Association for Union Democracy

IBEW Benefit Contributions

The AUD was recently contacted by a longtime member of IBEW. He frequently works as a traveler outside of his home local. Over and over, he has noticed that the International’s Health and Welfare Reciprocal Agreement was set up to benefit the Health and Welfare funds of the locals in which he worked as a traveler at the expense of the member’s own home fund.

Section 12 of the Reciprocal Agreement states, in part: [The] Participating Fund shall remit Moneis to the Home Fund based on hours paid and reported to the participating fund multiplied by the straight-time current contributions rate in the Home Fund, except that a Participating Fund shall not be required to transfer funds at a contribution rate greater than the current rate of the Participating Fund. The “Participating Fund” (the local at which the traveler is working) only remits the amount typically collected by the “Home Fund,” even if that amount is significantly lower than the Health and Welfare Fund contribution collected from the employer. The remaining amount is kept in the Participating Fund’s Health and Welfare Fund.

Currently, there are at least several hundred individual and joint Health and Welfare Funds serving IBEW locals throughout the United States. With just a few exceptions, all follow the International’s Reciprocal Agreement. Several locals, however, have separate agreements that send the full amount collected by the Participating Fund back to the traveler’s Home Fund. For example, a member of Local 606 in Florida, which is in a fund with over 50 other Locals, might work in Alaska Local 1547 and get 100% of their Health and Welfare benefit sent back to their home fund. If this same member works in Boston Local 103 they only get what the home fund rewhires, which is less than 100%. Our contact believes Health Fund Accounts exist for a reason and the members should get 100% of their Health & Welfare money worked for under a collectively bargained working agreement.

Our contact believes that the International’s Reciprocal Agreement allows large locals that frequently use travelers to retain money that rightly belongs to the Home Local. In some cases, the Participating Fund’s rate is more than twice that of the Home Local, meaning that the Participating Fund may be keeping more of the contribution for its own Health and Welfare fund than it sends back to the Home Local.

Our friend is not alone in his desire to change how the Reciprocal Agreement works, but he and his supporters have so far been rebuffed by the International, which claimed first that an individual cannot amend the agreement, and then that a single fund (comprised of multiple locals) does not indicate enough support for an amendment to the Reciprocal Agreement. He hopes to continue to garner support for change.

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