26 March 2013 - northeastcarpenters

UBC History and Heritage

The history of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

in the 21st century members of the

United Brotherhood of carpenters and joiners of America work in many crafts in industries that are constantly changing we are a broad and diverse union with nearly half a million members in the United States and Canada our crafts include every kind of carpentry from foundations to framing to furniture from homes to high-rises to bridges and highways carpenters helped to build it we include other major crafts to mill Wright's work on the power plants and precision machinery that drive our industrial economy pile drivers are there at the start of every structure on land and in the water floor layers use tools and materials both time-tested and high-tech lathers shaped the often freeform look of modern structures Mill cabinet workers work with furniture and laminated goods of every shape and kind and UBC industrial workers work with wood related products in many settings how proud an important history has made us the Union we are today how we got here has a lot to do with where we are going and our history has a lot to teach us about how to get there as with most crafts the Carpenters of colonial North America worked under

their familiar European system of guilds apprentices became journeyman who became masters the developers of their day but all carpenters organized to set rates for the work they did framing floors of joists of nine inches deep per square 8 shillings girders of seven inches deep per foot running 8 pence the Carpenters company rulebook 1786 activists from the start American carpenters played key roles in the revolution they made up the core of the Boston Tea Party in the Philadelphia carpenters Hall the delegates to the First Continental Congress met in 1774 to air their grievances against King George the third by the end of the 1700s North American economic growth brought larger construction projects more costly than most master carpenters could finance speculators began to displace them as developers and owners on new projects masters became contractors and journeyman became wage workers because it was their labor creating the profits journeyman were pushed to work harder for longer hours at the same day's wage after years under this system our forebears began to seek changes by the

1830s we were organizing unions in North America as many unconnected markets in York Ontario carpenters organized to get paid on time elsewhere carpenters agitated for shorter hours at the same day's pay we have been too long subjected to the odious cruel unjust and tyrannical system which compels the Optoma Kanak to exhaust his physical and mental powers by excessive toil Boston competence 1835 Union journeymen and Philadelphia organized carpenter two carpenter with their non-union brothers they sparked a citywide general strike that one at 10:00 hour day other cities followed suit but cities soon were eclipsed Tazz the fast spreading railroads created nationwide labor markets in the US and Canada and those newly mobile wage workers found themselves in competition with slave labor abolitionist Frederick Douglass in fact had worked as a slave carpenter in the Baltimore shipyards the slave is robbed by his master and the white man is robbed by the slave system because he is flung into competition with a class of laborers who work without wages Frederick Douglass 1858 for carpenters the battle to end slavery

was in economic as well as a moral issue after the Civil War an industrial revolution began that transformed construction across the US and Canada it threatened to fragment the craft and drive down wages machines took the making of doors and windows out of the Carpenters workshop and into planing mills speculators sliced jobsite carpentry into repetitive tasks apprenticeship disintegrated time and again organized carpenters saw hordes of itinerant carpenters arrived by train a national even international union was needed Peter J McGuire who had organized his brother carpenters in st. Louis was called on to form such a union the Brotherhood was founded in August 1881 in Chicago under a constitution that still governs the UBC today McGuire's founding Credo educate agitate organize every city should be organized and the wages of all advanced to a uniform standard men will not then rush readily from one city to another to fill the places of their brothers on a strike best of all strikes will be lesson number four employers will then fear to oppose us PJ McGuire the carpenter may 1881 from

the start this was a Union United for mutual support as carpenters then as now a major portion of working carpenters or immigrants McGuire ran articles in the carpenter in German and other languages he learned to speak German himself in the South white and black locals affiliated with the UBC because builders recruited strikebreakers to move both ways across the u.s. Canada border American and Canadian locals were chartered the founders of the Brotherhood opened the Union to everybody who did carpenter work or what had ever been carpenter work from highly-skilled mill rights to workers in the planing and sawmills competition among ourselves reduces wages and renders one workman the victim of another but with organization oh this is changed hence we must form a union broad enough to embrace every carpenter and joiner in the land preamble to the UBC Constitution 1881 mcguire also sparked the first labor day in new york city in 1882 workers didn't ask permission they just took the day off showing their strength city by city in the years following they did the same until the US Congress and Canadian

Parliament made the holiday official strikes for the eight-hour day in 1886 and 1890 brought tens of thousands of carpenters into the Brotherhood to keep up with technological changes in the industry local unions reinvigorated apprenticeship and acquired new skills the young Brotherhood quickly gained strength and played a major role in organizing other labor groups in 1886 McGuire and UBC leaders helped form the American Federation of Labor predecessor of the afl-cio and in Hamilton Ontario carpenter John Flett was an early president of the group that became today's Canadian Labour Congress in those first two decades the UBC grew by organizing aggressively journeyman organized carpenter to carpenter then visited the contractors and told them what wages and conditions they would work under the Moines Iowa the spirit of unionism among carpenters is spreading rapidly here each member has appointed himself a committee of one over 60 names have been added to our rolls Charleston South Carolina the nine-hour day has been established the apprentice system is being enforced and the boss is now pay off during

working hours we have no trouble with the contractors except one and he fell in line within six hours Auburn New York at a recent meeting the following proposition was adopted that on or after April 1st eight hours shall constitute a day's work the craft is well organized here success brought full-time general officers and to headquarters in Indianapolis to police agreements locals began hiring business agents in markets the Brotherhood dominated these business agents could organize directly with new contractors organizing from the top down but where that approach wasn't backed by carpenters recruiting one-on-one organizing from the bottom up the seeds of future problems were sown in the early 20th century major regional and national builders began to emerge they attacked the carpenters in cities where the UBC was dominant Chicago New York Toronto and San Francisco despite the attacks the UBC one union standards on government work during World War one tens of thousands of new workers were added to the union's roles long on numbers but often short on personal commitment to the Union during the 1920s

the Brotherhood fought tough battles against continental big business organizations city by city across North America builders pushed the anti-union notion of the open shop in the u.s. they called it the American plan and Canada they dropped the name but kept the strategy you can hardly conceive of a more unamerican a more anti-american institution than that the Union shop it is really very remarkable that is allowed to exist under the American flag National Association of Manufacturers 1920 but even during the 1920s construction boom the Brotherhood launched no new organizing drives the general office began referring to organizers as international representatives membership stagnated some markets were lost entirely the UBC had been wholly transformed what began as an organizing union members working together to add strength and market share and become a servicing union working mainly to protect existing jobs instead of organizing new jobs and new members membership became merely a business deal and we lost the true meaning of brotherhood the one for all

all for one activism when we became members we looked over the available information sized up our chances became satisfied to the solvency of the organization talked it over with the wife perhaps and decided in our minds that here was a good investment the carpenter August 1928 the Depression hit construction hard by 1933 70% of Union carpenters were jobless some carpenters and millwrights did find work on the large public works projects of Roosevelt's New Deal including the Hoover and Grand Coulee dams and the Tennessee Valley Authority elsewhere lumber and mill workers in the Pacific Northwest valiantly struggled to organize and many became part of the Brotherhood but for construction jobs our proud union remained a top-down servicing organization that could do little besides circle the wagons then came World War two which saw many unsung ubc heroes when Pearl Harbor was bombed our shipyard workers ran to help while the fires were still raging members built the factories and the war materiel at the front of the front they engineered our way across Europe other

members formed the backbone of the Seabees the Navy construction battalions building bases under fire across the Pacific the war years saw membership double with the huge influx of workers into government war work a construction boom followed the war and kept membership numbers high as returning GI members were welcomed back in the postwar boom membership in the brotherhood reached new heights more than eight hundred and thirty three thousand in 1973 and the UBC enjoyed a market share as high as ninety percent in many areas the Brotherhood achieved solid benefits like health insurance vacation pay and Pensions apprenticeship was also

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