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.

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.

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. In fact by 1974, about 3,000 delegates represented over a million members at the IBEW Convention. Today the IBEW stands strong at over 750,000 members, ready to serve as needed while protecting the rights and dignity of its members.