Guide to the UE Local 601, East Pittsburgh, Pa. Records, 1947-1954 UE.16.601

ULS Archives & Special Collections

Summary Information

Repository
ULS Archives & Special Collections
Title
UE Local 601, East Pittsburgh, Pa. Records
Collection Number
UE.16.601
Date
1947-1954
Extent
2.5 linear feet
Abstract
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.

Preferred Citation

UE Local 601, East Pittsburgh, Pa. Records, 1947-1954, UE.16.601, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

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History

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.

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Scope and Content

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.

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Arrangement

This subgroup has been arranged by topic.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

ULS Archives & Special Collections, 1967

University of Pittsburgh Library System
Archives & Special Collections
Website: library.pitt.edu/archives-special-collectons
412-648-3232 (ASC) | 412-648-8190 (Hillman)
Contact Us: www.library.pitt.edu/ask-archivist

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Copyright

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.

Acquisition Information

Gift of David Montgomery and Thomas Quinn, 1967.

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.

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

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • 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 Name(s)

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

Subject(s)

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

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Previous Citation

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

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

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Collection Inventory

  BoxFolder
Agreements - Local 610, 1940s 11

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Section: Committees 

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

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Section: Correspondence 

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

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  Folder
Congressional Bills, 1947-1948 9

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Section: Leaflets 

Section: UE Local 601 

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

Section: IUE Local 601 

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

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  BoxFolder
McDowell, John, 1948 21

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Section: Mimeographed Material 

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

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Section: Minutes 

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

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  Folder
Miscellaneous, 1950 9

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Section: Newspaper Clippings 

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

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  Folder
Press Releases, 1948-1950 18

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Section: Publications 

  Folder
Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, 1949 19

Section: I.U.E. 

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

Section: UE 

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

Section: Local 601 

  Folder
Miscellaneous, 1950 25
  Folder
Trafford News, 1950 26
  Folder
Voice of the UE, 1949-1952 27
  Folder
Local 610, 1950 28
  Folder
Local 617, 1949-1951 29
  Folder
Miscellaneous Locals, 1949-1950 30
  Folder
National, 1947-1950 31

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  Folder
Publicity - Pro UE, 1948-1949 32

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  Folder
Radio Broadcasts - Voice of UE, no date 33

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Section: Reports and Resolutions 

  Folder
Association of Catholic Trade Unionists, 1947-1950 34
  Folder
Miscellaneous, 1949-1950 35

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  Folder
Telegrams, 1949-1950 36

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  Folder
Transcripts - Radio Broadcasts, 1949-1950 37

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  Folder
UE Local 627, Information File, 1953-1956 38

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