Millwright Local 1425 History
With the construction of the first sawmills and grist mills in Northern Ontario there were Millwrights in the North. As early as 1948 Union millwrights were dispatched to jobs through Carpenters Locals in the north. Millwrights Local 1425 received its charter from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America on April 13, 1970.
Millwright Local 1425 provides skilled tradespeople to facilities spread over a vast area. Our jurisdiction ranges from Parry Sound to Cochrane and from Wawa to Mattawa. Work opportunities include mines, smelters, crushing plants, steel mills, wood products plants, and numerous Ontario Power Generation and private electrical generation sites.
UBC Millwright History
- The history of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (BCJA) dates back to the 1880s. Its founding father, Peter J. McGuire, was just 29 years old when he and carpenters from 11 other cities met in Chicago to lay the foundation of today’s union.
- The BCJA, later known as the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, attracted craftsmen who brought from Europe their skills and their tradition of craft guilds. They came to the United States because the young country’s rapid growth offered what seemed like unlimited opportunities for those who could shape commercial buildings, houses, ships, wharves and warehouses. Craftsmen hoped union membership would improve working conditions and wages, and, by 1885, more than 5,700 carpenters had joined McGuire’s brotherhood.
- In the mid-1880s, new technology was dramatically changing many jobs, and the Industrial Revolution transformed the way people did— and viewed— business. The image of the fair and considerate employer was replaced with cartoons of railroad barons and speculators. The fledgling labor movement turned militant, and the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (the predecessor of the American Federation of Labor) called for a general strike in support of the eight-hour workday in 1886. McGuire put UBC business on hold and crisscrossed the country to rally support for the shorter workday movement. On May 1, 1886, carpenters led marches in major cities when more than 300,000 workers walked off their jobs. The labor action demonstrated the UBC’s power, and carpenters won increased wages and shorter workdays in 53 cities. The success of the effort brought craftsmen flocking to the UBC, and, by September 1886, membership had grown to more than 21,000. The AFL asked the carpenters to lead a second wave in 1890, and more key markets set workday length at eight or nine hours— and UBC membership reached 55,000.
- The UBC began to address issues such as work site standards, death and disability benefits, and upgrading skills. Many in the construction industry fought to curb the UBC’s influence; between 1900 and 1910, employers in major cities launched an open-shop counterattack. But the benefits of UBC apprenticeship training and the convenience of tapping a ready labor pool through the union hiring hall reduced the effectiveness of open-shop movements. By 1910, UBC membership had reached 200,000.
- Peter McGuire died in 1902, and his successor, Frank Duffy, shifted to a more conservative approach. McGuire had been deeply interested in far-reaching social change, but Duffy and his successor, William Hutcheson, focused on the rights of union carpenters and the smooth administration of the UBC.
- During World War I, the UBC fought to preserve established union shops on federal construction sites. After the war, anti-union associations launched an assault labeled The American Plan, forcing trade unions into arbitration hearings that slashed wages and weakened work rules. UBC membership dropped from 400,000 in 1920 to 345,000 in 1928. But as anti-union sentiment waned and trade unions began to recover, the economy staggered, then plummeted into the Great Depression.
- By 1932, national spending on construction slumped to less than 30 percent of the 1928 spending levels. Out-of-work carpenters dropped out of the union, and UBC membership slipped to 242,000. And while New Deal programs helped put some people back to work, the U.S. entry into World War II marked the true end of the Depression.
- The demands of the wartime economy and the postwar prosperity in the United States fueled the growth of labor organizations in general and the UBC in particular. In the 25 years after World War II, organized labor gathered in nearly a third of the work force, and UBC membership reached its peak of 850,000 members. Even so, the postwar building boom outstripped the UBC’s ability to meet labor demands — and non-union contractors established a presence, especially in residential housing.
- In the late 1960s and early 1970s, inflation, politics and dramatic economic shifts combined to create a climate that encouraged an open-shop philosophy. Unions were caught off-guard; most, including the UBC, tried to counter the non-union sector’s growing clout with outdated tactics. Although unions moved successfully to organize workers in new areas like government, union membership and influence slipped.
- From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, the UBC “suffered a hemorrhage of members, signatories and market share,” wrote General President Douglas J. McCarron. “We had lost wages and benefits and political clout. . . .We had to restructure our union. The old structure simply could not do the job. We had to replace it with a structure that could organize.”
- The restructuring began in 1995 with McCarron’s election to the UBC general presidency. McCarron started at the top, eliminating unnecessary officer and staff positions— in some cases, entire departments—at the UBC General Office. An inefficient district council structure was reorganized into 65 regional councils that were created to reflect construction markets. And union politics were removed from the selection of business agents and organizers, and replaced with accountability.
- The structural reorganization freed up funds and staff for the UBC’s top priorities: training and organizing. The UBC commits $100 million annually to training nationwide; a national center dedicated to training UBC instructors opened in 2001 in Las Vegas, and nearly 50,000 apprentices were receiving top-quality training in UBC programs. Training also supports organizing efforts. Non-union contractors are beginning to recognize the cost / value benefit of hiring skilled, professional craftsmen, and non-union workers are beginning
- to see how UBC training puts them on a career track with potential— the potential to earn fair wages with benefits.
- In August 2000, McCarron was elected to a second term as general president of the UBC at the 38th General Convention. At the convention, McCarron reported that the UBC’s new direction was working — more than 60,000 new members had joined the UBC, and, after decades of decline, the union’s market share had begun to grow.
- “The challenge is to take an active role in protecting our standards and our families in the down times, instead of being victims of the boom-and-bust cycle,” McCarron wrote in the January 2001 issue of Carpenter. “The long term forecast depends on each of us individually — on what we do now.”
A Millwright History
- Although “millwright” is a common word, most people (including many in the Carpenter Brotherhood) are hard pressed, if asked, to define the term and its many uses. With that in mind, a definition taken from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles would seem to be an appropriate introduction to a discussion of the craft:“Millwright: Installation man, machine erector, a maintenance mechanic, plant changer, installs machinery and equipment according to layout plans, blueprints and other drawings in an industrial establishment, using hoists, lift trucks, hand tools and power tools; reads blueprints and schematics drawings to determine work procedures; dismantles machines, using hammer, wrenches, crowbars, and other hand tools; moves machinery and equipment using hoists, rollers, and trucks; assembles and installs equipment, such as shafting, conveyors, and tram rails, using hand tools and power tools; constructs foundations for machines, using hand tools and building materials, such as wood, cement, and steel; align machines and equipment, using hoists, jacks, hand tools, squares, rules, micrometres, and plumb bobs; assemble machines and bolts, welds, rivets, or otherwise fastens them to foundation or other structures, using hand tools and power tools; may repair and lubricate machines and equipment.
- The word “millwright” has long been used to describe the man who was marked by everything ingenious and skillful. For several centuries in England and Scotland the millwright was recognized as a man with a knowledge of carpentry, blacksmithing and lathe work in addition to the fitter and erector. He was the recognized representative of mechanical arts and was looked upon as the authority in all applications of winds and water, under whatever conditions they were to be used, as a motive power for the purpose of manufacture. In other words, as the above definition would indicate, he was the area engineer, a kind of jack of all trades who was equally comfortable at the lathe, the anvil or the carpenter’s bench. Thus, the millwright of the last several centuries was an itinerant engineer and mechanic of high reputation and recognized abilities. He could handle the axe, the hammer and the plane with equal skill and precision. He could turn, bore or forge with the ease and ability of one brought up in those trades. He could set and cut in the furrows of a millstone with an accuracy equal to or superior to that of the miller himself. In most instances, the millwright was a fair arithmetician, knew something of geometry, leveling and measurements, and often possessed a very competent knowledge of practical mathematics. He could calculate the velocities, strength and power of machines; could draw in plans, construct buildings, conduits or watercourses, in all the forms and under all the conditions required in his professional practice. He could build bridges, cut canals and perform a variety of work now done by civil engineers. In the early days of North America millwrights designed and constructed the mills where flour and grist were ground by water power. Water was directed over hand-constructed wooden mill wheels to turn big wooden gears and generate power. Millwrights executed every type of engineering operation in the construction of these mills. The introduction of the steam engine, and the rapidity with which it created new trades, proved a heavy blow to the distinctive position of the millwrights, by bringing into the field a new class of competitors in the form of turners, fitters, machine makers, and mechanical engineers. Although there was an extension of the demand for millwork, it nevertheless lowered the profession of the millwright, and leveled it to a great degree with that of the ordinary mechanic. It was originally the custom for the millwrights to have meetings for themselves in every shop. These meetings usually included long discussions of practical science and the principles of construction which more often than not ended in a quarrel. One benefit of these meetings was the imparting of knowledge, as young aspirants would frequently become excited by the illustrations and chalk diagrams by which each side supported their arguments.
- As early as 1876, the millwrights of Toronto, Canada formed unions of their craft. After The Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) had been formed and had chartered a local union in Toronto, these millwrights made known their desire to affiliate with the Brotherhood. In 1884, they were admitted to the local union there. The 1886 convention of the United Brother was marked by the millwrights’ successful efforts in amending the General Constitution to read as follows:“Any stair builder, millwright, planning mill bench hand, or any cabinet maker engaged in carpenter work, or any carpenter running wood working machines shall be eligible to membership if possessed of the qualifications as provide in section 1 of this article.”
- Since this time, the millwrights have occupied their rightful place of recognition and leadership within the Brotherhood.
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