“The Power of IBEW 1245 is Enhanced by the Participation of its Retirees” — Local 1245 retiree activists speak out on the value of staying active in the union during retirement

Tom “T” Bird

I have stayed a member of the retirees club because I truly enjoy the camaraderie of my union brothers and sisters who I worked alongside of for so many years.  I know that they share the same values of hard work, dedication, and safety that we proudly displayed in the workforce and in our current lives.

The most vivid and long-lasting memory I have on the importance of retiree activism is when our post-retirement benefits were under attack by the company. We turned our shock into activism and we collectively worked to let the company know that we were not taking their assault lying down. We joined together in letter-writing campaign, rallies, and, with the help of the IBEW Local 1245, we crashed stockholder meetings and award ceremonies. If we hadn’t taken that collective action, we would have lost the health benefits promised to us during the time in our lives when we need them the most.

The most surprising thing I learned when I retired is that not only can the company try and renege on our benefits, but there are people in Congress who want to mess with our Social Security. This is our earned benefit, and no one should take it away from us. We need to continue our work to strengthen these benefits for current and future retirees so that all working people can feel secure in their retirement.

Thomas “T” Bird retired from NV Energy in 2005 after 32 years of service. He is the president of the Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans and chairs IBEW 1245’s Yerington Retirees Club.

Kevin Krummes

Staying active with 1245 after I retired wasn’t really a choice, as I never considered ending my union activism just because I jettisoned my day job. It’s not just that the work is so important, it’s that I can’t imagine life without volunteering, working, or just hanging out with my union brothers and sisters. I’ve made some great friends along the way and would miss the camaraderie and sense of purpose that we share too much to just walk away.

Just because we’re retired doesn’t mean that we are exempt from worker’s issues. In order to keep what we have earned during our careers, we need a strong union presence to fight the inevitable attacks on pensions and health care. I feel fortunate that the union has given me a lot in life, decent wages and great benefits that helped me raise my kids without fear of going hungry or not being able to afford to see a doctor. I want to see the same for my younger brothers and sisters; they deserve the same quality of life that I’ve had.

Kevin Krummes retired from PG&E in 2020 after 33 years of service. He was one of Local 1245’s first organizing stewards.

Dan Dougherty

During my time as member of Local 97 I was very active in supporting the union.  Once my wife and I were settled in here, I wanted to learn more about the labor movement and the IBEW in California. I was put in touch with Local 1245’s retiree group, and I have participated in the last few Zoom meetings.  In my brief time with the group, I can say I’m definitely impressed with the level of support that Local 1245 and the retirees show for each other. They have worked together in these challenging times of COVID to maintain and grow the retiree group.

Dan Dougherty retired at the end of 2018 as a member of Local 97 is in upstate New York. Dougherty and his wife moved to Lodi, California, which is his wife’s hometown, in 2019

Greg Kestel

One of the great things about being retired is having more freedom to participate in our union and making sure we can all do our part in securing what we have won over the years and pushing to make it even better, for both retirees and active members.

Since retiring from PG&E, I’ve gone to the local retirees meetings and joined the Organizing Stewards of 1245. Without the participation of both active and retirees going to Sacramento and making our voices heard, we’d be getting the short end of the stick handed to us – or handed no stick at all.

So far, I’ve gone a couple of times to the Capitol in Sacramento to meet with legislators to let them know our position, from the wildfire legislation to knowing our support of our labor allies. We meet as a group and then split up in pairs to knock on the doors of State Senators or Assembly members. If we can’t talk directly to a legislator, we let their staff know our position. It’s a good feeling to actually make that personal contact with our representatives – and let them know they are supposed to work for us. They know with each one of our individual voices, they can count on more votes from our members.

Greg Kestel retired from PG&E in 2018 after 18 years of service.

Bill Wallace

The power of IBEW 1245 is enhanced by the participation of its retirees.  As recipients of union-gained benefits, retirees understand the power of unity in achieving economic security and the peace of mind it creates.  Security, in retirement, allows us the luxury of electing people that reflect our values.  Our continued involvement allows us to control not only our own economic security, but our children’s and grandchildren’s as well.

Bill Wallace retired from City of Santa Clara in 2005 after 28 years of service. He is chair of the IBEW 1245 North Bay Retirees Club.

As a retiree of NV Energy, I believe it is interesting to keep abreast of happenings in NV Energy. We learn of this information at our monthly chapter meetings and our retiree Chapter President, Tom Bird, is very good at forwarding information about NV Energy that is of interest to retirees. I am also interested in keeping up with all of the current Local 1245 activities and status updates I receive at our monthly meetings. I appreciate the information we learn regarding NV Energy, progress, growth, legislative action, employee updates, and other IBEW activity.

Alyce Reese retired from NV Energy in 1998 after 29 years of service. She was one of the founding members of IBEW 1245’s Yerington Retirees Club.

Paul Gallon


I feel it is extremely important for the retirees to be involved with the union. It is beneficial to active members and retirees both. In my working years, many issues were important, such as job security, benefits, safety, and education on the national concerns that involved the labor movement. Now that I’m retired, those issues are still important, and I think it is even more necessary to be involved through the union.

My wife and I were able to go to the Capitol in Sacramento to advocate for PG&E and SMUD workers on different occasions. That sense of camaraderie that was shared by the retirees’ group and active workers there was one of great joy and accomplishment. We are truly Brothers and Sisters in Local 1245.

Paul V. Gallon retired from PG&E in 2007 after 37 years of service.

Ken Rawles

I became a shop steward in mid-60s and have remained active even after my retirement. I became an Organizing Steward for 1245, and enjoy still helping out our local 1245 when I can by showing up at the State capitol and other events to show our strength in numbers.

There is a myth that, when we retire, we cannot still be active in attending 1245 meetings and help with supporting our local. We can still attend regular unit meetings, as well 1245 retiree club meetings!

The times and locations can be viewed on the IBEW 1245 website (meetings are temporarily suspended due to COVID, but hope to resume soon). You can even help start a retiree club in your area by contacting Tonya Alston at Vacaville union headquarters. And we encourage you to join the IBEW Retirees, which entitles you to extra benefits, for just $36.00 per year. You can also stay informed on IBEW activities by going into the IBEW 1245 website.

Ken Rawles retired from PG&E in 2001 after 35 years of service. He is also the chair of 1245’s Santa Rosa Retirees Club.

Ruth Bailey

After spending time going from teller to branch manager, working for various banks, from New York to Germany to California, having to speak Dutch and working with foreign currencies, I landed a cashier’s position at the front desk of PG&E, making more money than I was as a branch manager. Thank you IBEW Local 1245 for the contract back in 1982.

I started as a Utility clerk and ascended to Service Representative 1. I worked at various offices, Vacaville, Fairfield, Napa, and Rio Vista. During this time, I became a Shop Steward at Local 1245. (I also met Mr. Bailey at the front counter, we were married 25 years before he passed.)

My last 17 years were at the Sacramento Contact center, and as a Shop Steward I experienced a lot of good times and bad times at PG&E. I was also the recording secretary for our local Unit meeting. I worked very closely with a two wonderful business reps, Dwayne Greer and Arlene Edwards. They taught me a lot about the Union and sent me out to represent Local 1245 at wonderful conferences.

In the past few years, I joined the Organizing Steward program at the request of Fred Ross and have experienced activities that have given me great joy. I worked on door-to-door campaigns in Sacramento, stomped through the State Capitol with the Retirees and Organizing Stewards to push for key legislation. I am happy to be part of IBEW local 1245 Organizing Stewards and am looking forward to our next challenge.

Ruth Bailey retired from PG&E in 2012 after 29 years of service.

Rita Weisshaar

When I retired, I thought, “Now it’s time to relax.” I had gone to school for the first 20 years of my life, been married, taken care of my family, and worked for the next 40 years — and when I retired, I thought it would be time for some “ME” time.  Then I joined the IBEW 1245 Retirees’ Club, and found there is another part of retirement that makes it even better. There are so many positives of being a member of the Retirees Club and engaged in something bigger than myself, it is hard to narrow it into a few words.

The Retirees’ Club helps to keep me connected with my former work friends, and I have also made many new ones.  It keeps me up to date on what is happening in the Union and our state that might affect us as retirees – and it gives us retirees the opportunity to work together through our Union to make a real impact on our legislators and communities. When I dreamt about my retirement, I never imagined myself joining with other Union members for rallies at our state legislature, or walking a picket line for casino workers or nurses, but the feeling I get from standing with others is amazing. I have some great memories working on the Shame on NV Energy campaign, election campaigns and others. Being a part of union activism will always bring joy to my heart and make me smile.

Retirees have two things our working brothers and sisters do not: time and experience that we can use to make our world better for everyone through our activism.

Rita Weisshaar retired from NV Energy in 2010 after 26 years of service. She is also a Local 1245 organizing steward.

In the early 80s, I was a young (20) apprentice lineman and newly minted shop steward, the start of my long run of union activism.

After 35 years, I retired. Now for most unions, that would be the end… “Have a great life and thanks…” But not at Local 1245, which has valued its retirees and encouraged them to step up and stay active.

Since I’ve retired, I have been a member of the Retirees Club, I’ve campaigned for labor-friendly candidates, and I’ve worked on two LU Election Boards. I appreciate seeing other retirees stepping up as well, especially through the Organizing Stewards program. Many thanks to Local 1245 for providing these opportunities!

Mike Grimm retired from NV Energy in 2014 after 36 years of service.

Ron Borst

I grew up in northeastern Washington state, in a town of 30 people. The word ‘union’ did not exist in that area.

Eventually, I got a chance to go to work for an IBEW contractor. I joined IBEW Local 77 and got a chance to complete the lineman apprenticeship. I began to see the importance of a union, the ‘old boomer’ linemen saw to that, telling me, “Be at the union meeting or else!”  That was 50+ years ago.

I was very active in my state and Local 125, in Portland Oregon, but I was pretty quiet here at 1245 until 2009. I had been retired three years, and that’s when all hell broke loose!  NV Energy CEO Michael Yakira arbitrarily kept our retiree medical benefits that we had bought and paid for in negotiations.  It was time to fight! That we did, with the help from Tom Dalzell, Fred Ross Jr, Eileen Purcell, and the 1245 Executive Board. Vickie and I worked at signing up 1245 retirees to join the Retirees Club in our “Right to Work” state. We won that battle with the support of the retirees. We also took on the billionaires in Nevada and defeated Question 3, which would have deregulated the utilities in Nevada.

The IBEW has influenced many communities in a positive way, and being involved keeps us strong. It gives me great pleasure to see 140+ organizing stewards stepping up; I know the torch will be carried way into the future by these able-bodied people.

Ron Borst retired from NV Energy in 2006 after 40 years of service. He’s the president of the Reno/Sparks Retirees Club.

Vickie Borst

The last six years of my 26 years working at Sierra Pacific/NV Energy I was very busy representing my union on several committees. I retired in December of 2006, but I stayed until about February 2007 for completion of the negotiation committee I was part of. I stayed, without pay, because I wanted to see the negotiation completed and ratified.  This negotiation was extremely adverse. When the negotiations came to a close, my retirement was finally in process. Off to a new chapter in my life.

Nevada is a “Right to Work” state. I chose back in 1981 to be a member of IBEW Local 1245.  I thought my time as a proud member was over when I retired, but then in 2009, when our retiree medical came under attack, my union showed that they were not leaving the retirees behind to fend for themselves. Financial support, moral support, leadership, you name it.  The fight went on for over two years. But eventually, we won!

Becoming an Organizing Steward has been one of my greatest honors. Being a part of this chapter of my life, I could never have imagined a better place to be, and I will continue to be in awe of all we have done together.  Stay strong but most of all, stay United.

Vickie Borst retired in 2006 after 25 years of service. She is also a founding member of the Reno/Sparks Retirees Club.

David Palmer

During my career, working as a garageman, apprentice equipment mechanic, and equipment mechanic, I was proud to be in the union.  But because of work, kids, and school, I was lucky to find time to go to a monthly meeting.

Now that I have been retired for almost three years and the kids are gone, I am able to find the time to re-involve myself in the union, and being on my own, I found that I have been able to re-connect with some of my friends that retired before me.  Also I have had to help my aging parents a lot now, and I really appreciate the kind offers of help that I have been getting from Fred Ross and other retiree friends I have. So, time permitting, I really am happy I get a chance to give back to the union.

David Palmer retired in 2018 after 38 years of service.

– Cross post from IBEW 1245