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August 2021

Grounded in History
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An Evolving Structure

The leadership structure of the IBEW has evolved alongside the expansion of electricity in the United States. When the union was created in 1891, there were only 43 states, with much of the West lacking major cities or electrification. But as the electrical grid spread and our membership grew, the need for executive regional representatives soon became apparent and the formation of districts began. Here is a brief history of how it came to be.

1891 - 1903
At the time of our founding, there were five executive officers: grand president, grand secretary-treasurer (GST) and three grand vice presidents (GVPs). The position of GST was later split in 1895 and combined again in 1998. As for the GVPs, they served in their respective localities since districts had yet to form. The duties of the GVPs included assisting the GP, transmitting annual reports of their actions to the GST, conducting quarterly audits of the GST accounts and submitting constitutional amendments to the membership for vote. The third GVP also served as the grand organizer and appointed deputy organizers in each state. The number of GVPs expanded to five by action of the 4th convention in 1895 and each was made an organizer.

1903 - 1910
When the first Canadian local was admitted into the IBEW in 1899, and with total IBEW membership nearing 10,000, the call for an expansive leadership structure began. At the eighth Convention in 1903, seven districts were created for the GVPs, which comprised an "Executive Board." Their duties were to supervise all local unions in their district, submit monthly reports to the GP and serve on an auditing committee before each convention. The First District was reserved for Canada, the Second and Third were made up of Northeastern states, the Fourth with Southern states, the Fifth with Midwestern states and the Sixth and Seventh with Western states and territories.

This system was expanded again at the 9th convention in 1905. The "Executive Board" was renamed "Grand Executive Board" and the title of GVP was dropped. Their duties now consisted of auditing the accounts of the grand treasurer and grand secretary, overseeing constitutional amendments and preparing financial bonds for local unions. But the role of GVPs as supervisors of local unions was still needed. Therefore, a new body of three GVPs was created, each with their own district. The first GVP served the states from the First to Third GEB Districts, the second from the Fourth and Fifth GEB Districts and the third from the Sixth and Seventh GEB Districts.

1910 - 1929
In acknowledgment of the IBEW's international scope, the title of these leadership bodies was changed in 1910 to "international vice president" and "International Executive Board." By action of the 15th Convention in 1919, both the IVP and IEB were expanded to eight districts. Canada remained as First District of the IVP, but was moved to the Eighth District within the IEB. A ninth member was also added to the IEB to serve as chairman. In 1928, the "International Executive Board" was renamed "International Executive Council" and remains so today. This was the last time the IEC structure was changed.

1929 - 1947
By action of the 20th Convention in 1929, the Tenth IVP District was created to have jurisdiction over all railroad local unions. After World War II, which saw a boost in IBEW membership, delegates at the 22nd Convention in 1946 approved a referendum vote to be held on whether to add two additional districts. In 1947, the vote was passed and the Eleventh and Twelfth IVP Districts were created.

1947 - 1998
The structure of the IVP districts remained unchanged until 1998, when by a referendum vote, the Tenth District was dissolved and its IVP was absorbed into the Railroad Department at the International Office. The Twelfth District was renamed the Tenth, making a new total of 11 districts. This was the last major change of the IVP district structure.

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A 1950 map of the IBEW's vice-presidential districts as organized at the time. The structure has changed greatly over 130 years.