Whenever there is a major development project happening in the Northern New Jersey region, chances are the men and women of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 164 will be on the scene.
The skilled craftsmanship and expertise of IBEW Local 164 members is evident all around the Meadowlands region and surrounding area, from high rises, bridges and highways to stadiums, malls, and mixed-use development projects.
The Lincoln and Holland tunnels? The George Washington Bridge? The Meadowlands Sports Complex? Local 164 was there.
Electricians and telecommunication professionals from IBEW Local 164 have had a hand in recent major undertakings such as the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, The Prudential Center in Newark, Red Bull Stadium in Harrison, the Pulaski Skyway Rehabilitation Project in Jersey City, and much, much more.
Location, Location, Location
Encompassing Hudson, Bergen and Essex counties, Local 164, headquartered in Paramus, is in the middle of what is considered the busiest part of the state. Covering 103 municipalities across 439 square miles and with a population of more than 2.5 million residents, the three counties are part of New Jersey’s Gateway Region and home to the state’s two largest municipalities — Newark and Jersey City.
The Gateway Region is considered part of the New York City Metropolitan area. The region is home to Ellis Island, which is still the gateway for many immigrants entering the U.S., and the area is one of the most ethnically and socio-economically diverse in the country.
“Bergen, Hudson and Essex have so much going on from a development standpoint compared to other parts of the state,” said Daniel Gumble, IBEW Local 164 Business Manager and Financial Secretary.
“There are so many projects currently in the works and being planned. Our members have provided highly skilled electrical and telecom installations, repairs and maintenance on some of New Jersey’s most significant construction projects,” he added.
Educating Today’s Workforce — and Tomorrow’s
New Jersey is seeing a major resurgence of unionization in the past two years and is ranked sixth in union density, trailing only Hawaii, New York, Washington, Oregon and Minnesota, according to a Rutgers University study from Labor Education Action Research Network (LEARN). The overall unionization rate in the Garden State went up about 1% to a three-year average of 16.09%, more than five points higher than the national average.
Gumble said for the more than 2,800 active members and 1,150 retirees of IBEW Local 164, a major part of the draw comes down to the comprehensive — and no-cost — training that the union provides for life. That lifelong education is also the reason so many projects turn to the IBEW to fill the skilled labor needed to get the job done right the first time and completed on time.
“To offer the best employees we have to be a very well-trained workforce. We’re also a drug-tested workforce, and not every union is,” Gumble said. “I think people join us for the training and they stay for it. We offer continuing education for all members — even retired members.”
He pointed to some trade schools, which can charge upwards of $20,000 a year.
“A lot of times, people join our organization after attending one of those schools and discover they know little more than introductory information. The training we offer is lightyears beyond what most trade schools offer.”
That training is also a way to “earn as you learn” and when it’s completed, members have 58 college credits to put towards an undergraduate degree related to the profession, which includes computer aided design (CAD), estimating, project management, all types of engineering, and more.
Young people today, Gumble said, really see the value in the training offered, the college credits earned, the career path, and the job security provided.
And the education offered today is better than ever, he added. Today’s education is more hands-on and happens in the field compared to 35 years ago when classroom and books were the traditional learning route. Today’s educational framework also includes training certifications offered for the numerous specializations needed in the field, such as fiber optics, welding, high voltage splicing and crane operators.
Having a Stake
Being part of the IBEW Local 164 community is also rewarding work, especially when it’s a public project where the fruits of their labor are evident. One such project is currently underway in Jersey City.
Journal Squared is significant to a large population of the Meadowlands region, many of whom grew up recalling or hearing about the bustling neighborhood of Journal Square that fell into ruins in the 1970s.
“Journal Squared will be the jewel of Hudson County and has essentially fueled a resurgence for Journal Square as a residential, retail and entertainment destination,” Gumble said of the project, which IBEW Local 164 started discussing with Jersey City since talks began about a decade ago. The union chapter even helped fund the project.
Located at the intersection of Pavonia and Summit avenues, the three-tower complex comprises 1,840 residences, 36,000 square feet of dining and retail space, and a direct connection to the Journal Square Transportation Center. The facility provides access to NJ Transit and is a major stop on the PATH rail system, with service to lower and midtown Manhattan, Hoboken and Newark.
“There are a tremendous number of projects happening in Jersey City now,” Gumble said, adding that the third tower of Journal Squared is currently in progress and will rise 60 stories above the Jersey City skyline, providing dramatic views of the Hudson River, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and downtown Manhattan. Social spaces will feature a performance lounge, karaoke room and recording spaces, plus there will be a makerspace area, coworking lounge, lobby café and a sky lounge.
Making a Difference
The IBEW goes to work for its members as a local chapter as well as on the state, federal and international fronts. Advocacy comes into play ensuring that only the highest trained union professionals offered by the IBEW lead the way in modernizing the country’s electric grid, building out the charging infrastructure needed for the wide-scale adoption of electric-powered transportation, and ensuring that broadband reaches every corner the U.S.
“We lobby for legislation. We meet with developers, with lawmakers. We fight for better wages, safer working conditions, more job opportunities,” Gumble said, adding that all labor unions stand together in that fight.
That advocacy would also put union members to work on such major area projects like the Gateway Tunnel and the widening of the NJ Turnpike’s Hudson County extension to and from the Holland Tunnel, which includes replacing the 1956 Newark Bay Bridge with two bridges.
Aside from advocacy, IBEW Local 164 also prides itself on being a benevolent organization, with members doing charity work all year around for senior citizens, disabled people, low income folks, civic organizations and others in need.
“Our local organization was established in 1901 and we have never wavered on priding ourselves on being a top trained workforce. As an organization, Local 164 embraces the adage of skill, attitude, and knowledge. Each member is also strongly encouraged to give back to the community through his or her trade. We participate in numerous avenues of community outreach to give back to surrounding communities from Rebuilding America to donations to Local Hospitals, Veterans and food banks.
“By providing onsite training in our state-of-the-art facility, we build personal relationships with each and every member, creating an extended family. Local Union 164 trains our members for success and a prosperous career as well providing excellent benefits to provide for themselves and their families,” Gumble said.
For more information, call (201) 265-1700 or fill out the organization’s contact form at www.ibew164.org/contact.aspx