IBEW 1837's Ray Colello Steps Down After Nearly 25 Years as President

January 6, 2016 - Throughout the years, first as a Union Steward and Chief Steward in the 70’s and then as a Union Executive Board Representative throughout the 80’s, leading to his role as President of IBEW Local #1837 beginning in 1991, Ray Colello has always been a devout and dedicated trade unionist. His decision last month to pass the baton to Vice President Bill Tarallo to finish out his term was one he made because he thought it would be best for the Union.

Brother Colello started his full-time career as a General Helper for Central Maine Power in 1972 working at Wyman Station on Cousins Island, Maine. Later, with deregulation of electric utilities and after the sale to Florida Power and Light (now known as NextEra), Ray would work as a Senior Production Tech A as a shift worker for the last ten years. His father had worked at Wyman beginning in 1964 after several years at the South Portland Cape Steam Station beginning in the mid-to-late 50’s.

“I learned most of what I knew about unions from my dad and joined the union as soon as I could,” Colello said. “Union members have somebody to speak for them when they are mistreated. They also have the right to a safe workplace. If the working people are put in a bad situation, it’s not just you that the company is affecting but your family and your family’s future.”

In more than 24 years as President of the Local, Ray Colello has faced many difficult challenges but feels especially proud that the union’s leaders and members stepped up to make changes to the dues structure that were necessary to be effective representing our members.

“We often had a financial inability to represent people when we needed to (before the dues change). The change to the by-laws that included a percentage of pay (2 hours) gave us the financial structure we have now,” he said.

A change of this magnitude required President Colello and other E-Board members to travel throughout Maine and New Hampshire for three months to meet with members and explain the need for the change. The Local was having difficulty meeting operating expenses and the decision to arbitrate some member grievances had to be weighed against the significant costs of the process.

“We actually had the people on our side and willing to pay more dues for the good of the Local,” Ray continued. “The people approved it and we’ve been on an uphill swing ever since.”

Brother Colello paid tribute to our members who have the challenging job of representing our members while also working at our represented companies.

 “We do a lot of work at the Local, but the real heroes are the Stewards on the job,” Colello said.

Ray also expressed his gratitude to many of the Business Managers that he had worked with over the years including Joe Nixon, Kerry Guptill, Dave Bofinger, Bob Dodge, Cynthia Phinney, and the current Business Manager and Financial Secretary, Dick Rogers.

“While I’m very happy for Ray and his wife Debbie, I realize what a void he leaves at IBEW Local 1837,” Rogers said. “Ray’s constant leadership of over 30 years will be greatly missed and difficult to replace.  I can honestly say that no one individual cared more about the plight of the working men and women more that Raymond Colello. Personally, I could always count on Ray for advice and knew that he would work with me whenever I called.”

Brother Colello also has an eye on the future of IBEW 1837.

“I’ve been talking to people on the E-Board and at (Wyman Station) about finding some younger people to get involved with the Union,” Ray said. “It’s tough going to meetings but we all need to find interested younger people to ensure that our legacy lives on. I hope the younger members don’t let it fall by the wayside.”

As Ray Colello leaves his leadership position, he wants to remind the members of IBEW 1837 of the paramount importance of their health and safety at home and on the job.

“Many of our members come in contact with electricity or dangerous chemicals. We can’t afford to take shortcuts,” Ray said. “Whether the Company catches you or God catches you, you’re not going to like the outcome.”