The Interesting and Storied History of IBEW Local 567
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 567 was organized in July 1915.
Earlier that year, an IBEW organizer named 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. Leach approached them about the possibility of starting a union in Portland.
The two men discussed the opportunity and began to seriously consider the benefits associated with creating an IBEW Local.
Roughly a month later, Bangs contacted other interested parties and told them Mr. Leach was coming back to Portland and requested to meet with the group.
Upon his return, the group met with Mr. Leach for several hours, as he elaborated on the purposes of unionism and the benefits to be derived. After his talk, the group decided it was worth trying to organize in order to gain the possible benefits.
With no funds available, the first meeting was held at Miller’s Hall, located across the street from the present Central Fire Station on Congress Street.
Edward S. Boulos
John A. Olsen
Leonard A. Libby
Financial Secretary and Treasurer
Philip V. Libby
Fred W. Waterman
John H. Bangs
Harry R. Meserve
The beginning of IBEW Local 567
Much of the credit for actual organization beyond the nucleus of the original workers goes to John Fennel of IBEW Local 103 in Boston, as he took a great interest in the foundation and progress of Local 567. Fennel 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 Fennel unexpectedly passed away.
During the early years, union membership could mean immediate discharge, therefore membership was kept strictly confidential. After several months, the ranks grew to 16 members and they were able to obtain the present Charter, which now hangs in the Local 567 Union Hall.
At this point, the Local had no funds, no permanent meeting place or even a frame for the cherished Charter. The document was rolled up, taken home and brought to wherever meetings were to be held. Finally, a second-hand frame was obtained from Jake Young’s on Temple Street. Eddie Fessenden’s brother–in–law, who was a painter, stripped and refinished it.
It was difficult to enlist new members, but the small core group slowly grew. Negotiations took place 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 oversaw projects, received $2.50 per day. The work week was six, nine-hour days, as the 10-hour day had just been discarded.
A committee of five members was appointed by Local 567 to meet with contractors. After some rather fiery sessions, they managed to come to an agreement of $2.38 per hour. Journeymen still had to carry stock, ladders and tools to the job in the rear end of electric cars. The conductors would often scold, then order or kick the men off the cars – ladders and all.
By the late 1940s, a Northern District, called Aroostook, and parts of three other northern counties were added to Local 567’s jurisdiction.
Since the beginning, IBEW Local 567 has been a leader in the electrical industry of Maine and continues to maintain that status. 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.