 3 members who were lost***. When it comes to first responders, like police and firefighters there were incredible displays and tributes, as there should be. Knowing that line crews are not the center of the universe, I realize we fade into the background like the Disneyland folks. People get up in the morning and the lights are back on, and Disneyland is spotless. 

While enjoying my retirement, I see there are many rewards for first responders and military service people. And there should be. My question is why don’t line workers get more recognition? Electrical janitors is the way I used to look at it for years. Standing out with the other responders, quite often letting them know when they were safe to move. Driving past the closed roads. due to snow and ice or danger, we used to wave as we went into the darkness. 

Every lineman or woman knows exactly what an army of storm soldiers feels like in the beginning of a challenge. The worse the weather, the more you are needed! I could count on the one hand the number of times linemen were held back for the weather to pass. That hand would be in a three fingered wooly mitten. 

The utility managers and support workers should be recognized, too. And, of course, the control centers, as well. 

I remember my brother Ray, who was working 16 hours a day for three months in the snow recovering lattice towers crippled by avalanches. Ray came home for Christmas dinner and fell asleep in his mashed potatoes and gravy! After finishing the project, the whole crew were given coffee mugs as a reward! 

Realizing that recognizing efforts of those proportions is not easy and linemen would, likely, never ask. Standing, side by side, with people we respect, is all we would want. It is time that our trade gets more recognition and status and I do not mean blowing our horns. The IBEW dropped the ball on those lost in 9/11 ***. We need to do better! 

The pictures on social media have made a difference in increasing people’s knowledge of what it means to be a lineman. Of course, quite often it is the high lines who capture people's attention. YouTube videos of electric arcs are impressive but staying safe around them is the point. If a person reads the comments on Facebook, we come across as a cynical bunch about knowledge. Third world people working to build power lines without tools or knowledge are difficult to watch. The people are trying their best and so deserve recognition for that. 

There are many levels of linemen and many organizations to support our trade. I would like to just say we do our best and deserve recognition for the history of our efforts! 

Bruce Masse – Trouble Technician

 *** Editor’s Note:  The IBEW lost 21 (Local 3 – 17; Local 1212 – 4) members on 9/11 (Since that time, almost 2 dozen more have been lost due to 9/11-related illnesses.).

Those lost have been included in the names etched at the Memorial Pools at the WTC memorial. Local 3 was instrumental in the rebuilding efforts in Lower Manhattan. Their efforts have been commemorated on the Last Column (along with those of other responders), which is part of the exhibit at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

There is a permanent memorial to the members lost at the Local 3 headquarters in Queens, NYC.

There were no Local 3 line workers lost at Ground Zero.

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