The Proud History of the IBEW and Why We Love Union Electricians

When I was in college, I remember taking one semester on 19th Century labor relations followed by another whole semester on 20th Century labor relations. I painfully recall wondering to myself why it was necessary to read 500 pages a week for my entire freshman year on the subject. Let me give you the Cliff’s Notes version: it was the same story over and over again. Industrialization coupled with competition and unbridled greed would lead to deplorable working conditions with tragic consequences that led to a rising up of American workers who would no longer have it. Triangle shirtwaist factory fire…a brotherhood created to stand up for one another…regulations to protect us, repeat, sub different tragedy.

Thanks to the sacrifice and bravery of all those who came before, most people have the luxury today of not knowing who to thank for Labor Day, the weekend, and public schooling for kids as a fundamental right. We are also mostly ignorant of all the building codes and standardized practices and technical solutions necessary to create the safe and sound spaces that surround us where we work, shop or sleep. Left to its own accord, without the NEC or educated and responsible contractors who dedicate themselves to following safe practices, there would be yet more unmentionable tragedies.

There is a quiet yet great responsibility resting on their shoulders that privileged college kids like myself often do not fully appreciate. The rules of electricity are unyielding. Screw it up and its life or death. We need more educated and capable tradespeople to protect us. The union helps with that. One core function of the IBEW is providing standards for educating the next generation of electricians. Our family has had five union electricians, all who worked their way through the apprenticeship program, first educating themselves and then becoming educators and employers of other electricians. A proud tradition of passing on practical skills and a brotherhood indeed. We appreciate it.

– Shelley Wald, President and CEO