1893: "Where did '48' come from?

1893: “Where did ‘48’ come from?”


During their Labor Day picnic in 1903, members of “I.B. Electrical Workers Local Union No. 48” in Shawnee Indian Territory

(today, the eastern half of Oklahoma), posed for this group photo. 

This gang won a prize of $25.00 in a tug-of-war with the carpenters’ union. 

[Source: The Electrical Workers’ Journal for April 1952, page 89.]


We weren’t the first “IBEW Local Union No. 48.”  Portland wasn’t even the second IBEW local to be assigned the number 48.  In fact, the International assigned 48 to five different union charters before the number found its home in Portland.

The six IBEW union locals assigned the number 48 included the following:


City/State Charter Date Final Activity
Sedalia, Missouri June 3, 1893 September 3, 1893
Decatur, Illinois January 25, 1898 October 12, 1898
Milwaukie, Wisconsin April 19, 1899 June 1899
Richmond, Virginia February 14, 1900 September 1905
Shawnee, Oklahoma Territory October 1, 1905 June 1907
Portland, Oregon May 21, 1913 Present


[Source: Appendix contained in the “Report of International Secretary Jack F. Moore,” distributed to attendees at the 35th International IBEW Convention in 1996.]

The number 48 found its permanent home in Portland when International recognized the charter of IBEW Local 48, signed by the 14 original members on May 21, 1913. 

The International had to reassign the number 48 for a variety of reasons.  In some cases, anti-union sentiment forced a local out of existence.  Other times, an economic downturn killed off a local.  Union rivalries had an impact, too, as was the case in Portland.  The assignment of the number 48 to the new union came after several years of internecine squabbling over money and jurisdiction by rivals IBEW Local 317 (chartered on August 1, 1904) and IBEW Local 480 (chartered June 11, 1912).

Later in the 20th Century, IBEW Local 48 merged with other IBEW locals in the region as local economies transitioned from forest products, agriculture or fisheries to high technology.  Local 48 retained its number with its merger, in 1972, with IBEW Local 517 in Astoria, Oregon (chartered 1906), and again with its merger, in 2012, with IBEW Local 970 in Kelso-Longview, Washington (chartered in 1924).

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