BENEFITS OF UNION MEMBERSHIP
This information has been put together in an effort to address some common questions about the IBEW. There is a lot of confusion about our union. In brief, we are much like a Moose Lodge or any other social organization with one major specific difference. We believe that if we all follow a set group of rules that are established and administered in a democratic fashion, our lives will be better off both socially and economically. We also believe that we must be politically astute and active to protect the gains we make through collective bargaining. Business interests in this country would rather have us compete with each other as individuals in an effort to keep our wages down and their profits up. Admittedly there are a few electricians who are able to demand and receive wages equal to or better than our collectively bargained rates, but they are very few. By and large, most unorganized electricians are earning $30.00 an hour with few or no benefits. IBEW electricians are earning $60.66 an hour in wages and benefits on every job except the North Slope or Pipeline, not just the Davis-Bacon or prevailing jobs. The goal of Local Union 627 and the entire INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRICAL WORKERS is to have every single electrical worker in the United States and Canada organized into a Local Union. Along with that goal, this Local Union has changed its rules to encourage membership and to conduct discussions with electrical workers. Feel free to stop by for advice, information on job safety, labor law, OSHA, or any other topic you care to discuss. What follows is a discussion about some of our basic benefits. Please write down your questions and stop by, call us, write us, or send an email. You will receive a written response to your questions. Call and let us know if you decide to stop by for a visit. We'll gladly show you around and talk with you.
- WHAT IS A COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT?
The Agreement is the compilation of working rules that apply equally to all who work under its terms. It is the “contract” between each employee and the employer. The contract (or Agreement) is a binding document enforceable through arbitration. The Union is the entity that advocates for the employees while the National Electrical Contractor’s Association - Alaska Chapter (better known as NECA) advocates for the owners. The contract establishes the wages paid, the benefits earned, the hours of work, when overtime applies, how employees are moved from job to job, what the employer supplies, and nearly every conceivable condition of employment. Local 1547 has negotiated agreements for construction electricians in the State of Alaska for over 60 years, starting in 1946. We have set the standard for working conditions for all electrical workers in the State, whether Union or not. Our working conditions are well defined and reasonable. These terms are reached by mutual agreement between NECA and the Union and subsequently approved (or disapproved) by our members in secret ballot elections. The negotiated and democratic selection of our work rules removes from competition the one resource that all electrical contractors require to succeed in business, human effort. Jobs are won or lost based solely on the ability of contractors to perform their specific task as efficiently as possible, not based on who can find the cheapest labor. Unlike the unorganized contractors, our contractors compete solely on efficiency of operations. The curious fact is shop time in the Union sector is nearly identical to shop time in the unorganized sector. Where does all the money being saved by the unrepresented employer paying so much less go? Have you seen your boss’s home? Our wages are not determined by whether we win or lose a job. We are never told that on this job you get $20, on the next job $37, and on the next job $16. We always earn our contractual rate. We decided long ago that as electrical workers we deserved a livable wage with appropriate benefits for when we could no longer work. That’s how our collective bargaining agreement evolved to what it is today. Some unorganized contractors tell us our rules are noncompetitive, that they are overly restrictive, and that they cannot compete with these rules. The fact is these rules are uniformly applied to all contractors. They level the field of play so that everyone is competing on skill and ability, not on the backs of labor. If every unorganized contractor paid every electrician the same rate of pay, what else would there be to influence fair competition? That’s the precise purpose of the collective bargaining agreement.
- WHAT IS A REFERRAL PROCEDURE?
Through the collective bargaining process we have developed a mutually acceptable manner for work distribution to our members. In essence, all electrical workers in are eligible for work through our referral process. Likewise, electrical workers from throughout the United States and Canada who are present here and seeking work have access to jobs through this process. Like any membership organization we try to take care of our members first. However, the rules that we have established apply equally to all, whether a member or not.
- WHAT ABOUT HEALTHCARE?
One of the negotiated terms of employment earned through union membership is healthcare coverage for you and your family. All members employed under the Inside Agreement have money contributed by the employer on a per hour basis to the Health and Welfare Fund. IV. PENSION. The pension is the key around which all of our working lives evolve. When we are young we are concerned about taking care of our selves, our family, and our loved ones. As we mature and grow in our professions we must look forward to the day when the young people we train will take our place and become the journeymen, foremen, and supervision of the future. Every hour that we work under an IBEW agreement anywhere in the United States and Canada builds our pension. We are always building our retirement toward the day we decide we no longer want to work. VI. LEGAL. We also have a legal fund established for members to use in their personal lives. The fund helps members with any non-business related personal issues. Our employer’s contribute fifteen cents an hour into this fund. This fund has been well used by our members for wills, marital issues, traffic violations, and other personal legal issues.
- APPRENTICESHIP AND TRAINING FUND
The best an industry can offer its members/employees is the ability to learn new and improved skills to further enhance our ability as electrical workers. We have a nationwide apprenticeship program jointly administered by the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the IBEW. We, as union members, have an equal say in how the courses will be structured and presented. Our program teaches cutting edge courses in fiber optics, power generation, instrumentation, telecommunications, and electrical construction. There is a great deal of information not presented here that can only be answered in person. If you or someone you know would like to meet with us or to talk some more about the IBEW and the benefits of union representation, contact us.