The Electrical Worker online
April 2024

From the Officers
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Improving the Benefits You Have Earned

People have many reasons for joining together in a union, but when Paul and I talk with members, there are three that nearly everyone mentions: good wages, affordable healthcare, and a dignified retirement.

In February, we announced three important steps to significantly improve that third goal for our members: the first new retirement benefit since the end of World War II, the first retirement benefit increase in more than two decades and a one-time "13th month" check for folks who are already retired.

It has been 22 years since the NEBF benefit was increased, and we know that is way too long.

The details are spelled out in the article "IBEW Wins Upgraded Pension Benefits for Members" of this issue, but we want to talk about why it is so important to improve our retirement benefits and how we had the leverage to accomplish this.

Pensions are increasingly rare in today's economy. In 1991, 35% of private-sector workers had access to a defined-benefit plan. Last year it was only 11%.

Corporation after corporation shedded their pension obligations, leaving older Americans on their own when it comes to retirement security.

The IBEW and NECA are unique in our commitment to pension plans. While Wall Street focused on short-term profits, our priority has always been the well-being of our members and contractors.

When this union started 133 years ago, the first benefit we self-funded was a death benefit so a dignified funeral wouldn't put our families in the poorhouse. That Henry Miller, our first president, was buried in an unmarked plot following his death on the job has been a constant spur to action for us as officers. It is a sign of how humble our beginning was and a reminder of where we would be without our collective strength.

When Paul and I meet retirees now, we see women and men who enjoy more comfort and security than our forebears could have imagined.

Today the NEBF is one of the best-funded, most secure defined-benefits plans in the nation, and we owe that to the wise leadership of previous fund leaders, as well as the IBEW and NECA. For generations, we judged its success not on the ups and downs of the market but on the health and welfare of our membership.

We changed our fates. No one did it for us. It is what the people who created this union and fought for these benefits wanted for us. It is why we, today, insist on shouldering the same promise for the future.

The people who retire 30, 50 and 100 years from now should have longer, healthier and more comfortable retirements than we do today. More of the value we create with our work should come to us, and to them.

An individual electrician has the power to bring light and heat where there is darkness and cold. But at the negotiating table, an individual only has the power an employer is willing to grant them.

Now put us together, and we don't just have the power to make our customers' lives better, but we also have the power to improve our own lives.

We were able to increase our benefits and create an entirely new benefit, the National Electrical Individual Benefit, because of that collective power. When negotiated at the local level, contractors will pay at least 50 cents for every hour a member works, and when the member retires, they will receive 1.5% of that career-long total every month for life.

Our ability to demand more continues to strengthen because the IBEW is growing bigger every year.

We have seen historic growth in the past decade. We have more "A" members than at any time in our history, and we are making sure that all our members enjoy a piece of that success.

As we continue to organize, and expand both our membership and market share, the fight for better, more secure retirements for all of our members remains our top priority.

There are not many jobs these days that come with a pension. But the unionized electrical construction trade remains a proud exception.

The NEBF is a core reason that for more than half a century, the IBEW has meant good, family-sustaining, middle-class jobs.

And we are committed to reinforcing this critical pillar of the middle class in the electrical industry in the years to come.

None of this would have been possible without your hard work. It is your dedication to excellence and growing the IBEW that allowed us to make this possible.

Thank you for all you do, and please see "IBEW Wins Upgraded Pension Benefits for Members" of this issue and visit for more information.

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International President

Paul A. Noble

Paul A. Noble
International Secretary-Treasurer