Common Misconceptions of the IBEW


1.       Union guys are laid off all the time!

Well unfortunately layoffs are a possibility in the construction industry. But this issue has been used as a scare tactic with great success by non-union employers to intimidate workers about the IBEW.
The truth is that IBEW electricians are laid off no more often than any other workers in our industry. We use a referral process to refer our electricians to our signatory contractors. Our electricians do not rely only on one contractor; they have the option of working for dozens of different contractors working on many different types of projects.
Approximately 2/3 of our members work long term with one company; the balance of our members work for various contractors for various lengths of time. These jobs may last weeks sometimes years depending on the type of project.
IF a journeyman becomes unemployed due to lack of work or he quits a contractor to seek another type of job with another contractor he signs our “out of work” list. When our contractors need manpower, they call IBEW Local 743, and we refer our electricians in order from the “out of work” list. They start with a new contractor at the SAME hourly rate and benefit package!!
Being an IBEW electrician, you no longer only rely on one contractor; you have the option of working for literally dozens of contractors in the area at the same wages and benefits with each one.
2.       Union Electricians “travel” all the time to work.

IBEW Local unions have geographical “jurisdiction” for which they are responsible. IBEW Local 743’s “jurisdiction” is Berks, Schuylkill, Lancaster, and portions of Chester and Montgomery Counties.
Our members work the vast majority of their time in southeastern Pa. If we hit a slowdown in this area, you as an IBEW member have the opportunity to go to work in other IBEW Local unions that need manpower. When you do you receive the wage and benefit package applicable in that Local Union.
IBEW referral systems refer Local members first, then “travelers”. A traveler is a member from ANY other local union. For example, a member from IBEW Local 229 in York may be working here in IBEW Local 743 and is referred to as a “traveler” because he is not a member of IBEW Local 743 but lives nearby in the York area.
Travelling is not a common occurrence but if work is slow locally you can seek work in other local unions who are busy. Being located here in the northeastern United States you can usually find work within commuting distance of home.
Again, the advantage of being an IBEW member is you have access to hundreds of contractors for work. If the company you are working for slows, you now have options and don’t have to start at the bottom again with a new contractor.
3.       The journeyman test is too difficult; I won’t pass, and I am not doing an entire apprenticeship.

In the past this was a true statement for many. We only offered two options. Take and pass the journeyman test or start the apprenticeship from the beginning.
This is NO LONGER TRUE. As of 2006, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and IBEW Local 743 have established additional classifications: Construction Wireman & Construction Electrician. We look at an individual’s work experience and administer an assessment test to determine his abilities and where he may need additional training.
We then classify an individual as a Construction Wireman 1-4 or Construction Electrician 1-3. The starting hourly rate varies from 40% to 80% of Journeyman rate, depending on experience.
The CW or CE then takes the task-specific training that he needs, provided by IBEW Local 743, and each year gets a 10% increase in pay based on the Journeyman rate and ultimately becomes a journeyman wireman upon passing the Journeyman Wireman test. This program provides an avenue for electricians, whose skills and experience may not be at journeyman level by our standards, to become an IBEW member, reap the benefits, earn a great hourly rate, and get annual increases as he completes individualized training and progresses to become a journeyman wireman.
For our contractors, these classifications provide competitive composite crew rates for them to be competitive in the commercial market.
If an individual has the experience and knowledge, he will be classified immediately as a journeyman wireman.
4.       The union hates the contractor and complicates things for them.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Our signatory contractors are our partners. We work very closely every day with our contractors to make them as successful and profitable as possible. The more successful they are the better wages and benefits we can negotiate. It’s a true partnership. We negotiate a fair, competitive agreement that sets out the rules for both parties fairly. We can only negotiate good wages and benefits if we are productive, efficient, and professional and if we make the contractor money…period.
5.       Union dues are high.

A local union needs funds to operate just like any other organization. We fund our local by paying union dues. These funds are established by the membership at a union meeting by majority vote. We ALL pay these dues and obviously want to keep them as low as possible.  IBEW Local 743 is a democratic organization, and each member has a voice and a vote. Everything done is approved by the body. IBEW Local 743 has always been and will continue to be fiscally responsible.
What do YOU pay in NON-UNION dues? Let’s see…
Do you contribute towards your health coverage out of your paycheck?
Does your employer deduct money out of your check for a 401K?
Do you have a pension?
Do you have an annuity?
Do you have to work 40 hours before you receive overtime pay?
Are you supplying your own power tools, ladders, cordless tools? What do they cost?
How much do you make an hour?
IBEW Local 743 Journeymen make $31.62/hr. That’s IN THE CHECK.
On top of that they get an over $14/hr benefit package which includes fully paid family health coverage, two pensions, and an annuity plan.
How much less do you make? That amount is the NON-UNION dues you pay!!
Our members happily pay the small amount in dues, which are tax deductible, to receive the pay and benefits they do and to have a voice in their working lives.
6.         My employer will fire people if we try to join the union.

Organizing a union in your workplace does seem intimidating and can seem like such an impossible uphill battle. It does take courage, but is very worth it; thousands of workers do just that each year. Fact is its illegal for an employer to threaten, intimidate, or coerce workers who are exercising their right to unionize. However, many employers will illegally do just that. That’s where the experience the IBEW has in organizing is useful. In the event that an employer violates the law, the full resources of the IBEW will be brought to bear on them. IBEW Local 743 will support workers who want union representation; we will ensure that no matter what happens during an organizing drive that workers will be brought into the IBEW and put to work.
There are many more “misconceptions” out there. Do yourself a favor and find out the FACTS for yourself!!!
For more information call or stop by:
Ryan C. Helms
IBEW Local 743
20 Morgan Drive
Reading, Pa 19608
610-777-3100 (Tel)
All calls are confidential