What’s the difference between a union and non-union electrician?

Well to start, one belongs to a union, and the other doesn’t. I’m sure you already deduced that. There are a number of practical differences however, as things work a lot differently inside the electrical union, called the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, or IBEW. Life as a non-union electrician is pretty much as one may imagine it; you apply and interview with different electrical contractors, and negotiate your wage personally. Some companies provide medical insurance, some don’t. Some may provide 401ks, or supply workers with power tools. You shop around, trying to find the best company with the best work. 

In the union however, you don’t shop around. All companies that are affiliated with the union only hire union workers, and they all fall under the same local contract. That means ALL licensed journeymen earn the same minimum pay (foreman or other higher positions can earn more) and all have the same benefits, including full medical coverage, a pension, and access to a 401k, and provide power tools. 

When a part of the union, you also don’t have to apply to new places. The union will look for work for you. If you get laid off, you sign what’s called the books. This enters you into a queue of sorts, from which the electrical contractors hire from. When you’re on the books, you enjoy the time off and file for unemployment. When it’s your turn, you’re hired. This is actually a simple version of how it really works, and if you want to know more, visit our union page.

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