IBEW Local 490 is getting ready to celebrate their retirees at their annual breakfast in Concord, NH, the exact same spot where Bernie Sanders spoke almost a year prior. This year they are honored highlight two particular retirees.
Albert Couture has been with the IBEW for 65 years. When he returned from his military service it was his father that got him working. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t think fondly of his years of service. “I’ve been retired for 31 years now, and working with the boys is what I miss the most,” says Couture.
A lot has changed since Couture began working, improved technology and energy efficient practices for instance. Though Unions are notorious for having stellar member benefits, when Couture started out six decades ago the story was a bit different. “Benefits and pensions hardly existed when I began working. The merger (from my previous Union) with Local 490 was the best thing that ever happened. It brought retirement benefits and I got to meet new people,” says Couture. Going on to add, “I’ve met a few non-union workers and to me the one thing that stands out the most throughout our conversations is the retirement benefits. Some of these people don’t have any.”
In 1965 Ernst Bewersdorf joined the IBEW Local 490. He has been a long time member and during his tenure he’s seen a lot of great change. “When I started my education the Union program was a four-year course. All of the apprentices were in the same classroom, studying the same curriculum no matter their apprenticeship level,” Bewersdorf says.
When Bewersdorf began working a first year apprentice could expect to start earning 40% of journeymen wages with a 5% increase every six months you passed through training. Now, almost 50 years later, an apprentice wage will begin at 50% with an increase of 10% for each year they meet the curriculum criteria.
A lot of change but many things have remained constant, one of those things was security. “I was able to work anywhere in the United States knowing what the hourly rate and the benefit package would be. This kept my health insurance and retirement plans in place, as we worked for many different companies,” says Bewersdorf. The Union provided Bewersdorf and Couture the flexibility and freedom to do what they loved all while providing a future for themselves and their families.
“To have someone to advocate for me at the bargaining table was a real asset to me as a Union member. In addition, a retirement wage that allows me to maintain our existing lifestyle has provided me the comfort and stability so we don’t have to choose between food, heat, medicine or leave our home of forty-two years,” says Bewersdorf.
After years of experience working professionally within the Union system Couture and Bewersdorf have a lot of wisdom they can impart on their brothers and sisters.
“Play fair and square with your co-workers. It will make it easier to communicate,” advises Couture. “The basics of why the Unions exists should never be changed. Fairness has always been my goal,” Couture goes on to add.
“As a group working together, be ready to accomplish the goals already in place while still incorporating new goals. Learn and respect each other’s thoughts and beliefs. Learn to advocate for your abilities and the compensations of them,” adds Bewersdorf.
The press is invited to celebrate our long standing community members at the IBEW Local 490, 4th Annual Retiree Breakfast on August 12th at 9am.