The Electrical Worker online
August 2022

My IBEW Story
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Brian Lewis, Retired Lineman
Chicago Local 9

"I'm fourth generation IBEW, but I didn't start out here. I went through an apprenticeship with the Boilermakers first. I was proud to be a union welder; the wages were good but the work was not consistent.

A few years after my father, Arkie, passed away, his best friend Britt Hughes took me to see then-Chicago Local 9 Business Manager Robert Pierson, and my IBEW career took off from there.

I started on a white ticket, welding on a people mover project at O'Hare International Airport in 1990 before being initiated in 1991.

Until the year 1990 my income was flat — and low. But once I entered Local 9, things began to change. My pay and my standard of living began to rise, which is good, but it's not the important thing.

The really important thing is what I did and who I became: a complete lineman. I did everything from traffic, street lighting, railroad work, operating, underground, switching, programming overhead distribution devices, on and on. Near the end of my career, I was ordering and running material for overhead distribution crews.

I'm not boasting. These were all things that were taught to me by fellow IBEW brothers.

The last couple years, I was honored to work for Local 9 as a financial secretary with Business Manager William Niesman and company.

There's a lot I love about being retired while I'm still young enough to enjoy it: traveling with my wife, among other things. The quality of life that we are now living is top-notch thanks to IBEW pensions and health care.

Seeing my three sons and a nephew make their own way through the brotherhood, a fifth generation, makes me prouder than words can explain.

Today, when I'm out driving, I love rolling up to a crew taking a break and talking shop. That time working in the field with your brothers, BS-ing and doing the hard work, those have been some of the best years of my life."