IBEW Local 1245 Builds Powerful Connections with IP Communications Service

Staff connect with members anywhere, from any device.

Being available to members is vital for a labor union’s staff, but IBEW Local 1245’s aging phone system was unreliable and expensive, and didn’t let staff communicate in the ways that were most convenient for members. Local 1245, which helps deliver power to America, needed a better way to connect with members and more efficiently conduct union business.

About IBEW 1245

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) is a labor union that represents electricians and linemen in the construction, public utility, computer, telecommunications and broadcasting industries. IBEW Local 1245, the union’s second largest local, has nearly 20,000 members providing valuable services to their communities for more than 200 employers and contractors in California and Nevada.


Communicating with members is a vital part of a labor union’s mission. Local 1245 needed a communications system that would better keep staff, members and colleagues connected and support the union’s important work.


RingCentral Office@Hand from AT&T is a cost-effective, highly-secure IP business phone service that lets staff work virtually anywhere and connect seamlessly on almost any device. It also provides advanced features that enable staff to collaborate more effectively and perform their jobs more efficiently.

Electrical Workers Light the Way

The IBEW was founded in 1891, shortly after electricity became available in the U.S. Union members deliver the power to homes and businesses, make phone calls and Internet connectivity available, and help construct schools, hospitals and other structures on which Americans rely.

The union signed its first labor agreement with a forerunner of Pacific Gas & Electric in 1900. Local 1245 completed the historic organizing effort at PG&E in 1952 after decades of courageous struggle by several generations of workers. Today’s union members remember the sacrifices of the workers before them who fought for a safer workplace, a better standard of living and a voice on the job.

Doug Girouard, Local 1245 IT Director, said the local members appreciate the value of their union. “Most of them will tell you that they’re proud to be union members. I think they understand the benefit of collective bargaining and the security and benefits that it provides them and their families,” he said.

Unions fulfill an important role in American business, Girouard said, defending members against unjust actions and helping people who may not have the resources on their own to get benefits and wages that they can live on. “Helping people who may have been wronged by their employers and working with employers to provide a safe working environment is pretty noble work,” he said.

Seeking Better Connections

As IT Director, Girouard is responsible for handling day-to-day technology issues, managing the local’s outsourced desktop support provider, evaluating new technologies, planning expansion and ensuring adequate capacity for the local’s staff. He also manages the communications needs of employees in the field, including representatives stationed throughout 1245’s service territory providing representation to members wherever they work.

The staff uses a variety of devices, including desk phones, smartphones, tablets and laptops, to conduct union business. “Local 1245 is relatively advanced in terms of technology, unlike many of the organizations with which we interact,” Girouard said. “They’re behind the curve technologically – a lot of them still use fax machines, paper documentation and snail mail.”

This required staff to send faxes often which was a problem since the union’s communications system did not support electronic fax messaging. In addition, reliability became an issue as the union’s equipment aged. “We had some significant problems with our old system,” he said. “Just getting it to work in even a minimally acceptable manner was a struggle.”

Cost was another factor that led Girouard to begin looking for a better solution. “We had to pay for the device itself, then we had to pay a consultant to come in and help us set up the device,” he said. “It was at its end-of-life for manufacturer support so we were looking at having to buy another device and deal with this all over again.”

Finally, remote administration of the device was not a simple matter. This presented a big problem, as Girouard often works outside of the office. “It was also costly and difficult to use, so that was the impetus for us to begin looking at a new system,” he said.

A Strong, Reliable Network

The union considered several solutions but chose RingCentral Office@ Hand from AT&T, an end-to-end cloud-based phone system, to support the important work of its staff on whatever device they prefer. The reliability and strength of the AT&T network was a big selling point for the local, Girouard said. “That was a big plus,” he said. The network’s availability supports employees’ productivity wherever their jobs take them.

Other differentiators in favor of the AT&T solution were the union’s ability to use existing equipment and the simplified pricing model. “We liked that we didn’t have to go out and buy new phones, and the pricing and value were good,” he said. “We’re really happy – we’ve reduced our monthly communications costs by more than half.”

The system was easy to deploy, Girouard said, and it’s simple to make system changes via Office@Hand’s web portal or smartphone app. The local’s IT Director can update, configure and manage the office phone system no matter where he’s working, and access features such as auto-receptionist, multiple extensions, voicemail and faxing. “It’s very, very easy with RingCentral Office@Hand from AT&T,” he said. “As long as I’ve got an Internet connection I can essentially administer the system from virtually anywhere.”

Streamlined Processes, Satisfied Staff

Staff members have adjusted easily to the new system. “The benefits far outweighed any inconveniences they may have had in the transition,” he said. “When we started using it, they saw that it was worth their efforts to adjust.” Staff especially like being able to access their voice messages via email and send and receive electronic faxes. “We use these features quite a bit; we got rid of almost all of our fax machines,” he said.

Staff can now have documents faxed directly to their own number, versus having all faxes sent to one machine. “Now they don’t have to sift through all the faxes to see what’s theirs,” he said. “And they can send faxes without having to walk over to a fax machine and worry about whether it’s going to work. That alone has made a huge difference.”

The electronic faxes also make it easier for staff to document union members’ credentials, especially for ‘dispatch’ members who are sent to a number of different worksites. “Before the union introduced Office@Hand our dispatch processing staff had to sift through multiple documents to find the ones that were being sent to a given dispatcher, and then they would have to scan those documents into our system,” Girouard said. “Now the documents show up as a PDF attachment, which dispatchers can view, check and import into our system without any paper involved, without any fax machines and without ever having to get up from their desks. That was a big improvement.”

The local appreciates the automatic confirmation emails they receive every time they send a fax. “We have a lot of times when people say, ‘Well, you didn’t send that fax,’” he said, “but now we get confirmation emails, which has improved fax processing.”

Small changes can mean a great deal to people, Girouard noted. “When we switched to Office@Hand, the staff was also really excited about not having to dial 8 to get an outside line,” he said. “They also love how an app will pop up on their computer screen when a call comes in. They don’t have to look over at their phone – they can easily decide whether or not they want to take the call right away or defer it to voicemail. This definitely reduces breaks in concentration, so that’s another plus.”

Increased Flexibility

RingCentral Office@Hand from AT&T has made it easier for union members to get assistance when their Business Representatives, who are responsible for helping members in specific geographic areas, are unavailable. The union designates a “Rep of the Day” to assist members when their rep is out sick or on vacation.

“Every day we would have to forward the number of a desk phone from our main office to whoever was the rep of the day,” he said. The system didn’t permit union members to leave voicemails, so they’d have to keep calling back for help if the rep of the day was busy helping another member when they called.

RingCentral Office@Hand from AT&T makes it possible for callers to leave voicemails any time, which are forwarded to the rep of the day’s phone and copied to his or her email address. Members get their messages through more quickly and there’s no longer a need for the office to maintain a dedicated line for the rep of the day, Girouard added.

Local 1245 officials were so pleased with RingCentral Office@Hand from AT&T that they soon upgraded to the premium version of the service, which includes a Multi-Level Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system that lets the union simplify incoming call configurations and route calls more efficiently. “The premium edition enables us to more easily create the IVR menus and gives us additional toll-free minutes,” he said.

Looking Down the Line

Girouard summed up the benefits of RingCentral Office@Hand from AT&T for the IBEW Local 1245: “Cost, reliability and ease of administration,” he said. “I am very happy with it, overall.”

He said he’d definitely recommend the service to other local unions. “In terms of reliability and costs, for our situation and the phones we had and the system that we had, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.” And he was impressed with the interactions he has had with AT&T representatives. “It’s been very good,” he said. “They’re very helpful, patient and effective.”

Looking forward, Girouard sees continuing to enhance the local’s IT infrastructure. “We’re redesigning our data center and we’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of our internal processes,” he said. “And we want to put the technological foundation in place so we can improve those processes.”

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