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Dyncorp & DRS Technology employees killed in Afghanistan (Updated 9/13/2010)

I have just received a confirmed report there was a September 6, 2010  attack on a forward operating base Howz-e-Madad in Kandahar province Afghanistan. This attack took the lives of two DynCorp LOGCAP IV employees and one DRS Technologies employee and wounded seven others.

Updated September 13/2010: I this press release from DRS Technologies. Click HERE for the original

DRS Defense Solutions Mourns Loss of Employee


Bethesda, MD, September 13, 2010 – It is with profound sadness that DRS Defense Solutions LLC confirms the death of one of its employees who was killed September 6th, 2010 during an attack on a forward operating base in Howz-e-Madad, Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

Javier de la Garza, 27, of Austin, TX, served as a communication technician in support of the U.S. Army Logistics Civil Augmentation Program IV (LOGCAP IV) mission in Afghanistan. He lost his life in an attack that also took the lives of two other civilian personnel and wounded several others.

Mr. de la Garza had been employed by DRS Technical Services as an Internet Protocol Field Specialist since March of this year. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army where he served four years as a Military Intelligence Analyst. He is survived by his mother Dalia de la Garza, and a sister. Read the remainder of this entry »

The History of Labor Day

1932 Rockefeller Center Construction: New York City

Another 3-day weekend is upon us and many families are packing and heading to the coast (well maybe not to the East Coast), the mountains and the lakes. BBQ’s are warming up and the beer is chilling! It’s the last big get-a-way of the summer season. There will be shopping extravaganza’s, parades, picnics and celebrations to honor the American worker.

Weekends, paid Holidays, medical insurance and retirement benefits were all fought for by those first American workers.  Keep in mind virtually every safety regulation was written in the blood of an injured or killed American worker. It is the American worker has created so much of our nation’s strength and prosperity and our working conditions and wages are the envy of the world.

Be thankful to those brave men and women who fought and the many who died for the laws and conditions you have today.  Show your appreciation by flying the US Flag. Click HERE if you have forgotten how to do that correctly.

I am proud to say I am a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). The IBEW has provided me with an outstanding education, continued training, a marketable skill and a great work ethic. My work has provided my family with insurance and a comfortable life for over 30 years. For that, I thank all those who came before me.

For all the soldiers and civilians serving overseas, thank you for serving and have a great Labor Day holiday. For everyone else…I plan to be out and about with my family so PLEASE don’t drink and drive! ~ Ms Sparky

Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means Read the remainder of this entry »

IBEW Members Help Improve Safety in Mideast

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After Base Electrocutions, IBEW Members Help Improve Safety in Mideast

by The Electrical Worker, Fri Mar 13, 2009 at 03:15:36 PM EST

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Boston Local 103 journeyman wireman Kevin Brashears was fearful of becoming another statistic: one more hardworking family man victimized by the economic free fall. But after experiencing unemployment like many workers across the country – and facing foreclosure on his mortgage – Brashears hit pay dirt in an unlikely place.

In March, Brashears shipped out to Iraq to work for military contractor KBR. He stands to make more than $120,000 for his 12-month commitment. At the same time, he looks forward to the chance to improve safety for the troops stationed at KBR-run facilities, which have been plagued by shoddy electrical wiring, leading to many troop deaths.

“I’m trying to do right by my family and at the same time help serve my country,” Brashears said.

Mired in scandal and facing critical heat from U.S. investigators, KBR – the notorious anti-union company that won Iraq contracts in a no-bid process under the Bush administration – is now attempting an about-face. Greater government scrutiny and heightened exposure are forcing the contractor to recruit a skilled work force, as opposed to outsourcing work to Iraqi locals or unskilled third-country nationals. The result: KBR representatives are signing up licensed electricians in the U.S. at a rapid clip, many of whom are out-of-work IBEW members.

“For some members who are unemployed right now, working for KBR in Iraq looks like a pretty good deal,” said Boston Local 103 Business Manager Mike Monahan. He cited the high pay and numerous stalled construction projects due to the credit crunch and economy as reasons more than 25 of the local’s members are slated to head out to Iraq. “So far, the relationship between KBR and our local has been good, and those members who signed up are happy to have the work.”

But even as IBEW members travel to Iraq to fix the problems, the company continues to pay the price for its past failures.

Following 18 troop deaths at U.S. bases – many of which are run by KBR – Army investigators in January recommended the manner of death for Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth be changed from “accidental” to “negligent homicide.” Maseth was electrocuted in January 2008 while taking a shower at his Baghdad base.

The Defense Contract Management Agency has documented 231 shock incidents from September 2006 through July of last year – seven months after Maseth’s death. The agency said in its 45-page report that KBR “failed to meet the basic requirements to identify life-threatening conditions on tanks, water pumps, electrical outlets and electrical panels.”

The Army is considering charging two unnamed KBR supervisors and the company at large with criminal liability. No charges have been filed yet.

IBEW members who have worked for the contractor in Iraq have helped shine a light on the myriad problems at KBR-run facilities. Portland, Ore., Local 48 member Debbie Crawford worked in Baghdad’s Green Zone from 2004 to 2006. She testified before a Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing last year about the poor management and shoddy quality of work she saw being performed by unlicensed, barely-trained employees working alongside licensed IBEW electricians. Maseth’s mother, Cheryl Harris, also testified (see “IBEW Urges Electrical Safety at U.S. Bases,” October 2008, The Electrical Worker).

“Some of us who went to Iraq were so stunned that we couldn’t in good conscience move forward without trying to right some wrongs we saw on the worksites,” Crawford said. “I feel strongly that it was our testimonies that got the ball rolling on investigating KBR’s actions abroad.”

Since then, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) have pressed the Pentagon and the Army to conduct assessments of KBR-run facilities. “We must not only ensure that full accountability is served in this case, but that the Pentagon is also doing all that it can to prevent the future electrocutions of American personnel in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” Casey said.

Crawford warned members considering whether to sign up. “People need to go over there fully informed, and know what to expect – that they’re frequently on their own,” Crawford said. Appearing on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show March 9, Crawford told 2 million viewers about water systems yielding high voltage rates that shocked many troops and civilians and how her foreman was not even an electrician.

“Things may not be perfect, but they are turning around,” says Savannah, Ga., Local 508 journeyman wireman Henry Blount. He worked for KBR in the Green Zone from 2004 to 2006 then served as an electrical auditor for Versar International Assistance Projects – a Colorado-based company – in Iraq. His recent duties included eliminating hazards in base infrastructures.

Blount was reassigned to Afghanistan last month. He says that while challenges are considerable, he appreciates the opportunity to help instruct Iraqi and Afghan electricians as they strive to make a better life for themselves.

“The IBEW brothers and sisters over here all support the troops, and we all support a safe work environment,” Blount said. “I feel confident I’m helping make the situation better each time I step on the job site.”

For Brashears, going to Iraq allows him to put the IBEW’s high standards to work in a changing and challenging environment.

“The fact that KBR turned to the IBEW when they needed more licensed electricians shows what a safety-conscious, efficient and professional work force our union has,” Brashears said. “I’m deeply saddened by the troop deaths and accidents, and I hope some military families will rest easier knowing that their loved ones are in the very capable hands of the IBEW.” (click HERE to read original article)

Ms Spartky

IBEW Loses Sister Katharina (Kat) Engnell

The IBEW loses Sister Katharina (Kat) Engnell, a licensed journeyman electrician from Local 46 in Seattle, Washington. Engell was electrocuted and died on the job on November 20, 2008 at the Saint Gobain glass plant.

Kat Engnell was an amazing woman. Originally from the South, Kat moved to Seattle after receiving her Masters Degree in Fine Arts. She bought a beautiful home in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood and then decided to become an electrician. She started attending the PSEJATC Apprenticeship program in 2000.

Kat was a most humble, hard working, serious electrician. Diversity and full inclusion in the electrical industry were passions of hers. The fact that a scholarship for those seeking to become Union Trades people is being funded in her name testifies to that. If you would like to donate, please make checks or money orders payable to the Katharina Engnell Memorial Schollarship Fund, Account 471001014441 at Key Bank.

Her interests included kayaking, raising hens, collecting antiques, creating and teaching art, politics, unionism, and rocking out to hippy music. If there was a party, Kat was there having a good time. She was a fantastic mechanic, intellectual, and a bohemian all in one. All who knew her can say that her kindness and generosity were boundless. She will be missed but will live on in the memories and stories of her, and in the kindness and care we show to each other in this truly dangerous field.

There is a memorial at the job site and a memorial service will be held at the IBEW Local 46 Hall in Kent, Washington on Thursday, December 4, 2008 at 5:00 p.m.

For me, the loss of any worker on the job is tragic. But the loss of an electrician is personal.

My personal condolences to Kat’s friends and family. My thanks to Nicole Grant for this information.

Ms Sparky
IBEW Local 48
Portland, Oregon

Update: The following info was taken from IBEW Local 46 website.
This item was posted on the IBEW Local 46 web site
http://www.ibew46.com/kat.html :

IBEW Local 46 Electrician, Kat Engnell, was killed at work, Thursday,
November 20, 2008, during the day shift at the Saint Gobain glass plant. Kat
was up on a metal platform, like a catwalk, doing lighting maintenance. It
is normal to work on equipment up there while it is still ‘hot’,
unfortunately, while Kat was changing out a 500W 120V fixture, after making
sure that the ground and neutrals had both been made up, she was
electrocuted and died. She was found by a Local 46 Brother working on sight
who stayed with her body until the fire crew got her down and took her away.

The following comment was left via email by a Safety professional:

I suspect that she was not wearing rubber insulating gloves, considered by
most electricians as unnecessary and too cumbersome for this type of low
voltage work.

According to 1910 subpart S
1910.333(a)(1) “Live parts to which an employee may be exposed shall be
deenergized before the employee works on or near them….” (does not apply to
circuits of 50 volts or less)
1910.333(a)(2) “If the exposed live parts are not deenergized (i.e., for
reasons of increased or additional hazards or infeasability) other
safety-related work practices shall be employed …”
1910.335(a)(1)(i) Employees working in areas where there are potential
electrical hazards shall be provided with, and shall use, electrical
protective equipment that is appropriate for the specific parts of the body
to be protected and for the work to be performed.

NFPA 70E 2009 – Table 130.7(C)(9)
Panelboards or other equipment rated 240 volts and below
Work on energized electrical conductors or circuit parts, including voltage
testing requires the use of Rubber Insulating gloves and Insulated or
Insulating Tools.

IBEW Member And Mother of Soldiers Shares Concerns

The “Electrical Worker” a monthly publication of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) recently published an article spotlighting IBEW member Marijane Green, mother if two active duty Marines. This mother is seriously concerned about the safety of her sons. You can read this article entitled “Troops Endangered By Shoddy Electrical Work” by clicking HERE page 2.

Another noteworthy article in this publication is the one entitled “A National Disgrace” by IBEW International Secretary-Treasurer Lindell K. Lee. Click HERE to read it page 14.

Although the unions do not have jurisdiction outside the US and Canada we have a moral and ethical obligation to put a stop to the unsafe work practices that are putting our American Soldiers and workers at risk. To put a stop to the harassment, the threats, the intimidation tactics. Not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but ANY project funded by US tax dollars.

I have said it before and I will say it until it’s a law….”US Citizens working on US Government funded projects overseas should be afforded the same protections (OSHA and labor laws) as their co-workers in the US.” For example..New Embassy projects, new Consulates and military facilities…just to name a few. If it’s important enough to employ an American and in many cases an American with a clearance, then it’s important enough to give them OHSA and labor law protection.

Ms Sparky