IBEW 48: $9 in raises, and an end to marijuana testing 

By Don McIntosh

Members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 48 approved a new two-year collective bargaining agreement Oct. 27 that increases compensation $9 an hour. It covers inside wiremen employed by contractors in the Oregon Columbia chapter of National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). That’s about 3,900 Local 48 members, plus any travelers from other IBEW locals working in Local 48’s jurisdiction. 

The two increases of $4.50 (about 5.5%) will take effect Jan. 1, 2022 and Jan. 1, 2023, and members will decide before then how to allocate them between wages and benefits. The current package is $50.35 an hour in wages and $31.48 in benefits.

The agreement also makes changes to the Electrical Industry Drug Free Workplace Program, the impact of which will be felt throughout Oregon and Washington in seven IBEW locals and four NECA chapters. The program, established jointly by labor and management in 1990, provides drug testing and substance abuse treatment to workers and managers both, as a non-punitive way to maintain a safe workplace.  

But under the new inside wire agreement, the program will suspend random drug tests through 2023, and permanently end drug testing for marijuana—until a test for impairment can be developed. The problem has been that no test for marijuana can determine if a person is presently under the influence; a positive test shows only that cannabis was used days or weeks prior.

Marijuana has been legal for adult recreational use since 2015 in Oregon and since 2012 in Washington. 

Local 48 business manager Garth Bachman says bargaining surveys showed the issue was one of several priorities for members. The existing policy of random drug tests for marijuana has also made it more challenging to recruit and retain new members and apprentices.

Drug tests for other drugs can still be required after accidents or on reasonable suspicion of on-the-job intoxication. And tests for marijuana can still be required at the request of individual project owners, as is currently the case at Intel, data centers, and federal government projects.

The new agreement runs through Dec. 31, 2023.

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