Versant Lineman Named Steward of the Year

IBEW Local 1837 member Greg Middleton, a first-class lineworker at Versant Power, has been selected as the 2024 Shop Steward of the Year by a special committee at the Maine AFL-CIO. Middleton received his award at the upcoming COPE Convention Awards Banquet on Thursday, June 27, in Auburn. He was nominated for the award by members of IBEW Local 1837.

“Greg embodies everything one could hope for in a union member and steward,” IBEW Local 1837 wrote in its nomination. “His proactive approach and relentless support for his co-workers make him an exemplary candidate for this recognition.”

Middleton grew up in New Jersey but now lives in Brewer. He worked for Central Maine Power for four years before starting at Versant in 2018. In 2022, he was asked to substitute in negotiations for a coworker called to overseas duty with the National Guard. A proposal by the company to extend the contract divided workers and caused tempers to flare. This experience motivated Middleton to get more involved in the union to foster better communication.

“Seeing the disaster unfold made me think that if I could get involved maybe we could avoid this,” said Middleton. “I wanted to ensure the members were informed and that everyone understood the contract, their rights, and the company’s rights to prevent such situations. I would hate to see people leave the company because they misunderstood their rights or felt misrepresented by the union.”

Middleton has been instrumental in this year’s contract negotiations. His commitment to the process was evident recently when, fresh off a family vacation in Florida, he landed at Bangor Airport, went directly to the attached hotel, and joined ongoing negotiations with Versant Power. He was immediately ready to get back to work, having already spent months preparing proposals and meeting with the negotiation team.

Middleton also continuously seeks professional development by attending training sessions and the Maine AFL-CIO’s Labor Summer Institute. He often reviews older contracts and consults senior employees to understand why certain provisions were included.

“I don’t get too upset or emotionally involved in these issues, but I have a lot of empathy for my members, and it makes me feel good that I can serve them,” said Middleton. “I find it really important to protect workers’ rights.”

Middleton's devotion was recently highlighted after an executive board meeting where the topic of “Steward of the Year” was discussed. Days later, executive board member Kevin O’Connell, who has worked with Middleton for many years, submitted a handwritten note to the local titled "Steward of the Year" with Greg Middleton’s name inscribed underneath it. This note was included as part of the nomination submission on behalf of IBEW 1837. O'Connell described Middleton as an exceptional individual and a team player who looks out for both the group and the individual. He spoke to Middleton’s efforts in designing new IBEW t-shirts and coordinating their delivery to union members, which are now proudly worn on Wednesdays by members at Versant, symbolizing solidarity during ongoing negotiations with the company, as well as at Safety Days.

O'Connell also noted Middleton’s consistent involvement in the process of recognizing first-class linemen. He and others gather at a local restaurant to welcome them into first class, reinforcing camaraderie and support within the union.

In addition, Middleton serves as a unit chair for the local, and his leadership draws people to the meetings because they know he’s in charge.

“Serving as a unit chair, Middleton takes immense pride in leading the monthly meetings, consistently demonstrating his dedication to ensuring that his colleagues are well-informed and supported,” wrote IBEW 1837 Assistant Business Manager Renee Gilman for Middleton’s nomination in 2023. “Whenever challenges arise, Middleton takes it upon himself to find practical solutions and address any issues affecting his co-workers.”

“Middleton’s advocacy for the union’s betterment is significant,” added Kaitlyn Hegarty, IBEW Local 1837 Business Representative. “He approaches difficult issues with a level head and calm demeanor, displaying caution and intelligence in his words. Middleton’s huge heart and selflessness shine through in all his actions, demonstrating his genuine care for others.”