Henry Miller, the first President of the IBEW, died in 1896 without enough money for a decent burial.
Miller was not alone. In the early part of the 20th century, accidental electrocution among people employed in the electrical industry occurred with such frequency that many insurance companies refused to insure the lives of electrical workers. Others set the premiums so high that the typical electrical worker could not afford to maintain life insurance for his or her surviving family. In response to this dilemma, members of the IBEW established a fraternal death benefit
association in 1922 whose essential purpose was to provide the named beneficiary of a deceased member a sum that might permit our member to be interred in a dignified manner.
That fraternal death benefit association (The Electrical Workers Benefit Association) was later merged in January 1992 with the IBEW Pension Benefit Fund following convention action.
‘A’ Members Have Security
Today, only “A” members of the IBEW participate in the IBEW Pension Benefit Fund through which they may later become eligible to receive a monthly pension benefit. Additionally, named beneficiaries of “A” members may receive a $6,250 death benefit if death occurs by natural causes or $12,500 for those who die by accident. “A” members need only hold IBEW membership for six months for their named beneficiary to receive the death benefit. Said International President Edwin D. Hill:
When you become an “A” member, you benefit yourself, but more importantly, you strengthen the union’s long-term commitment to its members and guarantee a lifelong connection to the IBEW
The beneficiaries of retired “A” members may also be eligible for a death benefit between $3,000 and $6,250, depending upon how much the member has received in pension benefits at the time of their death. However, this amount never falls below $3,000.
When “A” members are placed on pension with the IBEW Pension Benefit Fund, dues payments to their local unions cease.
“A” members who meet the qualifications for pension may also receive a monthly benefit from the IBEW Pension Benefit Fund. Currently, when “A” members submit dues to their local unions, $15 of that payment represents their participation in the fund. “A” members (for example) who reach age 65 and successfully apply for pension after 20 years of participation in the fund will receive a monthly benefit in the amount of $90 for the remainder of their life. Many members, however, acquire far more than 20 years of participation by the time they reach retirement age. Plan trustees have reported that after three-and-a-half years, “A” members receiving a pension benefit from the IBEW Pension Benefit Fund have already surpassed their total contributions to the fund during their years as active “A” members.
For “A” members with 20 years or more, those who meet the qualifications for pension may apply for early retirement between the ages of 62-64, but will experience a 6.66% reduction in monthly payments for each year or part thereof that they are under the age of 65 at the time they begin to receive a benefit.
As with many pension plans, the IBEW Pension Benefit Fund faces challenges; and at the 2011 IBEW International Convention in Vancouver, Canada, action was taken to strengthen the plan. As noted at the convention, one of the best ways to strengthen the fund was to increase “A” membership in the IBEW.
Bylaws of each local union vary, but for most local unions, only “A” members can be local union officers. Additionally, only those delegates holding “A” membership may vote on issues related to the IBEW Pension Benefit at IBEW International Conventions.
Some IBEW members hold “BA” membership. However, the dues payments of “BA” members do not include the portion attributable to the IBEW Pension Benefit Fund. As a result, those who hold “BA” membership leave employment upon retirement, cease the payment of union dues, and not only are they not eligible to request an application for pension from the IBEW Pension Benefit Fund, but their survivors are not eligible to receive a death benefit.
Active “A” members, as well as those who are receiving a benefit from the IBEW Pension Benefit Fund, continue to receive this newspaper, The Electrical Worker. When an “A” member retires from the IBEW, the relationship he may have with the IBEW may change, but it doesn’t end. There are currently over 100,000 IBEW members who are receiving a monthly benefit from the IBEW Pension Benefit Fund. Those retired “A” members continue to play a part in strengthening the IBEW; and although they may no longer be active members, they remain important.
‘A’ Membership is Open to All
Half of all IBEW members hold “A” membership, but “A” membership is available to all IBEW members. Any questions about membership type can be directed to your local union office.
There are only two steps required to change your membership from “BA” to “A.” When contacting your local union, request and complete a Form 124 (Beneficiary Designation Form) designating your beneficiary for death benefits. Second, your local union will request a $2 admission fee and an amount that is equal to the difference between “BA” and “A” membership dues for your first month as an “A” member. Effective January 1, 2013, monthly dues are $30, with $15 attributable to the IBEW Pension Benefit Fund.
All individuals currently holding “BA” membership with the IBEW are encouraged to take advantage of the benefits associated with changing their membership to “A.” The benefits associated with “A” membership in the IBEW are just one of the examples of the way the IBEW “…takes care of their own,” said Larry Reidenbach, Senior Executive Assistant to International Secretary-Treasurer Salvatore Chilia. “It is also a good deal,” Reidenbach said.
All the facts about “A” membership and the forms to join up are available online: