Let Unions Beware of the Company They Keep (1935-1945)
More than fifty years ago, in 1891, the New York City electrical workers engaged on outside construction work organized a federal union chartered by the American Federation of Labor. A year later this federal union affiliated itself with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers of America (IBEW) and became known as Local 3. Originally, the local limited its membership to electricians engaged on outside construction work but it later merged with Local 261, which consisted of workers doing such inside electrical work as fitting, wiring, and assembling of fixtures. The local worked in close co-operation with the other unions in the building industry, and with the support of these other unions succeeded in securing better conditions for its members and grew in strength and in influence in the construction field in New York City.
In 1932 the union's collective agreement with the electrical contractors in New York City expired. At the time the building industry in New York City was suffering acutely from the general economic depression in the country. There was a great deal of unemployment, but in spite of unfavorable economic conditions the union made new demands as a condition of the renewal of its agreement. As was to be expected, this met with great opposition. The employers resisted not only the new demands but the union itself. In fact, the members of the Electrical Contractors' Association locked out the Local 3 members, promoted an "independent" union, hired "detec-