IBEW Local 104 History
The history of Local 104 began as an effort by 11 determined men to create a better life for outside electrical workers in the Boston, Massachusetts area. The efforts of these 11 brave men mirror the efforts of the founders of Local 104’s parent organization, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Local 104 joined the IBEW on January 24th, 1900, about nine years after the IBEW itself was founded.
Outside electrical workers, also known as electrical linemen, have extremely dangerous jobs. On a regular basis they are required to work in all sorts of perilous weather, climbing telephone poles and electrical towers to install, repair and maintain outside electrical lines, power connections and transformers. Since the early days when their organization was founded, the electrical linemen of Local 104 have worked hard to minimize the dangers surrounding their industry. They have prided themselves in their first-rate apprenticeship training with a heavy attention to safety and a constant drive for fair wages. Progress has been made, but it wasn’t easy in the beginning.
From Past to Present
The everyday hazards surrounding the duties of electrical linemen were compounded in the early years by long hours, low pay and dangerous working conditions. Electrical linemen commonly worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, in all types of climates for about 15 to 20 cents an hour. There was no apprenticeship training, no industry standards and no safety training. In some portions of the country, one out of every two linemen hired would perish. Nationally, the death rate for electrical workers was twice as much as the national average for other industries. These inhumane conditions were the primary impetus behind the formation of the IBEW at the end of the 1800’s and Local 104 in 1900.
The chief concern for the men who started Local 104 was safer working conditions and fair wages. At the beginning of the 1900’s, Boston was one of the areas in the country where approximately 50% of the linemen were killed on the job. Being located in the Northeast United States, Boston area linemen have always been required to work in various types of weather. Local 104 members have worked in driving rain, severe ice storms, blizzards and hurricanes. The severe weather situation only contributed to a high death rate in the early years. The hard work and determination by the founders of Local 104 to make their industry safer helped lower the 50% death rate and keep the weather from taking the lives of half of the workforce. Through inclement weather, Local 104 members have answered the call to keep the power turned on in New England for over 100 years.
Aside from the desire of Local 104’s founders to create a safer work environment, they also sought after fair wages for the hard, dangerous work they conducted. There were no national wage standards set up in the early days of electrical linemen. The telephone and electrical light companies of that day relied on traveling, independent lineman to erect poles and string wires. These employers kept wages low and took advantage of untrained workers who would toil for virtually nothing just to learn the trade. The inexperienced workers only made the dangerous nature of the industry that much worse, and the roving, untrained linemen also gave the industry as a whole a bad name.
Local 104’s founders, as well as the founding fathers of the IBEW, changed all that. The 11 brave men who created Local 104 fought for a fair, standard wage for their services. Boston linemen in 1901 made $3.00 for an eight-hour day. That may seem like a meager amount, but the founders of Local 104 fought hard to secure those wages. The early linemen wages in Boston were higher than those given in many other cities at that time. The men and women of Local 104 who have followed their founders have continued to fight for fair wages, and today a Boston area lineman enjoys some of the best wages in the country.
During Local 104’s history, the organization has also represented Boston elevator workers who were employed by the Boston Electrical Railway. Local 104 has grown to represent several different branches of outside electrical workers, including employees affiliated with utilities, municipalities and contractors.
IBEW Local 104 has a proud history of providing a well trained, efficient and highly productive workforce. With an existence covering over 100 years, the local’s longevity is obvious. Local 104 is in a group of IBEW locals who are some of the oldest in the country.
The men and women of Local 104 are full of pride. Their history speaks for itself. The success and progress that have followed them over the years will continue as they look forward to serving New England in the outside electrical industry.