NECA TransmissionsNotes from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry
  • Health Care Reform: Prognosis Undetermined

    Posted on Jun 12, 2009 by John M Grau

    I can't decide how I feel about health care reform. It's now near the top of the legislative agenda and lots of proposals and ideas are being floated by the House and Senate committees working on a bill.

    Almost every American has a stake in the outcome. The health care industry is a huge segment of our economy. We all use health care services and most of us are covered by some type of insurance. We almost all agree that there's something wrong with our current system. But we’re also afraid to change it.

    Both sides of the reform debate seem to agree that there should be some form of mandatory coverage. Under our current system, those who have insurance end up paying more for coverage to subsidize services for those who don't. If everyone were required to have health care insurance, the overall cost should even out and insurers should be able to guarantee coverage even for people with pre-existing conditions.

    The idea of allowing individuals to select coverage from a number of competitive plans also appeals to me. I understand how the concept of employer-provided health insurance got started, but is it really the best way? Why should the employer be responsible for health care, and why should an individual be restricted to the type of coverage provided by his or her employer?

    Every individual has different health insurance needs - just like we do for auto or life insurance. If we had guaranteed access to coverage, we could pick the type of coverage that best suits our individual or family needs.

    Now comes the harder decisions.

    Should there be a public option among the competing insurance plans? In other words, should the federal government offer an alternative to private insurance? Would the government plan eventually force the private plans out of business so that we would be left with only government-controlled health insurance?

    An even bigger question is how do we pay for all this? Some ideas include taxing the individual for coverage beyond a certain amount and/or limiting the deductibility of insurance premiums paid by the employer. I know the unions aren't too happy about this idea, since most unions plans offer top-tier coverage. From an employer's point of view, wouldn't that create some incentive to control the cost of health coverage in our labor agreements?

    I like the fact that the United States has the best and most innovative health care system. I like the fact that we have free access to the doctors and hospitals of our choosing and that we don't have to wait months for elective care. I hate the bureaucratic morass of insurance claims statements, bloated costs, unnecessary tests, waste and fraud.

    So what do I want from health care reform? Something better, but exactly what, I can't tell you.

  • What I Brought Back From Chicago

    Posted on Oct 14, 2008 by John M Grau

    The just-completed NECA Convention in Chicago was my 31st. That doesn’t even come close to the record set by former NECA President Bob Colgan of Toledo, Ohio. This was his 57th!

    Bob Colgan, Sr. recognized as Founding Fellow of the Academy of Electrical Contracting
    Bob Colgan, Sr. recognized as Founding Fellow of the Academy of Electrical Contracting

    Bob was recognized at both the Convention Opening General Session and at a special Academy of Electrical Contracting Reception marking its 40th anniversary. Bob Colgan and Bob Higgins, my predecessor as NECA’s Executive Vice President, are the only founding members of the Academy still living.

    Colgan attended this year’s convention with most members of his family. The kids tagged along to NECA conventions when they were growing up. Although not all of them at the same time, says Bob’s wife Emily. So it was a special event for the Colgan family, the Academy, and NECA.

    Here are some of my take-aways from the Convention:

    Many of the members I talked to are still cautiously optimistic about their work backlog. They told me that the financing is in place for most of their projects and they expect the work to continue into 2009.

    A couple members told me that they called their bankers to see if they could get credit if they needed it. The answer was yes. Credit is still available for “credit worthy” customers.

    A lot of members are excited about the opportunities available in energy conservation and alternative energy markets. Many are reformulating their business plans accordingly.

    Most left the Special Labor Relations Session encouraged that the IBEW and NECA are working in the right direction. Progress can’t come fast enough, however.

    After attending the ELECTRI International Meeting, the Student Chapter Summit, the Future Leaders Reception, and the International Group Lunch, I couldn’t help walking away feeling proud of NECA and what we are accomplishing in these areas.

    How does Bob Costas remember all those facts? After his speech at the closing general session, I told him that the political campaign “truth squads” were going to check on his accuracy. He said he’s confident that his record is better than the candidates’.

    Before the closing concert, I was able to say hello to performers Bruce Hornsby and Ricky Skaggs. Hornsby said that they don’t just walk through their performance but work hard at being entertaining and fresh. He said we were in for a treat. He was right.

    Wall of Vodka
    Wall of Vodka

    I keep thinking about the ELECTRI International reception at the Chicago Illuminating Company and the 20-foot-high wall lined with shelves of Grey Goose vodka. I wonder if they would agree to be a NECA Preferred Sponsor.

    Did everyone see president-elect Rex Ferry up on stage playing an inflatable guitar during the Opening Reception at Navy Pier? I have pictures.

    President-elect Rex Ferry
    President-elect Rex Ferry

    No doubt this was one of NECA’s best Conventions ever. Take Bob Colgan’s word for it. In our 100 year history he’s been to over half of them, so he should know.

  • Meet Rich Parenti

    Posted on May 08, 2008 by John M Grau


    “Get a haircut!” 

    I can still hear former IBEW President Jack Barry as he teased Rich Parenti about his a bit too long hairstyle back when he was director of the Midwest Region. Rich has since trimmed his locks, and Jack is no longer with us, but good-natured banter remains a hallmark of Rich’s business relationships.

    A veteran NECA staffer, Rich has worked effectively with IBEW Vice Presidents and Presidents as well as leaders throughout the electrical construction industry. As Executive Director for the Eastern Region, he is responsible for a territory stretching from Maine to Maryland to Ohio and Eastern Kentucky. The region includes some of our country’s biggest metropolitan areas such as Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. 

    A native of New Jersey, Rich headed to West Virginia for college. He earned his bachelors degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College, and he holds a master’s degree in industrial relations from West Virginia University. In 1975, he joined the NECA Midwestern Region as a staff associate and was quickly hired as an assistant manager by the Minneapolis Chapter. He became manager of that chapter in 1981.

    Rich effectively saw the Minneapolis Chapter through a number of rough labor conflicts, including two lengthy strikes while he was assistant chapter manager. He bargained all his labor agreements under strike potential. He said that experience has made his belief in the CIR even stronger.

    In 1986, I hired Rich to succeed Gene Kasal as Director of the Midwestern Region After successfully serving in the Midwest Region for many years, a desire to be closer to aging parents spurred him to pursue the job as Eastern Region Executive Director. In 2002, he took over that post from Mike Barry upon his retirement, and he moved the regional office to Rhode Island.

    Rich is assisted in his duties by his wife, Linda, who is the Eastern Region office manager. Rich and Linda have three children. Their daughter Jennifer is a registered nurse at the Baylor Medical Center in Houston. She is engaged to be married in September. Son Jonathan is a graduate of the construction management program at Colorado State University and is employed as a project manager in California. Justin, their youngest, was recently accepted into the IBEW-NECA NEAT program as an electrical line apprentice.

    Rich Parenti is devoted to NECA and its members, and he’s proven his commitment time and time again. His hard work continues to better our industry in the Eastern Region and throughout the country.



About NECA Transmissions

NECA Transmissions is a collaborative effort from CEO John Grau and NECA staff to provide insight and feedback on key issues from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry.


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