The History of IBEW Local 613
Over A Century Of Service
On Oct. 25, 1919, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers granted the 12 founding members of Local 613 a charter to form an inside Local for wiremen in the Atlanta region.
Local 613 was created out of necessity, as the area’s inside wiremen required a different set of training and skillset compared to the region’s outside linemen. Though both types of skilled craftsmen belonged to IBEW Local 84, the wiremen sought to branch off and create their own Local. For almost a two year period, IBEW Local 78 served the area’s electricians. Unfortunately, the Local held its final meeting in 1915, as the organization could not financially survive.
In September 1919, the Local 84 inside wiremen made one final attempt to start their own union, and just over a month later, Local 613 was originally chartered as a type “A” inside Local. This new union, with the assistance of Local 84, hit the ground running.
Local 613 was quick to acknowledge the need for an educational curriculum for apprentices. In January 1921, Georgia Tech developed a curriculum for the Local and area contractors and builders quickly recognized the advanced skillset and quality of work displayed by Local 613 members. This training helped put members to work and kept them employed.
The good times of the Roaring 20s ended on Black Tuesday. On Oct. 29, 1929, the Wall Street Crash ushered in the Great Depression, which brought with it hard times for many Americans, including Local 613. Members were told to take any work that they could to stay afloat. Wiremen walked across the city, carrying ladders and supplies on their backs as they took up work wiring houses. This period of economic uncertainty lasted until President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected U.S President in 1932.
Thanks to FDR’s New Deal, Local 613, like many other area building trades, finally saw work begin to pick up. In addition to public works projects, the New Deal established new standards such as a 40-hour work week and created the National Labor Relations Board. The New Deal helped the Local demand a pay increase and establish new journeyman to helper ratios.
World War II ushered in a prosperous era for the Local, as the workforce was either back to work or contributing to the war effort overseas. During this period, Local 613 signed agreements with the Georgia Power Company and the Atlanta chapter of NECA. The manufacturing boom enticed Local 613 to grow its membership by amending the constitution to include “B” members of the manufacturing industry when an agreement was made with Westinghouse Electrical Corporation in 1944. This agreement pushed the membership level to over 500, which included about 350 A-members and about 200 B-members.
In the years following the war, Local 613 boasted a membership of over 1,300 members - all of whom were working. Atlanta was rapidly growing, as shopping centers and auto plants popped up throughout the region.
In 1947, passage of the Taft-Hartley Act caused rifts in the labor movement. This federal act restricted the activities and power of labor unions by prohibiting jurisdictional strikes and monetary donations by unions to federal political campaigns, as well as placing heavy restrictions on union shops. The act also spawned So-Called “Right to Work” laws in 16 states.
Despite the legislative setback, Local 613 continued to grow its jurisdiction. By the end of the 1950’s, the Local 613 jurisdiction encompassed most of Northern Georgia.
Brother Harry Bexley took over as Business Manager in 1955 and initiated major ideas such as the Health and Welfare plan, a vacation plan, a savings plan and the Local 613 pension plan. Under his leadership, Local 613 became even more connected through a Local newsletter and the establishment of the Local 613 Credit Union.
Throughout the 1960’s there were some jurisdictional disputes among manufacturing members, but ultimately, more shops were organized and the Local 613 membership rose to nearly 2,500.
In 1970, Local 613 welcomed its first African-American electrician into its ranks. In a short time, the Local’s effort to increase diversity among its membership led to praise by both the Labor Education Advancement Program (LEAP) and the Atlanta Urban League. Over the next seven years, the Local added over 100 minority members - including two women.
Increasing the diversity of the union played a role in one of the Local’s most prominent projects of the 1970s. In 1971, the Atlanta & North Georgia Building Trades Council won the contract to construct the Omni Coliseum. As part of the project requirements, IBEW Local 613 agreed to refer three to five African-American apprentices or journeymen for project employment, while admitting qualified minority applicants into the apprenticeship program.
Over the next 25 years, the Omni Coliseum was home to the Atlanta Flames and Atlanta Hawks, while also hosting many special sporting, entertainment and political events.
During the mid and late 1970's, Local 613 secured nearly $100 million of work on high-profile projects such as the Georgia World Congress Center, Peachtree Plaza Hotel, Emory University Hospital and more. Due to these contracts, both the manufacturing and construction membership was near full employment.
While the 1970's closed on a positive note, the 1980’s proved to be a tumultuous time for the labor movement, especially in Atlanta.
President Ronald Regean ushered in an anti-labor attitude and policy in the early 1980s, which perhaps brought the organized labor community closer together. Unions, including Local 613, held demonstrations against the administration and put together more organizing campaigns in order to secure work for their members. Although the Reagan administration threatened the survival of labor unions for the majority of the 1980’s, Local 613 and the rest of the building trades survived the threats.
The 1980's also ushered in a new era of leadership, as Business Manager Harry Bexley resigned in 1988 after 33-years in the position. Under the strong leadership of Bexley, IBEW Local 613 saw its membership climb from 900 men to roughly 4,500 diversified members.
The work outlook was not great for Local 613 as the 1990s began, but the announcement of Atlanta’s winning bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games changed things. Local 613 and the rest of the area’s building trades unions secured the vast majority of Olympic-related contracts. The 1996 summer games propelled Local 613 into a time of great prosperity, which lasted throughout the remainder of the decade.
Unfortunately, the Atlanta building boom of the early 2000's was put on hold due to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. In the aftermath of the attacks, the stock markets became unstable, which caused builders and project owners to postpone work. This uncertainty, followed several years later by the collapse of the housing market, led to massive employment within the Local; a trend felt throughout the country by many fellow building trades Brothers and Sisters during the Great Recession.
Despite the shortage of work, Local 613 survived and re-invested within itself.
In 2008, renovation work at the Union Hall was complete and two years later, the Local reaffirmed its commitment to producing the best trained electrical workforce by constructing a state-of-the-art Electrical JATC training center in Norcross.
As the country moved out of the Great Recession, the Local successfully secured a number of high profile jobs including Mercedes Benz Stadium, SunTrust Park, Plant Bowen, Ponce City Market and Emory University Hospital.
On Oct. 12, 2019, members of Local 613 gathered together with friends and family for a celebration, commemorating 100-years as a Brotherhood and Sisterhood. Thanks to the dedication of its members, the Local survived a century of economic peaks and crippling depressions, wars and countless home front battles, building booms and standstills.
A small Local union, which started with 12 members, had grown into a powerful organization with over 5,500 members.
Generations come and go, each one built upon the shoulders of the last, but there is no end in sight for the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of IBEW Local 613. Only moving forward - together - for the next 100 years and beyond.