History

Born in Tumultuous Times

 

World War II was over. The Cold War was just heating up. And into these heady times–times of prosperity and paranoia–was born a new, militant union.

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Celebrating Carey’s election as IUE president at the 1950 convention in Milwaukee.

“IUE-CIO was born at the CIO’s Eleventh Constitutional Convention in Cleveland on November 2, 1949. We were born literally without any membership or treasury–with nothing except the loyalty and militancy of tens of thousands of electrical workers who had fought with us for years for the kind of democratic unionism and genuine collective bargaining which Communist leadership had denied them,” described IUE founder James B. Carey.

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IUE founding father Jim Carey, the so-called “boy wonder” of the labor movement.

From those humble beginnings, a great industrial union was created. Dubbed a “union in a hurry” by CIO President Philip Murray, IUE grew from no members to more than 300,000 in three years.

Much of the growth came as the IUE and its predecessor, the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America, battled head to head in bitter representation showdowns at General Electric, Westinghouse, Sylvania, RCA, Sperry and other plants across the country. Murray had expelled the UE from the CIO over fears about Communist influence among its leadership.

Within a year after its founding convention in Philadelphia, IUE had adopted its first constitution, elected Carey president, defeated UE in several key elections and negotiated successful national contracts with General Motors, GE, and Westinghouse. In one day in 1950, 25,000 General Motors Workers in five local unions chose IUE over UE. By the mid-1950s, IUE had emerged as the dominant industrial union representing workers in the electrical-electronics manufacturing sector. IUE was, indeed, hurrying to make its mark on the labor movement.

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The campaign in Dayton for a General Motors plant focuses on the benefits an IUE contract has always stood for. Dues payments were always an issue. Here, the argument is made at the 1950 convention. The election fight at Local 480 was typical of the anti-Communist rhetoric at the time.

Winning for the Members

Though dedicated to achieving stable labor-management relations through collective bargaining, IUE has never cowered from hitting the streets when needed.

In its 50-year history, IUE has waged three strikes of national significance: Westinghouse in 1955-56 and the strikes against General Electric in 1960 and 1969.

The 156-day Westinghouse strike–one of the longest national strikes in labor history–idled 55,000 members and closed down 35 plants from coast to coast.

The highly divisive GE strike of 1960 lasted nearly three weeks and involved 70,000 members. The 101-day 1969 strike was the final nail in the coffin for GE’s “take it or leave it” bargaining strategy, otherwise known as Boulwarism after GE negotiator Lemuel Boulware.

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IUE President Jim Carey denounces GE and Boulwarism from the podium during the first days of the 1960 strike. Community support for Westinghouse strikers in the 1955-56 strike was evident in the generous relief efforts coordinated by the union and various community service organizations. As the strike extended through the holiday season, such relief work was vital to the morale of Westinghouse strikers and their families. IUE Local 111 Westinghouse strikers line up to receive food relief.
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A cartoon from the IUE News shows members were willing to fight for meaningful negotiations. A 1960 booklet exposing GE’s propaganda is the forerunner of today’s corporate campaigns. Carey also attended and spoke against GE policies at the company’s shareholders meetings — a novel idea at the time.

Power to the People

IUE has pursued an aggressive political agenda on behalf of its membership.

Through the years, IUE has orchestrated lobbying on behalf of civil rights and anti-poverty programs, equal employment opportunity, fair housing, education, national health care, pay equity, and trade reform.

It also has been active in raising funds to help pro-worker candidates win office at local state and national levels. IUE is committed to giving workers a strong and vocal voice in the political process.

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Prominent politicians like President Harry Truman have addressed IUE conventions. Truman maintained close ties with IUE founder James Carey even after leaving the White House. IUE President David Fitzmaurice greets then presidential candidate Jimmy Carter at an AFL-CIO meeting. IUE members lobby on health care.
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President Lyndon B. Johnson addresses IUE’s 11th Constitutional Convention. He used the IUE stage to advance his Great Society Program, which was strongly endorsed by members attending the convention. President John F. Kennedy greets IUE members at the White House during a break from an IUE Full Citizenship Conference. Kennedy promoted his civil rights agenda to the receptive crowd. Women have always played a prominent role in IUE’s history. Early on, IUE established a Women’s Council to promote the advancement of women on the job. IUE also has led the fight for pay equity and against pregnancy discrimination.

Born in Tumultuous Times

 

World War II was over. The Cold War was just heating up. And into these heady times–times of prosperity and paranoia–was born a new, militant union.

50_convention.jpg
Celebrating Carey’s election as IUE president at the 1950 convention in Milwaukee.

“IUE-CIO was born at the CIO’s Eleventh Constitutional Convention in Cleveland on November 2, 1949. We were born literally without any membership or treasury–with nothing except the loyalty and militancy of tens of thousands of electrical workers who had fought with us for years for the kind of democratic unionism and genuine collective bargaining which Communist leadership had denied them,” described IUE founder James B. Carey.

carey.jpg
IUE founding father Jim Carey, the so-called “boy wonder” of the labor movement.

From those humble beginnings, a great industrial union was created. Dubbed a “union in a hurry” by CIO President Philip Murray, IUE grew from no members to more than 300,000 in three years.

Much of the growth came as the IUE and its predecessor, the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America, battled head to head in bitter representation showdowns at General Electric, Westinghouse, Sylvania, RCA, Sperry and other plants across the country. Murray had expelled the UE from the CIO over fears about Communist influence among its leadership.

Within a year after its founding convention in Philadelphia, IUE had adopted its first constitution, elected Carey president, defeated UE in several key elections and negotiated successful national contracts with General Motors, GE, and Westinghouse. In one day in 1950, 25,000 General Motors Workers in five local unions chose IUE over UE. By the mid-1950s, IUE had emerged as the dominant industrial union representing workers in the electrical-electronics manufacturing sector. IUE was, indeed, hurrying to make its mark on the labor movement.

801.jpg per_cap.jpg stalin.jpg
The campaign in Dayton for a General Motors plant focuses on the benefits an IUE contract has always stood for. Dues payments were always an issue. Here, the argument is made at the 1950 convention. The election fight at Local 480 was typical of the anti-Communist rhetoric at the time.

Winning for the Members

Though dedicated to achieving stable labor-management relations through collective bargaining, IUE has never cowered from hitting the streets when needed.

In its 50-year history, IUE has waged three strikes of national significance: Westinghouse in 1955-56 and the strikes against General Electric in 1960 and 1969.

The 156-day Westinghouse strike–one of the longest national strikes in labor history–idled 55,000 members and closed down 35 plants from coast to coast.

The highly divisive GE strike of 1960 lasted nearly three weeks and involved 70,000 members. The 101-day 1969 strike was the final nail in the coffin for GE’s “take it or leave it” bargaining strategy, otherwise known as Boulwarism after GE negotiator Lemuel Boulware.

14-2.jpg 14-16.jpg 14-17.jpg
IUE President Jim Carey denounces GE and Boulwarism from the podium during the first days of the 1960 strike. Community support for Westinghouse strikers in the 1955-56 strike was evident in the generous relief efforts coordinated by the union and various community service organizations. As the strike extended through the holiday season, such relief work was vital to the morale of Westinghouse strikers and their families. IUE Local 111 Westinghouse strikers line up to receive food relief.
GE_Strike_Cartoon.jpg 14-11.jpg
A cartoon from the IUE News shows members were willing to fight for meaningful negotiations. A 1960 booklet exposing GE’s propaganda is the forerunner of today’s corporate campaigns. Carey also attended and spoke against GE policies at the company’s shareholders meetings — a novel idea at the time.