IBEW Local 76 has a very diverse membership. Of the nearly 1200 members of Local 76, nearly 800 are Inside Wireman and Apprentices. The remainder of the membership is made up of Residential Wireman and Trainees, Motor Winders, Marine Electricians and Helpers, Sound and Communication Technicians, Apprentices and Installers, Radio and Television Technicians and Engineers, Electrical Inspectors, Biomedical Technicans, and Maintenance Electricians.
IBEW Local Union #76 was first formed in Tacoma about 1890 by lineman, who organized the Mt. Tacoma Lodge #8 of the United Order of Lineman, a Denver based organization with strength in the West. The Union later disappeared.
Perhaps members of the original Union helped organize Local #76 of the National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Chartered June 6, 1894, for among the founders were a telegraph operator and a lineman. The Charter lapsed during the severe hard times in the mid-1890's. When economic recovery revived the dormant Union movement, the Charter of Local #76 was reinstated, on August 28, 1897, this time with a varied membership. Four of those listed on the Charter were employed at City Light, two worked in building construction, one was an operator for Postal Telegraph, another an electrician in a private power company and another worked for the Tacoma Railway and Motor Company.
When IBEW Local #483 was chartered March 8, 1906, Local #76 relinquished jurisdiction over utility workers to become an inside construction Local. In a strike of one day (October 15, 1906) involving about one hundred electricians, Local #76 gained a wage increase from $3.50 to $4.00 a day, but a month later the association contractors locked out Union members from their shops for refusing to leave the Building Trades Assembly or sign individual contracts. This was part of the concerted move by the open shop Citizen's Alliance to break the Unions. For two years the building trades Union struggled against scab organizations sponsored by the Alliance.
The Reid-Murphy split tore apart the IBEW for six years. Internal politics and dissension between wireman and lineman resulted in two conventions in 1908 and two sets of International Officers - Reid/Murphy and McNulty/Collins. Both appealed to the AFL under President Gompers for recognition. The AFL recognized the McNaulty/Collins faction as the legitimate IBEW and instructed local councils to unseat Reid/Murphy Unions. After leaving the notice to expel Local #76 on the table for four months, the Tacoma Central Labor Council unseated the Union on January 5, 1910. Local #76 was back in the Council by January 29, 1913, as the Reid/Murphy faction was returning to the recognized IBEW.
World War I set Puget Sound shipyards humming to meet the Federal Government's need for a wartime merchant fleet. Local Union #76 re-affiliated with the Metal Trades Council in January, 1917. By the end of 1918, there were sixteen Unions representing six thousand workers in the Council. After four stormy years involving strikes, Local #76 members increased their hourly wage 72 cents per hour. Todd Shipyard was our largest employer.
Seeking to avoid the turbulent labor relations of the open shop drive following World War I, the contractors and the IBEW created the Council of Industrial Relations in 1920 to settle labor disputes in the Industry. Although most cases involved outside locals of utilities and line construction, Local #76 used the council frequently to settle disputes with electrical contractors.
With construction dead during the Great Depression, our members accepted a 20% wage reduction in 1931. However, during the upsurge of the 1930's we were able to reverse the downward spiral and made numerous gains, such as a thirty hour week. By the end of the decade, almost all commercial and residential construction was Union. The outbreak of World War II signaled a revival of shipbuilding and government contracts for Todd Pacific Shipyard. Local Union #76 represented electricians under the Metal Trades Council master agreement.
After using various halls during the early years, Local #76 rented office and meeting space in the Labor Temple from 1918 to 1933, when the Union office moved to upstairs rooms at 740-1/2 Broadway. In 1941, Local #76 supported the goals of the Labor movement to purchase its own building which was realized in 1941 with the Labor Temple at Fifteenth and Martket streets.
In 1906, the IBEW adopted apprenticeship requirements at its founding convention to protect the trade from inexperienced, incompetent and unsafe workers. In 1911, apprentices were admitted to the Union after six months, with lower dues and benefits. They were required to work under the supervision of a Journeyman at all times, and admitted to full membership as soon as they passed the examination for Journeyman. In 1978, when Local #76 moved to its present location, the Local #76 Building at South 36th and Cedar, the JATC approached the owners of the Prairie Market Store next door. Eventually the JATC purchased the building and after remodeling, it now houses the entire apprenticeship program.
From its inception, Local #76 was both a protective and beneficial Union. In 1882, a year after its founding, the NEBW established a $50.00 death benefit. Beginning in 1928, the IBEW added a pension after twenty years of continuous service. In 1947, it was augmented by an Employer paid pension plan negotiated with the NECA for construction members, and in 1965 Local #76 joined the IBEW Pacific Coast Pension Fund for members employed in construction and the shipyards. An annuity plan was negotiated in 1981 for construction wireman. These pensions, coupled with the social security, enable retired members to live comfortably.
The Retired Members' Club #76 was formed in 1982, with officers elected annually. They are a very energetic group with many activities besides participation in local political campaigns.
The IBEW Credit Union, founded in 1957, has served Union members for over thirty years. From an initial deposit of $26 to assets well over $17 million at this time, the Credit Union is open to each and every member and their families.
The IBEW provided for admission of non-Journeyman wireman in 1935 by creating a non-benefit "BA" membership with lower initiation fees and dues. On April 4, 1940, Local #76 changed its status to a mixed Local to include "BA" members. Further, smaller Locals were merging with larger Locals to survive.
Radio and TV Local #802 of Tacoma, Chartered June 19, 1936, merged with Local #76 May 1, 1940. Centralia Local #359, Chartered December 28, 1914, joined the Tacoma Union in 1941. Olympia Local #458, Chartered August 13, 1907, part of the Reid/Murphy faction from 1908 to 1914, joined Local #76 October 1, 1958. Aberdeen Local #458, Chartered January 1, 1904, merged with Local #76 on October 1, 1959. The final merger brought the construction members of Shelton Local #882, Chatered June 2, 1936, into Local #76 June 14, 1960.
When, in the early 1980's, Local #76 requested a new Charter, to reflect its current composition, the International refused unless the Union would surrender the original document. This the Local will not do, and the 1897 Charter occupies a place of honor in the Union office. Back to top