Powering London for 111 Years: IBEW Local 120 Celebrates its Anniversary

IBEW Local 120 logo and training hall imageLocal 120 was officially chartered on February 12, 1907, but has roots in a railroad union from 1900. For over a century, they have been an integral part of the London community. Their members wired the Fanshawe dam that supplies London’s power, the factories where its people work, the schools where they learn, and the hospitals where they go for medical care.

“I am so proud of this local,” says President Jim Dumaresq.

“It’s in my blood – my father and my brother were both members. My father was Beverly Earl Dumaresq, and he served as President and then as Business Manager. I grew up hearing stories around the dinner table about how he spent his day fighting for the little guy. He got his 65 year pin just before he passed on.”

A History of Accomplishments

IBEW Local 120 in 1907
The original London Local 120 just after formation, when seven power line workers split off from a railway workers’ union over lack of safety regulation.

“We’ve done great things for London over the years,” reflects Dumaresq. “We’ve wired plants for Ford, Cami and Toyota. We’ve powered quarries that mine lime for cement. The last few years have been successful, too, with our members working on area hospitals plus solar power and wind towers.”

You can read more about a few key projects on Local 120’s website.

“I’ve been told by a few clients of ours that the reason they use IBEW is that the cost of fixing things is too high if you don’t. Apparently, they’re trying nonunion, and finding that they end up spending more to fix problems, in the first few years, after construction.”

Local 120 has also been assisting other locals with large projects. “We gave our brothers and sisters in Kitchener a hand when they were building the new RBC data centre. All the wiring, emergency generators, and telecommunications were done by the IBEW.”

Goals for the Future

IBEW Local 120 Labour Day Parade 1915
Electricity not only brought increased comfort to the working class, but also jobs. IBEW Local 120 in the Labour Day Parade of 1915. London Free Press photo.

What are Dumaresq’s ambitions for the future of Local 120? “I’ve got a bucket list that’s pretty much endless,” he laughs.

One of his plans has started to come together already: to improve the synergy between young members and older ones. Numbering at just under 600 people, Local 120 has about 180 retired members who are an incredible resource is many ways.

“We’ve just sent away the request to charter our NextGen group, and we have a good Political Action Committee. I’m helping them to work more with our retirees on the same goals. It’s my way of giving our younger members what I had growing up – there’s so much they can learn from the older generation.”

Dumaresq points out that London has many of the same issues that our country has as a whole, with the loss of manufacturing plants. “If we don’t do something, our middle class will continue to suffer. I know of people who are over 75 years old who still need to work to pay their bills, and buy the necessary medications so often needed when you get to that age. I think it’s criminal that some people in Canada have to choose between heat, food, and medicine.”

Ensuring that women know that IBEW is an option for them is also important for Dumaresq. “Local 120 promotes gender equality and hopes that more women join the IBEW.”

Extending a Hand in Troubled Political Times

The Provincial election on June 7 is also one Dumaresq’s priorities.

“I live in the depths of farm country,” he explains. “ The majority around here vote Conservative. I will continue to reach out to candidates and voters to share with them how our governments can support the protection offered to workers by unions.”

Dumaresq cites a recent example. “I had a great discussion with our conservative representative for about 45 minutes not long ago. I shared a variety of concerns with her. I know that the issues discussed were probably not in keeping with her party’s platform but, to her credit, she kept listening. At the end, she said that if I wanted to talk further, she was open to that.”

Commenting on his ability to speak with people who may not be sympathetic, Dumaresq explains, “It’s all about treating people properly. If you have basic respect for everyone and treat them the way you would want to be treated, you’ll find you get more of that respect in return.”

A Great Team

IBEW Local 120 constitution
The original constitution of IBEW Local 120.

Dumaresq has no trouble recognizing key players at Local 120. “We have a great team right now in London, and they all deserve credit, including our Business Manager John Gibson.”

There are former Business Managers whose work has been invaluable. “John Pender was BM for 9 years, and went on to work at the CCO for many more. Joe O’Brien was also very influential.”

Dumaresq also points out that he owes a debt to significant members from the past. “Chris Ingram was the first journeyman I worked with, and we lost him too early. There are many more who mentored, and continue to support me, in my career with IBEW. These individuals serve as a huge inspiration to me.

Sharing the Benefits

“My dream,” concludes Dumaresq, “is to give the great opportunities I’ve had with the IBEW to more electricians in the London area. We do a great job because of the time we put into education and safety training. We don’t have the public recognition we deserve, and I intend to change that.”