EASRCC Carpenters History

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The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America officially began in 1881 when 36 delegates from 14 local unions in 11 different cities decided to organize themselves producing a stronger voice. They desired to be on equal terms with employers, establish shorter workdays and increase pay for the work provided. Most importantly, they wanted to spread their work among as many members as possible.

By the turn of the century, the Carpenters strengthened from 679 locals with 69,000 members to 2,015 locals with 261,000 members. But, even with all of its gains, there was still an obvious need for a stronger national organization. Over the next 40 years, the Brotherhood fought hard to gain members and respect. By the end of World War II, membership in the United Brotherhood soared to 700,000.

Since then, the Brotherhood has made great advances throughout North America and has established itself as one of the nation’s largest, strongest and most respected unions. Today, we have over 532,000 members, representing 872 locals.

Our History

8 Hour Work Day: 1866

On August 20, 1866, the National Labor Union made up of skilled and unskilled workers, farmers and reformers was formed and called on Congress to order an eight-hour workday. The National Labor Union was created to pressure COngress to make labor law reforms. The UNion failed to persuade Congress to Shorten the workday and the labor organization itself dissolved in 1873. However, its efforts heightened public awareness of labor issues and increased public support for labor reform in the 1870s and 1880s.

The Start and P.J. Mcguire: 1881
The Start and P.J. Mcguire: 1881

Before 1881 some carpenters in organized cities across the US were organized, but without a national union strikes and negotiations were ineffective because contractors would hire carpenters from out of town to undermine the local carpenters. Peter J. McGuire was the son of immigrant parents who quit school at an early age to go to work. Though he was young he became a well respected union leader and began traveling the country to “Organize, Agitate, Educate” (A phrase he coined) for better working conditions. He saw the need for a national union and in May of 1881 published a newspaper called “The Carpenter”.

Formation of a National Union: 1881

In the second issue of P.J. McGuire’s “The Carpenter” he called for a national convention to be held in Chicago on August 21st, 1881. McGuire along with representatives from 11 different cities formed the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. One of those representatives, Gabriel Edmonston who organized the D.C. and Virginia Carpenters, would become the first General President of the Union. 

National Headquarters Opens: 1882

After the formation of the Brotherhood of Carpenters held their second convention in Philadelphia in 1882. There they adopted the emblem and the first constitution of the UBC. Shortly after that the International Headquarters was established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia would remain the home base for P.J. McGuire throughout the rest of his career.

May Day: 1886

The first May Day was celebrated on May 1, 1886 and is still celebrated in various areas throughout the globe as International Workers’ Day. The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor) first proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated its proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations.

Oregon Becomes the First State to Recognize Labor Day: 1887

The first state bill to recognize the Labor Day holiday was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit.

The Famous Long Strike and Need for a United Front: 1891

The Famous Long Strike was conducted by carpenters out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during a year where several other strikes by unions were taking place. This strike though was not sanctioned by the United Brotherhood and failed under difficult striking conditions and no assistance from outside of Pittsburgh. The UB, out of “the feeling of sympathy and fraternity” rendered aid to the strikers after the strike was unsuccessful. The need to regroup was necessary and Pittsburgh Carpenters convinced former retired Business Agent,  A.M Swartz, to return to office and help bring a larger unity back to the union. Swartz served as a national convention delegate in 1892 and was elected to the General Executive Board.

The U.S Congress Makes Labor Day a National Holiday: 1894

In the 1890s, states across the Union began to recognize the Labor Day holiday. By 1894, 23 states had adopted the Labor Day holiday in recognition of workers. After years of lobbying from P.J. McGuire, on June 28th of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September each year a national holiday in the United States.

Arthur Quinn: 1896

Successfully organized the carpenters in Paramus, New Jersey. Was instrumental in bringing in the amalgamated carpenters of North Jersey into the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. Arthur’s nickname was “Fair and Square” and would go on to lead the Building Trades in New Jersey for several years as well as a representative for the International Carpenters.

Women Join UBC as Associate Members: 1916 – 1935

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters merged with the Union of Box Makers in 1916. This merger lead to the slow start for the creation of women’s rights within the UBC. While the UBC did not recognize women as members the Boxmakers did. Delegates voted in 1916 to classify women as associate members. Women were not provided full rights as union members until the UBC made the decision to rectify this wrong in 1935.

The Davis-Bacon Act: 1931

The Davis-Bacon Act, introduced by Senator James J. Davis (R-PA) and Representative Robert L. Bacon (R-NY-1),  is passed in 1931 and establishes the requirement for paying prevailing wages on publicly funded projects. In 1931, laws were enacted both in Washington and in Wisconsin to guarantee fair competition on federal and state construction projects. Over the years these laws, the Davis-Bacon Act and the state Prevailing Wage law, have become recognized by workers both inside and outside the construction industry as important milestones in the history of organized labor.

The National Labor Relations Act: 1935

Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) on July 5, 1935. The Act significantly expanded the government’s powers to intervene in labor relations. Before the law, employers had liberty to spy upon, question, punish, blacklist and fire Union members. In the 1930s, workers began to organize in large numbers. A great wave of work stoppages in 1933 and 1934 included citywide general strikes and factory occupations by workers. Hostile fights erupted between workers who sought to organize. Some historians maintain that Congress enacted the NLRA to stave off revolutionary labor unrest.

Fair Labor Standards Act: 1938

In the depths of the Great Depression in the 1930s, both unemployed and union workers mobilized to successfully support the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established the first national minimum wage at $0.25/hour (equivalent to $4.31/hour in 2017 dollars). The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.

Arkansas Becomes the First “Right To Work” State: 1944

In 1943 the first “Right To Work” lobbying groups create a narrative that the mere presence of picketers constituted a threat of violence and should be considered a felony. The Christian American Association (CAA) and the Arkansas Free Enterprise Association circulated petitions to enact a law forbidding labor unions and companies from signing agreements requiring union membership as a condition of employment..” The next year, the campaign was a success and the state’s voters approved the so-called “Right to Work” initiative in the fall of 1944.

Post WWII Membership Boom: 1945

The years following World War II saw Union membership increase exponentially as American soldiers joined the construction workforce after their service to their country. In the post-WWII Boom, membership in the Brotherhood reached new heights with more than 833,000 members by 1973.

Virginia Becomes a “Right To Work State: 1947

In the wake of the Taft-Hartley Act, which allowed individual states to pass “Right To Work” laws, Virginia joins eleven other states in passing “Right To Work”

President John F. Kennedy Gives Federal Workers the Right to Bargain: 1962

President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10988 on January 17, 1962. This Presidential Executive Order recognized the right of federal employees to collectively bargaining. At the time, very few workers at any level of government had won the right to bargain collectively with their employers. Federal action helped inspire many states and localities to follow suit, allowing their own workers to organize. Executive Order 10988 was later replaced and expanded on by President Richard Nixon’s Executive Order 11491 in 1969 by adding additional oversight.

A Failing Economy, Changing Industries & the “Business Round Table”: 1970’s and 1980’s

Major industrial construction organizations banded together to create the “Business Round Table”. The group was composed of March Group, General Electric and the Construction Users Anti-Inflation Roundtable and lead by Roger M. Blough, then Chief Executive of U.S. Steel. It championed the anti-union Open Shop and the Merit Shop. Its effects were devastating to Unions and by the early 1990’s, Union membership had decreased by nearly half from 1970s levels. Union membership fell by five million between 1975 and 1985. In manufacturing, the union labor force dropped below 25 percent, while the mining and construction industries also dropped dramatically. Most notably, in August 1981, President Reagan ordered striking members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization to return to work. Two days later, he  fired 11,345 striking members who refused to return to work.

Adapt or Die: 1970-Forward

With the failing economy and union struggles of the 1970s and 1980s. The UBC had to adapt to a changing construction climate. Many small towns had individual locals and with changing technology and the shrinking of the UBC membership these smaller locals were merged into larger area locals. This strategy helped to fight back against union busting organizations and regain lost markets.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA): 1970

On December 29, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed into law the Occupational Safety and Health Act to protect workers’ safety and health. The purpose of the legislation was to “assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions.”

Douglas McCarron Elected General President of the UBCJA: 1995

Douglas McCarron is elected as the general president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. Since being elected General President in 1995, McCarron has undertaken the most extensive restructuring in the Union’s more than 135-year history, moving the organization to a regional structure that matches modern construction markets. McCarron and his leadership team were re-elected to five-year terms in 2000, 2005, 2010 and most recently in 2015.

Sisters In the Brotherhood Committee is Formed: 1998

By 1957, there were almost 9,000 female members of the Carpenters union. In 1998, the first local Sisters in the Brotherhood committee formed, and in 2002 the union held its first Women’s Conference. Sisters in the Brotherhood was founded in 1998 to recruit women into the Carpenters Union. The Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters (NRCC) was tasked by the UBCJA to pilot a SIB pre-apprenticeship program. The NRCC’s SIB program celebrated the five-year anniversary of this pilot program with the inaugural SIB Leading the Way Conference on April 13-15, 2018.

“Right To Work” Fight in West Virginia Begins 2016-Present

Politicians from West Virginia passed a “Right to Work” Law in 2016 that was later overturned by the courts in 2019. The Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters continues to join other unions in fighting against this attack on workers rights as it moves through the court system.

Delaware Blocks Statewide “Right To Work”: 2018

“Right to Work” politicians worked towards passing county by county ordinances attacking union members. Pro-Labor Democrats took action and passed Senate Bill 165 which permits private sector labor organizations and employers to enter into union security agreements to the full extent allowed under federal law. 

KMLRCC is Renamed EASRCC: December 2019

To better represent our growing region Council Leadership made a change, in name only, from the Keystone + Mountain + Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters to the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters.

COVID-19: A Global Pandemic
COVID-19: A Global Pandemic

Carpenters continued to work through a global pandemic after being deemed essential workers by state governments across the EAS Carpenters Region. To meet the safety demands on essential projects, the EAS Carpenters developed nationally recognized safety training courses, “COVID-19 Preparedness Qualification” and “ICRA: Best Practices Awareness”. The effectiveness of these training courses was such that the International United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners incorporated them into the training provided to its members nationwide. Local governments including Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and more also recognized the training as a standard for essential employees on construction projects.

Your Future Is In Our Building: 2020
Your Future Is In Our Building: 2020

In the 21st Century, members of the Union Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBCJA) span a variety of crafts such as general carpentry, pile driving, trade show, interior design, mill cabinet and millwrights. The UBCJA is a diverse Union with nearly half a million members in the U.S. and Canada. Our members are your neighbors, they are your little league coaches and they are your elected and appointed officials. Today, our state-of-the-art, no debt apprentice training sets the standard in our industry and ensures that workers have the training to operate efficiently and safely on the job site.

President Joe Biden Announces Infrastructure Plan: 2020
President Joe Biden Announces Infrastructure Plan: 2020

President Joe Biden unveiled his “once-in-a-generation investment”, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, at the EAS Carpenters Pittsburgh Training Center. The bill was passed by Congress and signed into law in Washington D.C. on November 15th, 2021, with members of the EAS Carpenters at the White House for the historic ceremony. The plan is helping to rebuild roads and bridges and invest in research and development, manufacturing, job training, and clean energy, all while creating thousands of American jobs for union carpenters.

The Future of the EAS Carpenters: Most Skilled, Highly Trained, Union Proud: 2023
The Future of the EAS Carpenters: Most Skilled, Highly Trained, Union Proud: 2023

In the 21st Century, members of the Union Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBCJA) span a variety of crafts such as general carpentry, pile driving, trade show, interior design, mill cabinet, and millwrights. The UBCJA is a diverse Union with nearly half a million members in the U.S. and Canada. Our members are your neighbors, they are your little league coaches and they are your elected and appointed officials. Today, our state-of-the-art, earn-as-you-learn apprentice training sets the standard in our industry and ensures that workers have the training to operate efficiently and safely on the job site. We are building America safer, professionally, and on time while standing up for workers’ rights.