Electrifying the Future: A Conversation with Dave Reaves, International Vice President of IBEW Ninth District

“Leading the Ninth District of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) is truly thrilling at this juncture. With our remarkable surge in membership, strong job market, and substantial federal investments for infrastructure and emerging electrical innovations, I project a significant increase in IBEW membership and career opportunities,” said Dave Reaves, the newly appointed International Vice President of our Ninth District. IVP Reaves assumed his role on March 1, and despite his brief seven-month tenure, he is already leaving a significant imprint and engaging membership extensively.

Dave Reaves has been a tireless advocate for union workers in Alaska, championing their rights and fostering a strong, supportive community for electrical workers throughout our region. A former Business Manager from Alaska’s Local 1547, Reaves began his career with IBEW as a Journeyman Lineman before he was selected to serve as an IBEW International Representative. His reputation as an innovative and skillful negotiator precedes him, and he is widely known for his straightforward communication and protecting IBEW members with strong representation. IVP Reaves places a high emphasis on expanding membership.

“Given the anticipated surge in opportunities stemming from the Biden Administration’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure legislation – encompassing EV expansion, wind and solar projects, battery storage, grid modernization, and more – IBEW must significantly increase our membership to open up fresh career prospects for the next generation of electrical workers,” said Dave Reaves.

“All electrical work must be organized for IBEW electricians and power professionals – delivering higher wages, quality healthcare, and dependable pensions for all that want a career in the electrical industry.”

The Ninth District of IBEW includes the Western regional United States, including California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii, plus part of Idaho as well as Guam and Saipan, and is the largest district in the IBEW with 155,000 members. IVP Reaves has a goal is to grow our membership to 200,000 members strong over the next five years.

IVP Dave Reaves sat down with us to share his vision for the future of our IBEW Ninth District.

What are your goals for the IBEW Ninth District over the next few years?

No question, continued growth will lead the way. We’re already the largest District in the IBEW and I’m proud to say we’re pioneering the way with added diversity, and strategically growing our membership with tools like alternate pathways, transitional agreements, direct hire MOUs, and in bringing more veterans into our ranks. We lead the nation. The programs and community outreach efforts we start here are built upon our member engagement, and often becomes a model for the rest of the IBEW. I want that to continue.

We will grow our market share. With new funding and investments in IBEW jobs with the Biden Administration, there will be many thousands of new job opportunities and quality construction careers that IBEW will be at the forefront of delivering to communities across our region. We will expand those new opportunities, especially with the return of our ‘Made in America’ manufacturing industries, including the manufacturing recycling, and repurposing of batteries, electric buses and clean transit, EV charging stations buildouts, and converting buildings to be more energy efficient or all electric. We are working with locals on pilot programs that will grow our membership.

Tell us about your other top priorities.

Safety will continue to be a top priority. Our union was founded on protecting IBEW members on job sites and we must continue to ensure their safety, well-being, and rights are protected. Additionally, as we continue to grow our membership, we must welcome more women, veterans, and persons from communities of concern to diversely grow our IBEW family.  I am very proud of the efforts IBEW is undertaking to lead the way in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) of our membership and we will continue to promote and elevate the work and community contributions of our members.

Part of this undertaking is recognizing and addressing barriers to achieving an IBEW career, and for too many of our members, childcare is a big issue of concern. We starting to look at the possibility of onsite childcare and childcare grant opportunities for new apprentices with children, and working that into some of our contractor agreements.

We also lead the way in building and managing renewable energy technologies, like solar, offshore wind, battery storage, and geothermal sources. Many of our locals are investing in electric vehicles and building our charging stations at union halls to advance the opportunity to ‘power your fleet’ and drive electric. It’s about action, not just talk.

How is the IBEW leading the way on green union jobs?

Again, we’re building out renewable energy, but we need to be diligent to make sure new public investments in renewable energy development contain strong labor standards, like prevailing wages, project labor agreements, and apprenticeship utilization. For the first time ever, federal tax incentives for renewable energy now mandate many of these labor priorities and will result in new IBEW jobs. Our political allies, like President Biden, are delivering for IBEW and we need to ensure they continue to do so for the long term.

Why is organizing important?

Organizing and welcoming everyone into the IBEW is our core value. The mission of the IBEW is “to organize all workers in the entire electrical industry in the United States and Canada.” I am pleased to share that our Ninth District just received an Excellence in Organizing Award at our IBEW Membership Development Conference. It was a team effort – and we will continue to rely on our rank-and-file members to help grow our family and strengthen our industry. Anyone and everyone needs a union to get respect, representation, and higher wages, and we’re willing to organize everyone into the IBEW.

One innovative program that I want to see shared across the entire IBEW is the ‘Veterans Electrical Entry Program (VEEP) that is being piloted here in the Ninth District – this program jumpstarts admission into our apprenticeship program for active serving military and veterans.

Additionally, we’re getting creative in growing our membership. IBEW Local 89 is eagerly anticipating welcoming Oregon’s legislative aides into our union – a historic milestone as they will become the first legislative aides in the nation to get a union contract with guaranteed wage increases, benefits, and worker representation.

Can you describe IBEW’s leadership and impact in California?

IBEW has assumed a pivotal leadership role in California, championing the pursuit of equitable contracts that benefit all workers. Our relentless advocacy has resulted in not only high wages but also a workplace environment characterized by respect and safety. Through our strong representation, IBEW remains committed to upholding worker rights and preserving the dignity of every member in the state.

IBEW has also emerged as a trailblazing leader in promoting quality construction careers in renewable energy, enabling members to excel in this rapidly evolving industry. Our dedication to advanced training ensures that workers are well-equipped to embrace new energy technologies, driving California’s transition towards a greener future. Simultaneously, IBEW’s commitment to delivering power safely and effectively to all Californians underscores our unwavering dedication to environmental sustainability and public safety.

How do you manage such a large region?

The Ninth District is vast, but balancing my extensive travel commitments with my core value of spending quality time with my family has been a crucial aspect of my journey.

This commitment to family is at the heart of IBEW’s mission to enhance our quality of life. Recently, we welcomed our first grandbaby into the Reaves family, which makes these moments even more precious.

While my role has me constantly on the move, it’s essential to me to traverse the district, attend IBEW events, and foster communication among local unions, rank and file members and leaders in the Ninth District.

Sharing best practices and insights is pivotal, and since many topics are led by committees, I prioritize conversations with our local union leadership teams to ensure we’re aligned on our mission.

Together, through collaboration, we can achieve our shared goals.