Summary Information
Title: Union Switch and Signal Company Strike Photograph Collection
Collection Number: AIS.1991.03
Creator: Union Switch and Signal Company.

Collection Dates: June 1914
Extent: 90.0 items (1 album)

Language: English

Abstract:
The Union Switch and Signal Company Strike Photograph Collection contains 90 black and white photographs documenting the June 1914 walkout of over 1,000 workers at the Union Switch and Signal Company plant in Swissvale, Pennsylvania. Also included is a strike bulletin distributed by the Allegheny Congenial Industrial Union, Local No. 2, on June 16, 1914. Digital reproductions of selected images are available online.
Publisher:

ULS Archives Service Center
University of Pittsburgh Library System
7500 Thomas Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA, 15260
412-648-3232
archives-ref@mail.pitt.edu
Date Published:

April 2009
Author:

Finding aid prepared by Renee Ziemann.
Revision Description:
October 2009:
Miriam Meislik

History

Employees upset with piece rates, working conditions, and lay-offs walked out of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing plant in East Pittsburgh on June 5, 1914. Organized by the Allegheny Congenial Industrial Union (ACIU), they soon organized marches through East Pittsburgh and Turtle Creek in an effort to persuade workers at other Westinghouse plants to join the walkout.

These marches made their way to Swissvale as the ACIU Local No. 2, Union Switch & Signal (US&S) plant, voted to strike. On Friday, June 12th, US&S officially joined the walkout when over 1,000 workers left the plant at lunchtime to be greeted by an additional 2,000 parading strikers from the East Pittsburgh plants. Women played a vital role in the marches and their participation in these events is well represented in the album. It was a festive event on a gorgeous late spring day. Marching bands headed the parade, American flags flew, and sympathetic shop owners provided refreshments and food to the sun-soaked demonstrators. Several hundred US&S strikers joined the parade while the rest formed pickets surrounding the plant on Edgewood and Braddock Avenues. Picketing continued in this fashion outside of Union Switch & Signal for the duration of the strike.

Employees voted to return to work on June 27th, claiming victory based on the concessions made by the company. The Union Switch & Signal plant remained an open shop until 1937 when it was organized on an industrial union basis by the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, as UE Local 610.


Collection Scope and Content Notes

The Union Switch and Signal Company Strike Photograph Collection contains 90 black and white photographs documenting the June 1914 walkout of over 1,000 workers at the Union Switch and Signal Company (US&S) plant in Swissvale, Pennsylvania. Also included is a strike bulletin distributed by the Allegheny Congenial Industrial Union, Local No. 2, on June 16, 1914.

The purpose of this album is unclear. It was salvaged by noted labor historian and former UE chief steward at US&S, Charles McCollester, before it closed. The identity of the photographer(s) responsible for the creation of the photographs is also uncertain, although the name "S.J. Turocy" appears written throughout the album. Some photographs of striking workers are taken from high vantage points while other shots are taken from close-up, as if the subjects posed for the photographs. Interestingly, one of the images clearly shows another photographer and his camera positioned on a railroad crossing bridge with striking workers, giving support to the idea that more than one photographer was responsible for documenting the strike.

It is difficult to identify the exact dates that photographs in the collection were taken. Given the evidence, however, it seems likely that many of the photographs originated on June 12th: the day of the initial walkout and parade.


Subject Terms

Topics
  • Labor disputes -- Pennsylvania -- Swissvale
  • Labor unions -- Pennsylvania -- Swissvale
  • Railroad equipment industry -- Pennsylvania -- Swissvale
  • Strikes and lockouts -- Railroads -- Pennsylvania -- Swissvale

Corporate Names
  • Union Switch and Signal Company.

Locations
  • Swissvale (Pa.)

Genres/Forms
  • Black-and-white photographs
  • Photograph albums

Category
  • Labor
  • Transportation

Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

No restrictions.

Acquisition Information:

Gift of Charles G. McCollister in February 1991.

Alternate Format:

Digital reproductions of the collection are available electronically at http://digital.library.pitt.edu/images/pittsburgh/unionswitchsignal.html.

Preferred Citation:

Union Switch and Signal Company Strike Photograph Collection, June 1914, AIS.1991.03, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Archives Service Center staff. The finding aid was created by Renee Ziemann in April 2009.

Copyright:

No copyright restrictions.


Collection Inventory
Box 1 Photograph Album, June 1914