In 1911, a few men working in the electrical trade in and near Herrin, Illinois, realized that the time had come when those working in the electrical field in all of its branches should be respected and classed as a skilled craft of its own. They believed that wages and working conditions should be that of a skilled craft and that this could only be done by an organization covering this field.
So, a small number of men, on their own initiative and without pressure from anyone, petitioned the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for a charter and, in the Colombo Hall at Herrin, Illinois, Local Union 702 was organized and the following officers were elected:
- President James Hanks
- Vice-President Lawrence Hundley
- Financial Secretary T. D. Springs
- Recording Secretary Ransom Little
- Treasurer George Bullard.
They were officers from 1911 to 1912.
It should be remembered that the early members and officers did this on their own accord for it was not necessary at this time to belong to a union to work. Sometimes to belong to a union was a hindrance, and often caused a person to lose work. These men had one thing in mind and that was to advance the trade and make it better for all brothers.
Local Union 702 has always been a progressive and organizing Local Union. The first recorded contract between Local Union 702 and a utility was dated January 31, 1917, between Local Union 702 and Central Illinois Public Service Company.
In the year of 1919, a thing happened that we are not proud of and that was that our Financial Secretary failed to report or forward dues to the International Office and all members were suspended and no member, who was initiated by 702, has card older than that date.
After 1919, the Local Union started on its progress again. It began to expand and great effort was made in the organization field. The first step was the absorption of Local 638 at Centralia, Illinois, and from this consolidation 702 no only received additional territory but 702 also benefited by the new members.
Then we began to go stronger for the utility field and our next great step was the organization of Illinois-Iowa Power Company, which is now known as the Illinois Power Company. At this time, we had jurisdiction of all of the Illinois Power Companyâ€™s unionized properties, except that cover by Local 309.
In 1940, another calamity hit our Local. Another Brother betrayed us and our funds were $50,000.00 short. But, thanks to our membership at that time, they did not give up and justice was rendered within the organization to offender and we survived. We kept up the old spirit and began to progress again.
In the year of 1944, our membership had reached approximately 2600. A group of the membership petitioned the Local Union for permission to separate themselves from 702, and to form a local of their own. Committees were appointed to negotiate the conditions of and terms of the division of the jurisdiction. With representatives of the International Office present, a satisfactory agreement was reached and a division of money, equipment and jurisdiction was made. The northern jurisdiction went to that of Local Union 51, IBEW.
After this division was made it left Local 702 with 674 members and about $10,000.00 in cash.
Local Union 702 then started an organization program in the utility field. This time our efforts were centered on the eastern division of the Central Illinois Public Service Company and three hundred sixty-five (365) members were obligated.
In 1945, approximately 282 members were obligated at Evansville, Indiana after Local Union 702 organized workers of the Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Company.
It was at about the same time that 702 organized the utility workers at Cape Girardeau, Missouri on the property of the Missouri Utility Company, and 112 members were received.
In 1947, the membership of Local Union 1333 at Cape Girardeau, Missouri were transferred to Local Union 702.
In 1952 Local Union 702 had contracts with the following:
- Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Inc.
- Scott New-Madrid Mississippi Electric Coop.
- Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association
- Paulding Sign Co.
- Hanna Sign Co.
- Neon Sign Company of Herrin, Inc.
- Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Company
- Oil Field Electric Company
- Illinois Power Company
- Central Illinois Public Service Company
- City of Flora, Clay County, Illinois
- Missouri Utilities Company
- Board of Public Utility Commissioners, City of Cairo, IL
- T. and D. Electric
- Illinois Commercial Telephone Company
- Southern Indiana Chapter, Southern Illinois Division
- National Electric Contractors Association
- L.E. Myers Construction Co.
- Southeastern Illinois Electric Cooperative, Inc.
- Illinois Cities Water Co.
Depression Aid to Members
At the depth of the depression, Local Union 702, as a means of aiding unemployed members in 1935 placed an assessment of 3% on working members and made loans to the men who were without work. These loans were secured by notes, made payable to the Local Union 702, and are still being retired.