Summary Information
Title: UE Local 601, East Pittsburgh, Pa. Records
Collection Number: UE.16.601

Collection Dates: 1947-1954
Extent: 2.5 linear feet

Language: English

The collection consists of official records, leaflets, newspapers, and publications of both leadership and opposition factions within United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 601 (Westinghouse, East Pittsburgh). Much of the material centers on elections for union leaders and convention delegates and ultimately on several fiercely contested National Labor Relations Board Elections in 1950-1952, in which the UE lost representation rights in the East Pittsburgh Westinghouse plant.

ULS Archives Service Center
University of Pittsburgh Library System
7500 Thomas Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA, 15260
Date Published:


Finding aid prepared by ASC Staff. The collection was re-processed by Jaimie George and David L. Rosenberg in 2004. Revisions occurred to the finding aid as a part of the encoding process on February 28, 2005.

In 1881, George Westinghouse established the Union Switch and Signal plant in Swissvale, Pennsylvania, and in 1889 he moved his airbrake manufacturing facility to nearby Wilmerding, Pennsylvania. In both facilities, Westinghouse instituted company welfare programs advocated by other industrialists of the day. The Depression of the 1930’s forced the company to abandon its high wage and benefits program, thus encouraging labor organization. The affiliation of the Westinghouse Electric workers in East Pittsburgh with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) as UE Local 601 encouraged the Wilmerding workers to organize with UE, and, in May 1937, the UE chartered the Wilmerding union as Local 610. In November of the same year, a National Labor Relation Board election was held and the union approved. In theory, UE Local 610 thereby became the exclusive bargaining agent for production and maintenance workers at the Wilmerding plant. However, it took three years and a favorable Supreme Court ruling in a related case before the company conceded a written contract to the union. Also in 1941, the Local won bargaining rights at the Switch and Signal Division in Swissvale, bringing the Local’s numbers to approximately 6,500 workers.

Although major strikes occurred throughout Westinghouse Electric plants in 1946, Local 610 successfully negotiated wage increases without striking. Through the use of the court system, the Local avoided strikes and ensured returning World War II veterans paid vacations the year they resumed work. The Local also secured a favorable ruling from the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Bureau in 1950 which granted retiring workers compensation they had previously been denied. An anniversary article in the UE News in 1957 reprised such UE Local 610 negotiating successes as its elimination of gender-based wage differentials and its guarantees of transfers based on seniority. The Local also adopted annual secret ballot elections for officers and stewards. In the early 1960s, the Local engaged in arbitration with the company to protect women from compulsory retirement. Similarly, the Local sought to obtain cost of living adjustments, equal employment opportunities, and improved levels of occupational safety for its workers.

In 1950 and again in 1953, a rival union, the International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (IUE), unsuccessfully challenged the bargaining rights of UE Local 610. During this time Local 610 president Harold Briney and at least one other Local member faced accusations of communist activity; however, attempts by rival unions, including the International Association of Machinists, United Steelworkers of America, United Auto Workers, and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, to raid the Local’s members in the 1950’s also failed.

In 1968 American Standard purchased both the Swissvale and Wilmerding facilities, and the Local’s first strike occurred in 1969 to induce contract negotiations. Another strike occurred in 1978 after the expiration of the contract. The Local’s longest strike began November 1, 1981 when approximately 3,700 workers walked off the job after the expiration of their three-year contract. The strike, which focused on productivity and salary issues, continued for two hundred and five days during which the legality of mass picketing and non-union workers performing assembly line work were contested. In May 1982, the membership rejected a tentative agreement that did not include the reinstatement of twenty-two workers accused of strike-related violence and vandalism. However, the contract was settled by the end of the month.

On August 20, 1982 the company served notice of the transfer of approximately one hundred and fifty jobs from the wiring department of the Swissvale plant to Macon, Georgia. In addition, the company began to transfer several other jobs to areas of the Southern United States such as Batesburg, South Carolina. In response, the “Save Our Switch Coalition” produced petitions, wrote to politicians, and publicized the plight of the workers. In 1986, Local 610 faced an even more serious threat of job losses when the company announced its intent to remove work to other areas and close the Wilmerding and Swissvale plants. These actions spurred the Local to establish a nonprofit organization entitled “Coalition to Save the Brake and Switch.” The Coalition engaged in a card campaign to the company president, leafleted the surrounding neighborhood, and lobbied local politicians, government and economic organizations to stop the removal of work. Despite these efforts, the Swissvale plant closed and the Wilmerding workforce was greatly diminished. In an attempt to alleviate the financial burdens of its membership, the Local shifted its priorities to utilizing the 1974 Trade Adjustment Act (TRA/TAA) to acquire job training and severance pay for its terminated workers.

Collection Scope and Content Notes

This subgroup includes correspondence, meeting minutes, publications, grievance files, arbitrations, newspaper clippings, and subject files. Files are arranged alphabetically unless specified otherwise. The records in this subgroup have been divided into sixteen series and more specific information can be found in the series scope notes.


This subgroup has been arranged by topic.

Subject Terms

  • Electric industry workers -- Labor unions -- Pennsylvania -- East Pittsburgh
  • Labor disputes -- United States
  • Labor unions -- Elections
  • Labor unions -- Officials and employees

Corporate Names
  • Association of Catholic Trade Unionists.
  • International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers.
  • United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. Local 601 (East Pittsburgh, Pa.). -- History

Personal Names
  • McDowell, John
  • Rice, Charles Owen, 1908-2005

  • Labor

Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

No restrictions.

Acquisition Information:

Gift of David Montgomery and Thomas Quinn, 1967.

Preferred Citation:

UE Local 601, East Pittsburgh, Pa. Records, 1947-1954, UE.16.601, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

Previous Citation:

This collection has been previously cited as: United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 601, 1947-1954 Records, UE/LAB 67:2, Archives Service Center, University Library System, University of Pittsburgh

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Archives Service Center Staff in 1967. It was reprocessed by Jaimie George and David L. Rosenberg in 2004.

Processing Information:

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Dan Horvath on February 28, 2005. Information about the collection title and the controlled access terms was extracted from the MARC record in the University catalog Voyager ID number: 1476479


The University of Pittsburgh holds the property rights to the material in this collection, but the copyright may still be held by the original creator/author. Researchers are therefore advised to follow the regulations set forth in the U.S. Copyright Code when publishing, quoting, or reproducing material from this collection without the consent of the creator/author or that go beyond what is allowed by fair use.

Collection Inventory

Box 1
Folder 1 Agreements - Local 610, 1940s

Section: Committees

Folder 2 Defend the UE, 1950
Folder 3 Special, 1949
Folder 4 Veterans, 1950

Section: Correspondence

Folder 5 Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, 1947-1949
Folder 6 Miscellaneous, 1947-1950
Folder 7 Radio Broadcasts, 1949-1950
Folder 8 Rice, Rev. Charles Owen, 1947-1949
Folder 9 Congressional Bills, 1947-1948

Section: Leaflets

Section: UE Local 601

Folder 10 AB Division, no date
Folder 11 Conferences, 1950
Folder 12 Defend the Miners, 1949
Folder 13 Defend the UE, 1950
Folder 14-19 Elections, 1949-1952
Folder 20 International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (IUE), 1950
Folder 21 Meeting Notices, 1949-1950
Folder 22 Miscellaneous, 1950
Folder 23 Radio Programs, 1950
Folder 24 Red Baiting, 1949-1950
Folder 25 Stewards, 1949-1950
Folder 26 Trafford, 1950
Folder 27 Veterans, 1950
Folder 28 Westinghouse, 1949-1950
Folder 29 Westinghouse - Nuttal Strike, 1952
Folder 30 Women Workers, 1950

Section: IUE Local 601

Folder 31 Distributed in East Pittsburgh, 1949
Folder 32 Elections, 1951-1952
Folder 33-38 Miscellaneous, 1949-1951

Box 2
Folder 1 McDowell, John, 1948

Section: Mimeographed Material

Folder 2 Conflict with ACTU, 1947-1949
Folder 3 UE Members for Democratic Action, 1947-1949
Folder 4 Westinghouse Negotiations, 1950

Section: Minutes

Folder 5 Executive Board Minutes, 1950
Folder 6 Membership Meetings, 1950
Folder 7 Organizing Committee Meeting, 1951
Folder 8 Rally, 1951
Folder 9 Miscellaneous, 1950

Section: Newspaper Clippings

Folder 10-11 Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, 1947-1949
Folder 12 CIO and Red Baiting, 1947-1950
Folder 13 Local 601, 1949-1950
Folder 14 McDowell, John, 1948-1949
Folder 15-16 Rice, Rev. Charles Owen, 1947-1951
Folder 17 Westinghouse Trafford Strike, 1950
Folder 18 Press Releases, 1948-1950

Section: Publications

Folder 19 Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, 1949

Section: I.U.E.

Folder 20 Electrical Union News, 1953
Folder 21 Union Generator, 1952
Folder 22 Non-Union, 1948, 1954

Section: UE

Folder 23 District 6, 1950
Folder 24 Local 202, 1949-1950

Section: Local 601

Folder 25 Miscellaneous, 1950
Folder 26 Trafford News, 1950
Folder 27 Voice of the UE, 1949-1952
Folder 28 Local 610, 1950
Folder 29 Local 617, 1949-1951
Folder 30 Miscellaneous Locals, 1949-1950
Folder 31 National, 1947-1950
Folder 32 Publicity - Pro UE, 1948-1949
Folder 33 Radio Broadcasts - Voice of UE, no date

Section: Reports and Resolutions

Folder 34 Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, 1947-1950
Folder 35 Miscellaneous, 1949-1950
Folder 36 Telegrams, 1949-1950
Folder 37 Transcripts - Radio Broadcasts, 1949-1950
Folder 38 UE Local 627, Information File, 1953-1956