The city of Chicago will play host to the IBEW’s next International Convention in 2021.
Creative Commons/ Flickr User Roman Boed  

The IBEW’s 40th International Convention will be in Chicago, International President Lonnie R. Stephenson announced on Aug. 29.

The 2021 convention will mark the fifth time the event has been held in the Windy City, a record matched only by St. Louis, the city where the union was founded in 1891.

“We’re thrilled to be returning to Chicago in four years for our international convention,” Stephenson said. “Chicago is a city with a rich union history, and the IBEW is proud to once again be partnering with this great city to conduct the business of the Brotherhood and to give back to a community that’s given so much to us.”

The official portrait of the NBEW’s 2nd Convention, held in Chicago in 1892.

The IBEW’s 2nd convention in 1892 was held at the Atlantic Hotel in Chicago and hosted just 32 delegates. At the time, the National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – Canadian locals weren’t incorporated until 1899 – represented 1,600 members from 43 local unions. The 1892 convention was the first to welcome women as members and was notable for authorizing the publication of a monthly newspaper, The Electrical Worker.

Today, the IBEW represents 750,000 members in more than 900 local unions, and roughly 5,000 delegates and guests are expected to attend the next convention.

The site selection announcement came at the IBEW’s annual Membership Development Conference this week in Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel was invited to speak to the record gathering of more than 1,800 attendees, where he thanked the IBEW for choosing his city. Emanuel pointed to the city’s building boom, evident from the nearly 60 construction cranes hovering over downtown streets, and called Chicago “a 100 percent union city.”

Chicago Local 134 Business Manager Donald Finn welcomed the news and has already been working behind the scenes to prepare for the weeklong event. “This is a tremendous honor for the city of Chicago and for our local and its members and retirees to host this convention,” he said. “It’s a real testament to what we’ve got going on here. Chicago’s a strong union town and our friendships and partnerships with the mayor and other elected officials were a big help in making this happen.”

Finn said Local 134 – as well as Chicago Locals 9, 214, 794 and 1220 – is ready for the challenge of hosting the huge event. “It’s going to be a ton of work, but it’s going to be important, enjoyable work. We’re ready for the opportunity to showcase our city.”

Speaking about the planning already under way for the event, International Secretary-Treasurer Kenneth W. Cooper said he’s working to make the 40th International Convention – his first as IST – the best yet.

“We’re trying to do everything electronically this time, from registration right through the closing gavel, and I think that’s going to really improve the experience for everyone attending,” Cooper said. “That’s our No. 1 goal here, to make it easier and more efficient for the members and the locals, and I think it should make it easier on our staff as well. It’s a big undertaking, but we’ll be ready.”

The IBEW’s 40th International Convention will be held from Aug. 30-Sept. 3, 2021 at the Lakeside Center, part of Chicago’s mammoth McCormick Place convention complex.