Processed in 1990 by Geoffrey A. Huth (June 5, 1990). Revised by Mike Newman (2002), Devin Lander (May 2008).
All items in this manuscript group were lent to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, by Local 301 of the International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers (IUE), and subsequently microfilmed as a part of the Harry Van Arsdale, Jr. Labor History Project in 1990. Some missing issues ofLocal 301 Newswere loaned for filming by Helen Quirini. The originals were returned to Local 301. An additional 85 cubic feet of material was acquired in February 2001 and 32 cubic feet of material was acquired in July 2004.
Access to segments of Series 6 is restricted. Access to the grievance files may also be restricted. Access to all other series in this record group is unrestricted.
Portions of the grievance files and arbitration files may be restricted. Contact a staff member for additional information.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
Preferred citation for this material is as follows:
Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, IUE-CWA Local 301 Records, 1939-2001. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as [shortened name]).
Thomas Edison moved his Edison Machine Works to Schenectady, New York, in 1886 after a strike in New York City. Edison, however, was not successful in avoiding strikes and neither was the General Electric Company, which was formed by a merger of the Edison Electric Company and the Thomson-Houston Company. In 1904, for example, the 600 armature winders of the Schenectady General Electric Company held a 65-hour "folded arms" strike that was the first sit-down strike in the United States [Henry Antonelli and Helen Quirini. The Story of Local 301, IUE-AFL-CIO: Reflections. Schenectady, N.Y., 1987, p. 3]. The many craft unions at Schenectady General Electric called numerous strikes over the years leading to the organization of Local 301.
In 1926, the General Electric Company established a company union, the Works Council, at its Schenectady plant, and by the end of the 1920s all 36 of the craft unions previously representing workers at the plant had been eliminated [Henry Antonelli and Helen Quirini. The Story of Local 301, IUE-AFL-CIO: Reflections. Schenectady, N.Y., 1987, pp. 5-6]. During the Great Depression, General Electric took more liberties than usual with the rights of its workers, and the Works Council was ineffectual in answering the demands of workers. A small affiliate of the radical Trade Union Unity League formed in the Schenectady plant in 1932, and in the following year another small union was organized with many British socialists in its ranks. In 1934, these two unions merged into a single union of 300 members, and it was this union that was to become Local 301 in 1936 [Henry Antonelli and Helen Quirini. The Story of Local 301, IUE-AFL-CIO: Reflections. Schenectady, N.Y., 1987, pp. 9-10]. After the Wagner Act was passed in 1935 to guarantee workers' rights to organize, the Schenectady General Electric plant changed the Works Council to the Workers Council and removed management from the council in order to make the council a de facto union under the law [Henry Antonelli and Helen Quirini. The Story of Local 301, IUE-AFL-CIO: Reflections. Schenectady, N.Y., 1987, pp. 10-11]. After thousands of cards had been signed by the plant's workers, a National Labor Relations Board election was called between Local 301 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE) and the General Electric's Workers Council. On December 15, 1936, UE Local 301 became the collective bargaining agent for the plant's workers, defeating the company union by a vote of 5111 to 4033 [Henry Antonelli and Helen Quirini. The Story of Local 301, IUE-AFL-CIO: Reflections. Schenectady, N.Y., 1987, pp. 11-12].
After the successful election of UE Local 301 and the emergence of the UE and the CIO, the working conditions in the Schenectady plant and plants around the country began to improve. The first national contract with the General Electric Company was signed in 1938. Beginning in 1936, the union had struggled to provide women with equal pay for equal work, and in 1941 an agreement was negotiated with the company to attain this goal. In 1943 and 1944, job surveys were compiled of women's jobs, and many upgrades were put into effect, the second time by order of the War Labor Board. These upgrades worked to ensure that equal work was recognized as such by the company [Henry Antonelli and Helen Quirini. The Story of Local 301, IUE-AFL-CIO: Reflections. Schenectady, N.Y., 1987, pp. 16-18]. However, the company continued to break its stated rules for equal pay for years afterwards.
During World War II, the cost of living outstripped the raise in wages dramatically, but wages had been held down as part of the war effort. After failed negotiations for a pay raise in 1946, Local 301 initiated its first major strike. Over 20, 000 people took part in this strike, which was a success for Local 301 [Henry Antonelli and Helen Quirini. The Story of Local 301, IUE-AFL-CIO: Reflections. Schenectady, N.Y., 1987, pp. 19-20]. By the late 1940s, the union was faced with even more serious dilemmas. These were the years of anti-communism, and Local 301 and all of the UE had been under investigation by the U.S. government because of the alleged communist-domination of the union. This scrutiny led the CIO to expel the UE in 1949 and to replace it with the International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (IUE) ["Labor Unions". InThe Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Institutions. Gary M. Fink, ed. Westport, Conn. Greenwood Press, 1977]. In March 1954, the business manager of Local 301, Leo Jandreau, announced that Local 301, the largest remaining UE local, would join the IUE, and at an NLRB election following this announcement the local voted to do the same [Henry Antonelli and Helen Quirini. The Story of Local 301, IUE-AFL-CIO: Reflections. Schenectady, N.Y., 1987, p. 27].
During the period of 1956-1961, the union was confronted by a new GE vice-president of employee and public relations named Lemuel Boulware. Boulware established a bargaining strategy with Local 301 and other unions in which GE conducted research into the wages and working conditions of competitors and all of the unions' concerns and issues and put forth a "fair, firm offer" with nothing held back for future concessions. This bargaining strategy came to be known as "Boulwarism" and was roundly criticized by the labor unions, including Local 301, who described the practice as GE's attempt to ram concessions down the union members throats. After a nationwide strike in 1969 and various court decisions that went against General Electric, the company modified its approach the next year and Boulwarism began to fade as the preferred labor bargaining strategy [Joan Cook. "Lemuel Ricketts Boulware, 95; Headed Labor Relations for G.E".New York Times, 8 November 1990, p. B24].
In the 1960s, business interests in Schenectady developed the Make Schenectady Competitive Plan (MSC). The union fought against this plan, primarily because it would eliminate piece work earnings and result in lower wages for General Electric's employees. Schenectady General Electric said that if Local 301 did not sign the MSC agreement by October 1964, 5, 000 jobs would be transferred from that plant to another location, and the local signed a modified MSC plan by the company's deadline [Henry Antonelli and Helen Quirini. The Story of Local 301, IUE-AFL-CIO: Reflections. Schenectady, N.Y., 1987, pp. 33-34]. Two of the concessions the local won from the company were that 250 people would be hired each year for the next three years and that the company would soon begin a building program that would obviously lead to more jobs. The company failed to keep its promises, and on October 1, 1966, Local 301 went on strike. Two days later the strike was cancelled at the urging of President Lyndon B. Johnson, but on October 17 Local 301 was back on strike, along with the American Federation of Technical Employees, Local 147, Plumbers and Steamfitters, Local 128, and the small Teamsters local. The union was on strike for twelve weeks as both management and labor fought a propaganda war on television and in the newspapers. By the end of the strike, both sides made large concessions in order to come to an agreement [Henry Antonelli and Helen Quirini. The Story of Local 301, IUE-AFL-CIO: Reflections. Schenectady, N.Y., 1987, pp. 36-37].
During the next set of contract negotiations, the unions with members working at General Electric banded together in a technique known as coordinated bargaining. For the months of July, August and September of 1969, the unions met with management, but only the unions made proposals. General Electric was silent, a sign that the company was once again using Boulwarism as a "negotiating" technique. At the end of the negotiating, the company presented the unions with its first and final offer. On October 28, 1969, unions at General Electric plants across the country went on strike after rejecting the company's offer. The day after the strike began, the U.S. Court of Appeals handed down a decision that the company's practice of Boulwarism was illegal because it represented a refusal to bargain in good faith. This decision concerned an IUE suit from 1960, but this decision did not convince G.E. to change its tactics during this strike. The strike lasted more than fourteen weeks during the dead of winter, and thousands of Local 301 members were on the picket lines until a court order forced the local to reduce the number of picketers. Nationally, the strike ended and the contract was settled early in 1970, although the members of Local 301 voted 4-1 against the settlement [Henry Antonelli and Helen Quirini. The Story of Local 301, IUE-AFL-CIO: Reflections. Schenectady, N.Y., 1987, pp. 41-43].
As Local 301 moved into the 1970s and 1980s, the negotiating tactics of General Electric were forced to change, and strikes were nonexistent. In these decades, General Electric was forced to cut back the number of workers at its Schenectady plants and at other plants around the country. In Schenectady, G.E. has torn down many of its production buildings and layoffs have been massive. The membership of Local 301 has fallen from a high in the tens of thousands to just under one thousand today [Henry Antonelli and Helen Quirini. The Story of Local 301, IUE-AFL-CIO: Reflections. Schenectady, N.Y., 1987, pp. 45-47].
Local 301 is currently known as IUE-CWA Local 301 as part of the Industrial Division of the Communication Workers of America.
The records of IUE Local 301 contain a significant amount of newspapers, memoranda, correspondence, subject files, audiotapes, and film.
The collection is organized as follows:
Series 1: Officers and Executive Board Meeting Minutes, 1969-1970, 1975-1985
Series 2: Membership Meeting Minutes, 1975-1985
Series 3: Subject Files, 1941-2001
Series 4: Audiovisual, ca. 1950-1976
Series 6: Job Descriptions, Summaries and Related Documents, 1959-1985
Series 7: Photographs, 1948-1980s
Series 8: Grievance Files, 1959-1999
Series 9: Arbitration Files, 1960-1997
Organized into 9 file series by topic or format.
Series 3 contains correspondence, memos, pamphlets, receipts, and related materials concerning the union, GE, and community issues. The series contains material related to the financial organization of the union and to the strikes of the 1940s, 1960s, and 1980s as well. All strike materials are located in this series with some exceptions. News clippings appear in this series, while full newspapers of are found in Series 5.
Note: Microfilm reels in Series 3 and Audiovisual Series 4 also contain information related to the strikes, some of which is not duplicated in the file folders. Series 3 is also composed of both reels and file folders as noted in the box and folder list. (For all subject files, no subject is documented completely).
Series 4 contains audio and video materials. Most of the materials relate to strikes, interviews with members of GE and IUE, and radio programs. Much of the audio contains information on the "Make Schenectady Competitive" Program.
Series 5 is composed of publications of Local 301 including IUE-CIO News and IUE-CIO Local 301 News. The newspaper is the only consistent source for information prior to the 1960s and provides background for any history of Local 301. In these newspapers, Local 301 describes its viewpoints on negotiations with management and on other topics of interest to the union and its membership. The first issues of the newspaper are actually issues of the Electrical Workers News, the UE Local 301 newspaper. These issues date from Local 301s initial decision to join the IUE when their admission to the national union had not yet been made official. The collection includes paper, microfilm, and PDF file versions of newspapers. The PDF files are available online and were created from the microfilm copies of Local 301 publications. As there may have been gaps in the publication holdings when the microfilm was created, researchers are encouraged to also check the paper version when a PDF file is not available for individual volumes. The digitization of the Local 301 publications was funded by long-time Local 301 member Helen Quirini. This series also contains strike newspapers from 1954-1971 and 1969- 1979 and recent copies of the IUE/CWA Newsletter.
Series 6 is composed primarily of job descriptions, summaries, and related documents from the late 1950s to the 1980s. All descriptions are in order of job codes, which are designated in the first few folders of the series.
The photographs in this series generally relate to the work of GE administrator, A.C. Stevens and of various politicians and union gatherings. The collection also includes photographs of IUE Local 301 Pensioners.
Series 8 contains grievance files from 1959-1999. The grievance files represent grievances filed by members of IUE-CWA Local 301 against General Electric for various reasons as well as the recommended actions taken.
Series 9 contains grievances that made their way to arbitration from 1960-1997. These files contain documents relating to the actions taken on grievances that led to arbitration as well as transcripts from the arbitration hearings.