Jerry Bruce, 1936-2024


Jerry Bruce, a former business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48, died of cancer of the esophagus Feb. 21, 2024 at the age of 87.

Born in Portland March 14, 1936, Gerald Dennis Bruce left Lincoln High School at age 17 to serve a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, where he earned a GED. Back in Portland after his military service, he went to work for Baker-Barkon Company as an electric sign installer and joined Local 48 in January 1957. He became active in the union and served as political action coordinator and executive board member in the 1970s. In 1983 he was elected president, and was re-elected in 1986. In 1986 he also went to work for the local as a business rep and assistant to business manager Ed Barnes. 

Bruce helped develop the union’s Market Recovery Program, which helps shore up union market share by subsidizing bids of union contractors when they’re undercut by non-union competitors. 

For many years he also served the union as an instructor in the union’s sign hangers and tube benders apprenticeship program. He also graduated from IBEW’s national training center in Knoxville, Tennessee, and served on IBEW’s National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee.

In February 1996, business manager Greg Teeple retired, and Bruce was appointed business manager to fill the remainder of his term. He won re-election in 1998.

It was during his time as business manager that Local 48 moved its union hall and training center from Northeast 42nd and Killingsworth to its current location at Northeast 158th and Northeast Airport Way. 

He was also at the helm when Local 48 set up its Flex Benefits Plan with the union employer group NECA. Funded by employer contributions, the Flex Benefits Plan reimburses members for child care, out-of-pocket medical and drug expenses; it can even be used to supplement unemployment insurance when members are out of work.

Bruce worked to build up the union’s political action committee, and encouraged members to get involved and run for school boards and other local offices.

He served as a trustee on union benefit plans, and was a member of the board of the Oregon AFL-CIO, Columbia-Pacific Building Trades Council, Oregon State Building Trades Council, and the B.U.L.L. Session charity fundraising group. He was treasurer of the Northwest Oregon Labor Council. And he was president of the District Council of Trade Unions and the District Council of Unions. 

In his younger years, he was an avid motorcycle racer. 

Bruce hired Keith Edwards as assistant manager, and when he retired in 2000, Edwards was appointed to replace him, becoming the first African-American business manager of an IBEW construction local. 

Local 48 is having a plaque produced to honor Bruce and the other officers who led the move to the current union hall; it will be displayed on the outside wall, which is in the final stages of an extensive remodel.


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