TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - This time last year, right to work legislation just passed into Indiana law. 12 months later, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported union membership in 2012 was at its lowest point in more than 20 years. But locally, one union is working to keep membership strong in uncertain waters.
Spring break is not just a time off for local schools. It's also a week off for the men and women working in a different set of classrooms; the apprentices of the local electrical workers union IBEW 725.
"I believe this year we have 35 apprentices, it's our largest class ever," said Joe Kerr, IBEW 725's business representative.
Kerr said while the classrooms are empty for spring break. They'll be more than full in years to come.
"We've got a lot of baby boomers, we're like everybody else. We're gonna see an attrition rate higher than the past. So we gotta keep the new guys coming in," Kerr said.
Shocking news especially in spite of Right to Work laws that say workers do not have to pay dues to a union for membership.
A year later union membership across the state is down to record lows, but Kerr says not in IBEW 725.
"We're in a unique situation because we have jurisdiction in Indiana and Illinois. Well Illinois' not a right to work state," he said. "So if you wanna work in our local in Illinois, you've got to maintain membership."
Another advantage for the union is workers from 725 travel all over the Wabash Valley and beyond for jobs.
But Kerr says even with that in their favor, leadership is working towards new benefits to keep and bring in new members.
"We are also working on another benefit, for our due-paying members, that would allow us to start a fund, which would supplement their insurance when they retire," he said.
A local union navigating an uncertain state trend with a few ideas of their own.
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