Is being in IBEW the golden ticket for linemen?
“It was a very beautiful thing, this Golden Ticket, having been made, so it seemed, from a sheet of pure gold hammered out almost to the thinness of paper. On one side of it, printed by some clever method in jet-black letters, was the invitation itself" - Mr Willy Wonka.
A union ticket is the piece of paper documenting that a person has paid their subscription and dues needed to be an active member.
Consideration for a union lineman job
In some parts of the country or depending on your lineman work preferences you may considering joining a union. In recent years union lineman have became frustrated with the lack of wage increases as well as some of the political endorsements that have been made. However, being a union lineman can have some benefits that may be worth considering pending your local and family situation.
Should I get a union lineman job?
At the end of the day each family makes their own decision on the work environment and company that is best for them. Some of our best memories in the industry are working both union and non-union employers. Here are seven reasons why lineman often consider joining a union.
1) Pay is more than meets the eye
If you talk to some experienced lineman you might hear that non-union contracting jobs, storm chasing or large transmission projects are the ones that pay the most.
However lineman pay should take more into consideration than just the hourly wage. For example, New York and Massachusets are two the states that lineman make the most money; however these are also relatively high cost of living states.
Union lineman jobs can often come with additional benefits (described below) and are more common in higher cost of living areas (West Coast and Northeast). It is less common to see union lineman jobs in south, southeast and midwest (generally speaking).
When you join a union as a lineman, one thing you can be guranteed is transparency.
Wage rates, also known as pay scales, help unions and line contractors set frameworks for how much to pay their linemen. These pay scales are posted pubicly.
Here is an example of a pay scale from a local union:
Non-union line jobs may be quicker to react to an influx in demand for line workers and offer higher wages at times; however in some states union workers consistently get paid more than non-union.
2) Cutting Edge Perspective on a Changing Industry
Union Lineman Crews are often the ones selected to work on some of the most prestigous and important transmission and distribution projects around the world.
The US electric grid is the largest connected machine in the world. Craftsmen and tradesmen take pride in our work and understand that in order skills are needed
Working for a union as a lineman demonstrates your experience. Some examples of notable line projects that union crews have helped support in the past include:
The Pacific DC Intertie
The Major Tranmission Routes of PJM Interconnection
Merrimack Valley Reliability Project
The country would not be functioning the way it does today without these projects and union crews are to thank.
3) Desire to retire?
One of the top reasons lineman jobs are in high demand is the thousands of lineman that are retiring each year.
This exodus of the workforce is placing a higher emphasis on linemen understanding that they need to have a plan for themselves and their families. In an era where alot of companies are cutting back on the retirement benefits union lineman are eligible for two top tier retirement programs:
The National Electric Annuity Plan
An annuity is a financial product that pays out a fixed stream of payments to an individual, primarily used as an income stream for retirees.
Under this program, union linemen receive a retirement benefit of 15% to 25% of your gross pay, depending on your local union.
It is important to note that this amount is paid by the electrical contractors and is not deducted from your paycheck.
2. The National Electrical Benefit Fund
This program is a multi-employer defined benefit plan provides monthly contributions of 3% of gross pay for electrical workers associated with participating local unions of the IBEW. Lineman in the west coast often have high participation in this program.
Journeymen lineman and apprentice linemen receive the benefit as part of their compensation package when they work for a contributing employer.
Vesting (hold or waiting period) in the fund takes just five years.
4) Top Tier Training
We started Lineman Central because we saw how difficult it was to get good information on how to become a lineman and join our trade. Its fair to say that safe and affordable training is the key to starting a career in the line trade.
Union training programs are structured as the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee. This was developed to put some standard practices for the members of NECA and IBEW. Each year thousands of aspiring linemen sign up for these programs through Lineman Central.
Lineman Apprenticeship Programs are divided by region and are as follow:
Lineman jobs can be dangerous. According to national lineman surveys and utility company data, 42 for every 100,000 lineman are killed on the job each year.
Additionally, 2,400 for every 100,000 lineman suffer serious non-fatal injuries each year.
Lineman and their families can enroll through LineCo. Members will receive their insurance cards in the mail. This is a partnerships with Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
LineCo is a PPO or Preferred Provider Organization. A PPO is a health plan that contracts with medical providers, such as hospitals and doctors, to create a network of participating providers.
If the utility or construction company does not pay you the amount owed or in a timely fashion, say you get fired without good reason, or something just seems a little sketchy, there is someone who has your back. The local unions work to make sure that the contracts are inclusive to both parties and that the over all package that these men and women get paid is a fair amount based on the local wages.
There are examples of the employers of lineman going cheap on travel, per diem, safety equipment and overall pay. It can be helpful to have someone who has your back.
7) The Brotherhood.
There are unions for firefighters, airline workers, teachers and film makers but perhaps there is no union that forms a bond as close the the electrical workers union. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers was founded in 1891. Since then the organization has grown to support other 700,000 workers (more than just lineman) across the world.
In our community we have especially seen the impact that union brothers have in supporting hurt or fallen lineman and their families.
**Lineman Central does not formally support union or non union activity. Some of our best experiences in the trade have been both union and non-union. Our platform exists to broadly support the future of the line trade and help aspiring linemen connect with training programs**