why is the IBEW refered to as the 'gravediggers'?

Tom Lehman uswa12 at lorainccc.edu
Wed Jun 17 19:15:55 PDT 1998

Dear Mr. Schaffer: The IBEW is a great old labor union. Although, in my humble opinion, not as grand and magnificent as the United Steelworkers of America. Here I am sure my personal prejudices are showing. Grudgingly, I must admit that the IBEW in all probability has more college educated members than any other labor organization in the USA and more graduate engineers who are members. You will be working with a very smart bunch. You will particularly enjoy working with the second, third and possibly fourth generation of members---in our union and in their union they will know where the bodies are buried and they may even have helped bury some of them. This is where the gravedigger thing comes in---when the boss screws up and you cover for him by hiding the mistake, this is known as" burying the body".

If you get really good at hiding the bosses mistakes, your friends will start refering to you as the undertaker.

For serious stats and facts call the IBEW. Fraternally yours, Thomas Lehman

Les Schaffer wrote:

> I am looking for some information on the IBEW (Intl Brotherhood of
> Electrical Workers).
> I just got out of a meeting this a.m. with a client company which is
> going to use an IBEW shop for some assembly work in the Northeast US
> area. During the meeting, one of the company engineers threw me an
> off-the-cuff remark about the IBEW being called the 'gravediggers'.
> when i asked him what that meant, he said that they (the IBEW) have
> 'put a lot of companies out of business'.
> Now, i respect this guy's talents in electrical engineering a lot, and
> will probably be working more with him in the future. And i think he
> would listen to me if i gave him some other points of view about the
> So, is anyone here intimately familiar with this union and the
> 'supposed' actions it took which 'put companies out of business'? I'd
> like to throw a couple well characterized retorts at my colleague and
> see if he comes around some. I am looking for any or all of the
> following:
> 1.) anecdotal evidence about the IBEW in other locales
> 2.) some pointers to history of the IBEW; what are some of the key
> historical negotiations the IBEW have been involved with.
> 3.) what companies HAVE gone out of business AFTER contract
> negotiations with IBEW, if any
> 4.) what are some of the alternative post-mortems for said deaths in 3
> that contradict the IBEW gravedigger theory.
> 5.) does EVERY union get called a gravedigger, or has the IBEW somehow
> done SOMETHING spectacular to deserve this characterization?
> 6.) is a union's reputation a nation-wide or world-wide thing, or can
> a local have a good 'reputation' with some companies in its area, even
> though globally the union does not have such a good face (or vice
> versa). by reputation, i refer primarily to how other working class
> engineers and technicians see that union, rather than the
> owner/stockholders view of the union.
> much thanks
> --
> ____ Les Schaffer godzilla at netmeg.net ___| ------->> Engineering R&D <<--------
> Theoretical & Applied Mechanics | Designspring, Inc. Westport, CT USA
> Center for Radiophysics & Space Research | http://www.designspring.com
> Cornell Univ. schaffer at tam.cornell.edu | les at designspring.com

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