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IBEW History

We’ve always been there – for Canada – and for you


The late 1800s saw a huge surge in public demand for electricity. That meant the need for more and more electrical workers. But back then, employers didn’t really care about employee safety.

Hardhats? Who needs them? Safety harnesses? What’s a harness? No training? Who needs training?

Electrical workers spent 12 hours a day, seven days a week connecting and repairing power lines with no safety mechanisms in place. None at all.

And they did so even in rain. Snow. Hail. Lightning. And whatever else Mother Nature decided to throw at them.

That’s all good if you’re working indoors. But dozens of feet above the ground with little regard for safety? Scary is an understatement.

It gets better – or worse, actually. They did all this without the skills-training they needed to do the job right.

So on November 28, 1891,  the National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers was founded in St. Louis, Missouri, representing 286 members employed in the electrical industry. The goal? To look out for the people doing one of the toughest jobs in the country.

It wasn’t long before the NBEW’s commitment to keeping people safe moved north. On December 20, 1899, the Canadian arm of the NBEW set roots down in Ottawa, and at the  sixth convention in 1899 the name was changed from the National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Today, we represent over 65,000 members from coast to coast to coast – in every province and territory. And as the country advanced into new electronic technologies, we did too. We now represent members in all kinds of industries, including utilities, manufacturing, construction, telecommunications, cablevision, radio and television, shipyards, railroads, sound and alarm,  appliance repair, motor shops, sign shops, pulp and paper mills, mining, and government.

And while the size of our brotherhood has changed, our commitment to keeping our brothers and sisters safe and highly skilled, and being there for the country, 24/7, 365 days a year (and 366 days on leap years) will never waver.

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