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February 2022

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A Rich History

When the IBEW's founders conceived the idea of a union for electrical workers back in 1891, they couldn't have imagined what we'd have become today. At the time, the industry was still new. The technology and the work were extremely dangerous — deaths on the job were far too common.

So, one of the first orders of business was to create a death benefit for members so their families could afford to give fallen brothers a dignified burial. That alone was groundbreaking at the time, and it nearly bankrupted the union at first.

As time went on, the union gained stability, but the electrical field was still exceedingly dangerous. No insurance company would take on a person working in our industry. So, 100 years ago, leaders of this union took matters into their own hands, creating the Electrical Workers Benefit Association in Jan. 1922.

It was an early example of an insurance program organized by labor for labor, and its benefits carried forward the legacy of our founders, including Henry Miller, who died after being electrocuted on the job in Washington, D.C. The EWBA merged with our Pension Benefit Fund in 1996, but its benefits are still felt whenever any member's family receives a death benefit from the IBEW.

You can read more about the legacy of the EWBA and the tremendous foresight of our founders and early leaders in this month's "Grounded in History" article on Page 19 of this issue.

For a year now we've been bringing you snippets of the IBEW's rich history in this monthly feature. It started as a way to connect the dots between this brotherhood's past, present and future, and I think it's been successful.

As we approach our 131st anniversary and celebrate our 40th International Convention later this year, remembering where we came from and why this union exists is more important than ever.

It's why leading up to the last convention in 2016, we worked with Local 1 and others in St. Louis to preserve the boarding house where our very first convention was held in 1891 and convert it into a museum honoring our founders and their vision for the IBEW.

Over the last five years, thousands of you have passed through the doors of the Henry Miller Museum in St. Louis, and many more of you have donated to help preserve and maintain that history. The museum still needs your help, and you can learn more about how to support it at If you or your local have pitched in already, thank you!

We continue to make new history every day in the IBEW, and it's my greatest honor to serve each and every one of you as we write the next chapter of this great union.


Also: Cooper: Living Our Values Read Cooper's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President