For over 100 years the line clearance tree trimmers have existed, woman and men alike working the power lines in ways most people never think of. They are climbing the trees manually or using bucket equipment to get to them, none the less they are working around the power lines, live lines 99% of the time. If that doesn’t take skill and just about the same amount of guts, I don’t know what does. It is not an easy feat, 50+ feet in the air at the mercy of the elements, roping cutting and lowering branches down and away from the power lines in daily maintenance that is done to help keep the power on. Often these men and women are called out on storms, either locally or out of state, for days sometimes weeks, helping to restore power after major storms. They are the men and woman that work with the lineman to keep your lights on. “Our line Brotherhood builds it…We protect it. Line clearance keeping the lights on.”
FACTS ABOUT LINE CLEARANCE TREE TRIMMERS:
NUMBERS: 12,000 IBEW members work as tree trimmers. Signatory contractors generated more than 14 million hours of labor in 2012.
UNION DENSITY: Industry more than 80 percent organized in Pacific Northwest. Much lower percentage organized in other regions. Many employers “double-breasted” — own union and nonunion subsidiaries.
LOCAL UNIONS: More than 50 locals have jurisdiction in the line clearance tree trimming sector.
Chicago Local 9 includes 700 tree trimmers, the majority work for Commonwealth Edison contractors. Work increasing at rate of 20 to 30 new trimmers every year — result of state legislation mandating more trimming in advance of storms.
SAFETY: Line clearance tree trimming is one of most hazardous occupations in the country according to the National Institute of Safety and Health.
Tree trimming is covered under standards for the logging industry, a very different occupation from the line clearance sector. IP Hill has signed a letter to OSHA endorsing improved safety protections in the industry.
SUBCONTRACTING: Most utility companies rely on subcontractors. Rural Electric Associations, however, usually directly employ 2 or more tree trimmers for small jobs, subcontracting major work.
West Frankfort, Ill., Local 702 employs 275 tree trimmers employed by REAs and seven contractors. The local union maintains nearly 100 percent of line clearance tree trimming work in 11 counties of S.E. Missouri, 28 counties in Illinois and 13 in Southern Indiana.
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