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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.