This Local was organized in July, 1915, and it came about in the following manner:
In early 1915 an organizer for the IBEW (a Mr. Leach) from Philadelphia visited the one-room shop of John Bangs and Harry Meserve, who had just started an electrical business on Portland Street, and approached them as to the possibility of starting a union in Portland.
A month or so later John Bangs contacted other interested parties and said that Mr. Leach was coming to Portland again and requested that the group meet with him. After talking with Mr. Leach for several hours, at which time he elaborated on the purposes of unionism and the benefits to be derived, etc., it was decided that, in view of the possible benefits, it was worth trying, and they proceeded to organize.
With no funds available, the first meeting was held at Miller’s Hall, which was located across the street from the present central Fire Station on Congress Street. The original seven members were as follows:
Edward S. Boulos – President
John A. Olsen – Vice–President
Leonard A. Libby – Financial Secretary and Treasurer
Philip V. Libby – Recording Secretary
Fred W. Waterman – Inside Guard
John H. Bangs – Trustee
Harry R. Meserve – Trustee
Much credit for actual organization beyond the nucleus of original workers must be to John Fennel of IBEW Local 103 in Boston. He took great interest in the foundation and progress of Local 567, was an excellent recruiter, firm in his dealing with employers and wise in his counsel. He spent many long hours in the members' company, discussing conditions, writing agreements, and preparing policies. The IBEW lost a real friend when early death overtook John Fennel.
During these early years union membership could mean immediate discharge, therefore membership was kept strictly confidential. After several months the ranks grew to sixteen members and they were able to obtain the present Charter that now hangs in the hall of Local 567.
The Local had no funds, no permanent meeting place, nor even a frame for the cherished Charter. The document had to be rolled up and taken home and brought to wherever the meetings were to be held. Finally a second-hand frame was obtained from Jake Young’s on Temple Street and Eddie Fessenden’s brother–in–law (a painter) stripped and refinished it.
It was difficult to enlist new members but the small core group grew. Negotiations then proceeded after three shops acquired representation. At the time top wages for a journeyman were $2.25 per day, and possibly one or two men in a shop who were in charge of projects received $2.50 per day for six nine-hour days, as the ten-hour day had just been discarded.
A committee of five members was appointed by Local 567 to meet with the Contractors, and after rather hot sessions managed to come to an agreement and settled on $.38 per hour. Journeymen still had to carry stock, ladders, and tools to the job in the rear end of electric cars. any times the Conductor would scold, then order or kick the men off the cars, ladders and all.
Moving forward to the late 1940’s, a Northern District, Aroostook and parts of three other northern counties, were added to Local 567’s jurisdiction.
Some of the major projects and jobs completed during that period include the building of the East and West Shipyards in South Portland, the Portland Harbor Defense System, and the Brunswick Naval Air Station. Also, the construction of the Limestone and Presque Isle Air Bases were important projects for a number of years. During the 1950’s several men worked on the building of mine sweepers and other ships at east Boothbay.
The mainstay of Local 567’s work through the years has been new construction and rebuilds at many paper mills and manufacturing plants.
The resume of projects performed by the members is a “Who’s Who” of Facilities in Maine:
- Paper mills in Millinocket, East Millinocket, Madawaska, Rumford, and Westbrook, to name a few;
- Powerhouses, including the building and decommissioning of Maine Yankee Atomic Power; generation plants at Cousins Island; rebuilds and additions to Ripogenis Dam; the Mason Plant in Wiscasset; the Gas Fired Plant in Rumford; and stem and hydro plants throughout Maine;
- Work performed at medical facilities, including Maine Medical Center in Portland and Scarborough; Mercy Hospital; Central Maine Medical Center; Southern Maine Medical Center in Biddeford; and St. Mary’s Hospital in Lewiston;
- The Nestle’ Waters Bottling Plants in Poland Springs and Hollis;
- Educational facilities, including local area schools; Bowdoin College; Bates College; University of New England; University of Southern Maine Portland and Gorham Campuses; and St. Joseph’s College;
- Many retail store and shopping malls, restaurants and business parks.
A few unusual jobs completed by Local 567’s members were the Earth Satellite Station at Andover (Telstar) in the early 1960s, and the Texas Towers, assembled at the shipyard in South Portland and later completed at sea. In the 1970s through the 1980s, 567 members worked at the Seabrook nuclear plant in New Hampshire, and during the 1990s at the large expansion of National Semiconductor in South Portland.
After many years of calling the Labor temple on 110 Exchange Street home, Local 567 bought and remodeled its own building at 240 Gray Road in Falmouth. However, it was not long before this building could no longer meet the needs of the local union. The Local then purchased the current facility at 238 Goddard Road in Lewiston. This building houses the administration offices of the local union and pension office, the meeting hall, and offices, permanent classrooms and training space for JATC.
Since 1915 IBEW Local 567 has been a leader in the electrical industry of Maine. The future is full of promise as long as members can recall the dedication and solidarity of those who went before us. It is that type of resolve that has allowed this local union to grow and enjoy the success we have today.