The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) represents approximately 675,000 members, who work in a wide variety of fields, including utilities, construction, telecommunications, broadcasting, manufacturing, railroads, and government. The IBEW has members in both the United States and Canada and stands out among the American unions in the AFL-CIO because it is among the largest and has members in many skilled occupations. 

IBEW was formed in 1891 by a group of electricians, who wanted a safer workplace, fair wages, and, in general, a respect for the services they rendered to their communities through their labors. In 1891, there were no training programs, no safety regulations, no medical plans, no pension or retirement plans, and nearly half of all electricians were being killed on the job. Because IBEW nourished the needs of these workers, it has grown from a handful of pioneers to the largest electrical union in the world. However, IBEW is not about only growing business or organization, it’s a fraternity. The IBEW is made up of working men and women in the electrical industry, committed to bettering themselves and the industry. Neither the IBEW nor the electrical industry is made better unless all, who labor in the industry, are secure in their employment, receive fair wages, and have training programs, pension plans, as well as dental and medical plans for themselves and their families.

The Objectives of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Are:

  • To organize all workers in the entire electrical industry in the United States and Canada into local unions, including all those in public utilities and electrical manufacturing;
  • To promote reasonable methods of work;
  • To cultivate feelings of friendship among those in our industry;
  • To settle all disputes between employers and employees;
  • To assist each other in sickness or distress;
  • To secure employment;
  • To reduce the hours of daily labor;
  • To secure adequate pay for our work,
  • To seek a higher and sustainable standard of living;
  • To seek security for the individual;
  • And by legal and proper means to elevate the moral, intellectual, and social conditions of our members, their families and dependents, in the interest of a higher standard of citizenship.


A sizable segment of IBEW members work for the U.S. and Canadian governments. Hardly an agency of these governments does not need trained IBEW members to carry out its purposes. In naval and coast guard shipyards, naval ordnance plants and various defense activities, electricians, linemen, gyro and electronics technicians, electric-crane repairmen, and others are essential to the defense of our nations and the safety of our people. IBEW members work aboard ships, on all types of transmission lines, in all kinds of shops providing maintenance to federal buildings and equipment, on communications work of every type, on navigational locks and dams, on hydro and steam-driven electric power generating plants, and on numerous jobs in every branch of government service.
They are employed in many federal agencies, bureaus and departments; such as each branch of the armed services, the General Services Administration, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service and Department of Veterans Affairs. They maintain the electrical and electronic machinery, which prints U.S. stamps and currency, and the machinery, which prints U.S. laws and other government documents. IBEW members work on such installations as the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Bonneville Power Administration, and in national laboratories like Sandia and Brookhaven. In Canada, IBEW members perform highly skilled electronics work in several different departments of the Treasury Board of Canada.
They are predominantly electronic technicians whose work covers operational, scientific, and research & development apparatus in several government departments; such as the Coast Guard, national defense, science, foreign affairs, international trade, public works and airports.
Because the lifestyles of people in the United States and Canada are directly bound to the abundant use of electricity through the electrical products, which have become an essential part of everyday life, manufacturing workers are an important segment of the IBEW. Many of the comforts and conveniences we are accustomed to in our homes, at our workplaces, and during our recreational time, are the direct result of the labor of those we represent. The highly diversified list of products manufactured by IBEW members includes broadcasting and entertainment equipment, electric motors, generators, household appliances, light fixtures, medical equipment, switchgear, and telecommunications equipment.


It is a daunting task to list and describe the numerous and varied jobs in which IBEW members take part. Hundreds of thousands of IBEW members undertake the tremendous job of performing all the electrical tasks that give our countries the greatest production potential in the world. Many are marine electricians, who work on ships and in naval yards around the coastlines of our countries. Many electricians perform unusual functions such as servicing jukeboxes; running electrically operated “tote” devices of parimutuel systems at racetracks; and providing the complex lighting arrangements integral to the attractions at various entertainment venues.

Many others engage in the crucial work of keeping Americans and Canadians healthy and their countries strong, working with radar and on nuclear projects and on x-ray and other medical equipment.  Thousands of IBEW members work in the national space program. Others are involved in renewable electrical energy sources such as solar photovoltaic, geothermal, wind, biomass, wave, etc., and other distributed energy installations such as fuel cells, microturbines and the like. Office workers, particularly those in our utility, telecommunications and manufacturing fields, and maintenance workers, who keep electrical installations and equipment running, form a vital segment of the IBEW.  

In whatever industry they work, at whatever jobs they perform, IBEW members find themselves in a field in which change occurs constantly. This change, of course, consists of advances in technology—increasing use of computers and high-technology manufacturing, construction and communications methods, for example. But change has also occurred in the structure of the electrical industry; that is, our traditional classifications and jurisdictions are becoming more interdependent among the various branches. IBEW members must prepare for such change through continued training and education in the technologies of the future, and by understanding and adapting to the fact that technology and changes in the organization of work will spur the creation of new classifications.