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IBEW History

Founded in 1891 as a part of the AFL, The Union (IBEW) emerged out of simply horrid working conditions for electrical workers.

At the time of their founding, being an electrical worker meant making about $10 a week, low even for the era, and a death/injury rate that was double other industrial jobs. At one point a staggering 1 out of 2 linemen and wiremen died on the job in certain cities. Thus the IBEW was largely founded to give these workers the working conditions that all Americans today would consider a fundamental human right.


Below is the story of Henry Miller - the first president of the IBEW in 1891. 


Quickly the IBEW made history when we admitted our first women members a year after our founding in 1892, and in the coming decades the IBEW largely focused on expansion of the union. The IBEW was also a trendsetter in improving employee-employer relationships. By establishing the Council on Industrial Relations (CIR) in 1919, which allows for a balanced discussion between labor and management the IBEW has been able to settle thousands of disputes without striking, earning them the title of being a strikeless industry. This is a model that many other unions are still trying to perfect today.

Following WWI, membership struggled, but as Franklin D. Roosevelt assumed office, and pro-labor legislation was passed, membership grew once again. FDRs pro-labor legislation paid off when the IBEW had an action plan ready for WWII only 72 hours after a formal request had been made. IBEW members served honorably during WWII in a variety of roles both on the home-front and on the war-front.

As the modern era emerged, IBEWs membership surged, and members are cared for with well-financed and fair pension plans. By 1974 about 3,000 delegates represented over a million members at the IBEW Convention. Today the IBEW stands strong at about 750,000 members in the United States and Canada. 

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