Rick Passarelli Joins National Staff as Director of Veterans Affairs
Rick Passarelli retired as Business Manager of Local 18007 Chicago Gas Workers Union on January 1, 2019 to join the UWUA National Staff as Director of Veterans Affairs. As Chair of the UWUA Veterans Committee, Passarelli has overseen the work of the UWUA’s Utility Workers Military Assistance Program (UMAP), a project of the union’s Power 4 America Training Trust (P4A). Hundreds of veterans are UMAP graduates who are now enjoying the benefits of a career in the utility industry as UWUA members.
Utility Worker: What are your primary responsibilities as Director of Veterans Affairs?
Rick Passarelli: I will be servicing locals all over the country and meeting with employers to get them to understand the importance of what the Power 4 America Training Trust can offer them. If there’s the possibility of a veterans’ component to an employer’s training plans, even better, because we have the UMAP program.
UW: What is the UMAP program?
RP: The UMAP program was founded eight years ago in Chicago by the UWUA’s Power 4 America Training Trust. It provides veterans with a pathway to a lifelong career in the utility industry. We’ll be graduating cohort 20 and our 500th veteran on March 7 of this year. A total of 396 veterans are now Local 18007 members, representing more than one-quarter of the local’s total membership at Peoples Gas.
In Michigan, the UMAP program has a different structure. Most of those going through it are incumbent workers who are already UWUA members working for Consumers Energy, not new hires like in Chicago. UMAP Michigan is running strong with a number of classes scheduled for this year.
When I promote this across the country I will use the examples of Peoples Gas and Consumers Energy and tell employers that we can build a model that fits their workforce needs.
UW: What are your goals in your new position?
RP: I will strive to sign three new employers a year to participate in the Power 4 America Training Trust. Our experience shows the success of the P4A model of union members training union members. I will work to get new employers to understand this and join P4A.
The UWUA believes that veterans offer a lot to employers and are tremendous union brothers and sisters. The camaraderie of the military that UMAP graduates offer under the Power 4 America umbrella has proven its worth both to employers and the union.
The success of union-to-union training reinforces the importance of union membership, especially in right-to-work states.
UW: What are some of the specific skills veterans bring to their work?
RP: Veterans match up perfectly with many utility job classifications, especially as electricians, machinists, and in nuclear operations and management. In nuclear power generation and decommissioning, if someone served on a nuclear ship or submarine, they will already have the certifications needed to work in the civilian arena and will not have to go through expensive and time consuming training.
Electricians and machinists are going to play a major role in the growing wind and solar energy sectors and we will tap into a large veteran pool who have the certifications to go right to work on wind turbines and in photovoltaic power.
UW: How will you meet your goals?
RP: We have been working for a number of years with federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense, Department of Labor, and the Department of Energy, as well as with employers and I am confident the team we have put together will make it possible to accomplish the goals I have laid out.
UW: What do you want UWUA members to know?
RP: My message to members and retired members is that the UWUA’s National leadership has believed in the power of union members training union members and, specifically, the UMAP program. As a result, we are well positioned to represent utility workers of the future and grow our union.