The New York Electrical Contractors Association (NYECA) is the largest chapter of the National Electrical Contractors’ Association (NECA) and one of the oldest industry organizations of its kind in the country. In 2017, NYECA will celebrate its 125th anniversary and continues to serve as the leading voice for New York’s $13 billion electrical industry.
As an association, NYECA promotes the core values of experience, expertise, reliability, safety and client satisfaction. Members work on New York’s most complex and critical electrical, commercial and residential high-rise installations, transit systems, environmental water treatment projects, power plants, infrastructure installations, transportation, educational, healthcare and institutional construction sites across New York City and Westchester and Fairfield Counties. For more than a century, the New York City skyline has continued to shine bright because of the accomplishments of NYECA members.
NYECA has had an industry presence since the discovery and early commercialization of electricity. The age of electricity dates back to 1878, with the invention of the first light bulb and the opening of Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York in 1879. The electrical industry quickly took off in New York, and as the population continued to grow, so did the demand and integration of electricity.
As demand increased, the Edison Company, the sole provider of electricity at the time, found it increasingly difficult to address the demand for power and its installation. As a means to satisfy this growing demand, electrical companies were formed to support the installation of electrical systems and projects that integrated the population’s demand for Edison’s electricity supply.
In 1891, a growing group of electricians came together and unionized as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local #3 to represent their common interests as electricians in this booming industry. To navigate the increasingly complex environment that had been created, NYECA was established to promote greater joint cooperation between the union and contractors.
On August 10, 1892, 17 electrical contractors gathered to form an association of organized contractors to work with the organized electricians to keep the industry safe, efficient, and profitable. By helping to stabilize the industry, NYECA was helping it to thrive and prosper.
“The mission was to stabilize the industry and to create an organized group of contractors to work with the organized electricians. At that point there were 17 members. Today, we have 225 members representing all different facets of electrical work in the New York Metropolitan area,” described Hal Sokoloff, Governor and past-president of NYECA and President of H&L Electric, one of New York’s leading electrical contractors.
NYECA’s original constitution describes the Association’s mission to “Promote harmony between employer and employee… to further the interests of electrical contractors… to render aid and comfort to members.” Though this mission remains, NYECA has expanded its role and presence in the industry
According to Sokoloff, “Our original mission was focused on working with organized labor. While that emphasis is at the core of our mission, our work today has grown to also include the education of our contractors, public relations, and outreach to the many regulatory agencies that govern safe and reliable electrical installations; these agencies include the Department of Buildings and the Fire Department of New York, among many others,” he added. “The marketplace has changed. For us to be relevant, we are also changing and advancing our work and approaches to meet the needs of a dynamic real estate and development market.”
NYECA has played an important role in the advancement of the electrical industry. In fact, NYECA would become Chapter 1 of NECA, preceding the national organization by 11 years and establishing the basis from which it would be formed. The constitution drafted and accepted by NYECA would guide various comparable local, state, and national associations. For NYECA it was always about establishing industry standards and supporting innovation.
Addressing the challenges faced by its members in the emerging industry, NYECA continues to work on establishing new wiring techniques, setting quality standards, training and using new education techniques to develop a highly skilled workforce, and ensuring materials are available.
A broad membership
NYECA’s membership is broad. “We represent contractors that have two electricians and those firms who have over 1000 electricians, and each is given the same attention. They all sit around the table and voice their opinions about how changes impact their part of the industry,” explained Sokoloff. “Everybody and anybody who has a signed collective bargaining agreement with Local #3 is open to join our organization.”
Today, NYECA includes the largest group of minority and women business enterprises (MWBEs) in the New York construction industry. As such, NYECA MWBE members help to advance the role of minorities and women in the industry as a whole. “Of our 225 contractors, 38 of those contractors are MWBE,” stated Edwin Lopez, Chapter Manager of NYECA.
Collective bargaining is key
One of NYECA’s primary functions is to serve as a collective bargaining representative for all of its contractors. Members entrust the association’s highly respected and knowledgeable negotiating team to reach agreements that keep the industry profitable and moving forward.
The collective bargaining/labor relations aspect requires a great deal of communication and information sharing, so all parties are able to come to a mutually beneficial agreement. Contractors benefit greatly from membership with NYECA; one of the main advantages is having access to information and resources to support their operations.
“In the business of construction, it’s about conflict resolution and making every effort to advance the industry forward. On the collective bargaining side, once every three years we are charged with organizing the members, their ideas and representing their challenges at the bargaining table with the Union. Doing this accurately requires a lot of preparation and case study analyses,” said Lopez.
A consistent return on investment (ROI)
NYECA brings great return on investment to its members, explained Lopez. “There is an obvious cost to membership, and we honor the dues that are paid to the organization commensurate with the value of service we provide,” Lopez explained. “We continue to develop a productive agenda that considers membership ROI, industry technological advancements, regulatory issues, new safety standards and other matters that bear directly on our members’ business growth and development.”
As NYECA continues to build on its 125 year legacy of powering New York City, advancing opportunity, safety, and the industry as a whole, it must be acknowledged that the organization’s Executive Committee operates on a volunteer basis, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year, while simultaneously maintaining their own contracting firms.
The level of dedication of the executive committee is admirable. “I learned from all the members of the executive committee to see how to better the industry, how to better educate our contractors, how to make the organization a very important part of a contractor’s day-to-day life,” explained Sokoloff, who spent nearly eight years moving through NYECA’s ranks, building and carrying forward institutional memory.
Member services are at the heart of NYECA’s mission and purpose. A big part of this service over the past 10 to 15 years has involved over 150 Project Labor Agreements (PLA) under which its members work. The association continues to help its members navigate through the complexity of these agreements.
“Our role has changed – organized labor is working with us to make our rates more competitive,” described Sokoloff. “PLAs are comprised of different concessions or modifications that organized labor makes to have the organized contractors be more competitive in the bidding process.
“The unionized market in our geographic area is changing,” said Sokoloff. “As our market share changes, our members are working diligently to keep us competitive, introducing variable labor rates for different jobs in select geographic parts of the electrical industry. The original constitution described the association’s mission to promote harmony between employer and employee, to further the interests of electrical contractors and to render aid and comfort to members. That was the mission 125 years ago and it is not that different today,” Sokoloff noted.
Success built on commitment
“Organizations are successful on purpose and there are no accidents. It takes a tremendous commitment from our individual members in light of the fact that they are operating in a community of competitors. That is a profound dynamic, when you think about that,” he added.
NYECA is proud of what has been accomplished throughout the five boroughs of New York City and the surrounding counties– not only as individual employers, but together as an association. “From the bombing of the Trade Center in 1993 to the world changing events of September 11, 2001, when we were called upon to rebuild downtown and the stock exchange, NYECA was the first to respond.” In fact, it was the New York Electrical Contractors Association that brought Wall Street back online.
When Hurricane Sandy hit the shores of New York in 2012 and devastated so many lives and properties, NYECA played an integral role in the disaster recovery efforts and the rebuilding that ensued. Disaster relief work continues to this day in the affected areas and NYECA members are leading the industry in emergency, recovery and resiliency work. “NYECA always comes through when New York calls,” affirmed Lopez.
Indeed, NYECA is highly committed to advancing the communities of which it is a part: as a community of contractors, as an industry, and as the city of New York. NYECA and its members are active volunteers who conduct philanthropic work at local non-profits and many national and international charities.
“I love using the expression paying it forward,” Sokoloff stated. “We’re going to be celebrating our 125th anniversary in August 2017 and it’s so exciting to think that this organization started from the invention of the light bulb to now. To last 125 years, it’s incredible. I don’t know how many trade organizations have been around this long.”
NYECA is committed to excellent construction with a qualified, trained and safe workforce. “We take care of our employees. They are paid well, they receive great benefits and as a result we’re in a position to build quality construction,” Sokoloff added.
NYECA remains at the forefront of moving its industry and its members forward. Today, the association celebrates its legacy through the thousands of installations that bring power, light, security, sustainable solutions and so much more to the quality of life of the businesses, homes, and organizations it serves.