Public History Intern for Special Collections and University Archives and the IUE Labor Archives Project
From the time of its merger with District Four in 1963, until its closure in 2003, District Three of the IUE (International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaries, Machine & Furniture Workers) represented workers in their attempt to balance the bargaining table with management and, more generally speaking, business and corporate interests in New York, New Jersey, and the entire United States. The "backbone" of District Three's region, which consisted of the manufacturing plants of GE, RCA, Singer, and Westinghouse, in addition to the rest of the District's plants, employed 94,500 members in its initial year of 1963. As a group brought together through a massive scale of communication, education, and political action, their influence as a base of constituents reverberated through the halls of legislatures, as they made themselves known as a significant player in our democratic political system. District Three was at the forefront of the IUE, and the labor movement in general, in its ability to apply pressure on both state and federal governments to hasten and enforce the passage of significant social legislation. While explicitly advocating worker's rights, or taking other civil rights initiatives for the advancement of women or minorities, District Three established itself as a recognized player in the American political process in the late twentieth century.
Established at the IUE Executive Board Meeting on June 27 and 28 in 1963, District Three was formed from portions of old Districts One, Three, and Four, "for the purpose of promoting the organizational efficiency of the IUE." According to James B. Carey, IUE President at the time, "Political activities of the Union [had been] hampered by the fact that some States were divided between two Districts."1 The new District would have its headquarters placed in Newark, New Jersey, and the first officers were appointed, with Milton Weirauch as President, Jack Suarez as Vice President, William "Bill" Bywater as Executive Secretary, and Joseph Iozzi as Treasurer. The District got off to a precarious start, as Weihrauch and Iozzi were accused of misusing union funds, and in July 1967, the District was placed under the temporary administration of the International while investigations were made. In 1968, elections were held District-wide and Bill Bywater was elected new District President, with Marty Venieri as Vice President, Suarez as Executive Secretary, and Ed Miller as Treasurer.
It could be argued that it was under Bywater's administration that labor in District Three was the most active and tough on management. Funds within the District were available and not yet scarce, the District Three Leader (official organ of the District) boasted frequent contract settlements in favor of workers, and membership spiked to its highest (especially after the major GE strike of 1969 & 1970) in the time while Bywater and his associates served in office. After the first year in charge, the administration already boasted a membership climb to one hundred and five thousand, the organizing of twenty-six plants, a "number of 'hard-core' hiring agreements," including the On-The-Job Training program, and its ability to pull the District from a deficit budget to one of surplus.3 During this time, the District's officials personally met with key politicians habitually and commonly had a hand in actual policy-making. Civil rights achievements were numerous, as social programs were among many community efforts supplied by the District.
As previously mentioned, a hallmark of this period was its strength in bargaining with management. Strikes were either won or avoided altogether due to union initiatives against companies who they claimed were trying to "turn back the clock" on wages and benefits.4 Based on reports of the periodical newsletter, the contemporary trend seemed to be the successful handling of grievance procedures, and that more often than not, in-shop votes on unionization facilitated by the National Labor Relations Board resulted in workers opting to join the IUE. Although the actual number of elections had not yet been quantified, the number of reports of shops voting to unionize outnumber reports of the contrary. However, this can be expected given the official nature of the publication. Regardless, it can be said that the first years of Bywater's administration were marked by an increasing in membership ranks and successfully concerted political activities, both factors contributing to the other's fortune.
In addition to success at the bargaining table, the District became heavily involved in efforts to keep plants in operation and their members employed. For example, under the "Urban Renewal Project," the District worked with the Federal Housing and Urban Department (HUD) in getting funding for manufacturing corporations to build new facilities or modernize their existing ones to improve efficiency and production. The incentive existed both for management, who sought to increase profits through higher efficiency, and workers who sought to keep their jobs, as the employer would decide to not shut down or relocate the plant, due to the governmental donation of capital. This program involved a good deal of cooperation between government, management, and labor.5
For similar reasons, and in similar fashion, the District also championed an "On-The-Job Training Program." Much like the Urban Renewal Project, this was an attempt to keep plant moves at bay, but was simultaneously a social program in that it sought to bring jobs to the unemployed and underemployed. Coupled with the Union's support of affirmative action, these workers were often selected from minority groups, as an attempt to alleviate racial inequities in employment statistics. According to the Leader, "Trainees were groomed for such diverse occupations as machinists, armature welders, stator winders, drill press, lathe and mill operators, and regulator assembler." About seventy percent of the trainees were reported to have been "recruited from the ranks of the jobless," and upon the signing of the program's contract, some companies hired "Negro workers" for the first time ever. Due to the program's ninety-six percent completion rate, U.S. Secretary of Labor, W. Willard Wirtz, could not help but praise its "spectacular results."6
Indeed, social reform was not only on the agenda, but was institutionalized by the District and was a large part of both its philosophical and practical concerns. The District put a share of its resources into its Social Action Committee and Civil Rights Committee, the latter of which was especially active in the late 1960's and early 1970's, and was spearheaded by Mae Massie. After the Newark race riots of 1967, Massie claimed it was the District's obligation to "cement the bond between labor and the Negro people."7 She urged Local unions to establish Human Rights Committees, which many did, and to "co-operate with other organizations in tackling problems of the ghetto, and [to] lend the strength of the locals to anti-poverty programs in our communities." According to Massie, such a program was "an extension of the Civil Rights program that has been followed historically by our union from its very beginning."8 Through the Social Action Committee, housing developments were realized as affordable residences for Union members and retirees. These projects, located in Newark, Rochester, Troy, and Brooklyn, were evidence to the fact that the District made a comprehensive effort to provide for the well-being of its members and community.9
Coupled with the advancement of minorities as a Civil Rights issue, was the concern for women workers. In the summer of 1969, "recognizing that close to thirty percent of the members of [the] District are women," the first ever District Three Women's Conference "was called together to discuss the problems women are confronted with in the shop, the union, and the community."10 Gloria Johnson, the Chairwoman of the IUE Women's Council, at such a Conference in 1971, demonstrated that women were making, on average, only sixty percent of what men were making and led the IUE in support of an Equal Pay Act, which would "protect women workers and other minorities from discrimination on the job."11 These issues were very relevant to the District since reports of "sex, race, and national origin discrimination" were allegedly practiced by employers at GE, GM, and Ford; all of which were companies with whom the IUE had major contractual relations. IUE General Counsel, Winn Newman, had reported in 1973 that the "IUE had filed more [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] complaints and lawsuits against employers than any other labor organization."12 It was around this time, that the District also began its battle for establishing the rights of working pregnant women by initiating the Martha Gilbert vs. General Electric action, claiming discrimination against Gilbert due to her being pregnant. After six years of District support, the "pregnancy disability bill" was finally passed through Congress and signed by President Carter in 1978. Under this legislation, companies would no longer be able to "withhold health insurance and disability pay in absences from work resulting from childbirth or complications."13 Within the next year, District Three Local 1581's case against Westinghouse in Buffalo won benefits for two pregnant women who were sexually discriminated by their employer. The case was upheld by the Supreme Court.14
In addition to Civil Rights, women's rights, and community development, the District played a major role in the 1970's and throughout the remainder of its history in fighting for the safety and health of its workers on the job. The District's Vice President, Jack Suarez, led the District's campaign on the issue and "took the fight for industrial safety to the halls of Congress," where he claimed that whereas forty thousand American troops had perished in Vietnam between 1961 and 1970, one hundred thirty thousand American workers were killed "as a result of industrial accidents in this same period."15 In March 1970, the District testified before a Senate Sub-Committee about their workers' exposure to "dangerous dosages" of radiation in IUE shops, especially noting GE as one of such. Numerous other hazardous conditions and shops were cited in their urging for the passage of the OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Act), of which Suarez would be a premier defender for the rest of his career in the labor movement. Other notable issues in the decade, in relation to the District and OSHA, once instituted, was the exposure of workers to vinyl chloride, which was a known cause of liver cancer,16 and the support for the passage of the Toxic Substance Bills.17 In 1980, the OSHA would become a target for legislative attack as corporate lobbyists and conservative Congressional leaders sought to make compliance with the OSHA should be voluntary on the part of employers, claiming that enforcement of its regulations were too costly. As expected, Suarez and District Three would be among the Act's major defenders.18
Perhaps the most pivotal moment in the history of the District's activity as a powerful political actor was the GE strike of 1969 and 1970. The event was both a landmark achievement and, unfortunately for the Union, the peak of its success. On October 26th 1969, one hundred forty-seven thousand GE workers — twenty-two thousand of which were District Three members - went on strike after rejecting the company's policy of "dictatorial bargaining." Striking workers, such as Leo Maloney, at the plant in Schenectady, claimed that "GE is far behind other industries when it comes to providing adequate benefits for its employees… GE workers just cannot make ends meet with what we get for 40 hours work." The practice known as "Boulwarism," appropriately named after GE Executive Lemuel Boulware, became known as such after the corporation made its contract offer "in a take-it or leave-it fashion which allowed for no bargaining." As future District President Sal Ingrassia put it years later, this time the IUE rejected his package and filed charges with the NLRB for unfair labor practices — and won. The Leader proclaimed, "the court found that GE's tactics in negotiating with the union are designed to destroy collective bargaining and the union with it, which is a flagrant violation of the National Labor Relations Act." As another striking worker in Schenectady, Ralph Boyd, put it: "Boulwarism is dead as for attitude expressed."19
The IUE's victory against GE in 1970 was monumental in terms of labor's ability to defend its constitutional right to bargain fairly with business, and was certainly instrumental as a precedent for the ability of organized unions to continue to negotiate contracts on equal terms with employers. Perhaps of just as much significance for the District, and the IUE as a whole, was the popularity it brought to the Union immediately afterwards. According to Ingrassia, union membership spiked as high as three hundred forty thousand — its highest ever. An increased membership could imply all sorts of positive consequences for the Union, from monetary resources to mobilizing for rallies. However, the fact that this high membership number did not last long is a significant indicator of the fact that things in general did not look bright for long. Not only did membership plummet soon after, but also labor's ability to balance the bargaining tables with business consequentially deteriorated as well. The District, and the labor movement in general, would soon become plagued with a number of dilemmas, from the "runaway shop" to a changing political tide in Congress, all of which prove to contribute to the chronic ailment that would afflict labor for the following decades.
The story of the IUE's shrinking is intrinsically tied to the story of the development of the American economy, and its move from a manufacturing, export-intensive industrial economy to a service-based, import-intensive consumer economy. The electronics and electrical manufacturing sector, which the IUE represented, is among those hit hardest by this widespread economic shift. Since the origins of the trend can be traced back into the 1950's, and with the acceleration of its pace in the 1970's and 1980's, the history of the District can be viewed as one large attempt to ameliorate the effects of this phenomenon. Although its approach varies across time and leadership, the District (and all of IUE) have always been preoccupied with their struggle against imports which competed against their represented domestic industries.
The first reaction on the part of Bywater's administration occurred in 1968, as the District campaigned to push a "Truth in Import Labeling" bill, with the support of Congressional friend, Senator Clifford Case. According to the Leader, "This bill provides that 'imported household sewing machines be conspicuously marked to show the foreign country of origin… The purpose of this legislation is to prevent the deception presently perpetrated on the American consumer when he purchases a product manufactured in a foreign country with the name of an American company on the label." The layoff of five thousand workers at the Singer sewing machine plant in Elizabeth was the cause for concern. Soon after, a bill was introduced into Congress which applied the import labeling to all household appliances manufactured abroad.20
By the following year, it appeared that the import issue was becoming much more alarming, and prompted Bywater to take up the cause of establishing import quotas as a means of protecting domestic industries - a cause which would become synonymous with his role as a major figure in the labor movement for the following decades. In the initial months of the campaign, Bywater remarked in his seasonal editorial, "As I See It,"
"The quota drive is extremely important, because layoffs in the electronics industry are at the rate of 5,000 jobs a month. This is an industry that should be expanding, rather than declining, with the great demand for its products… Much of this problem has come about, because of the greed of American corporations which invest their capital in low wage foreign countries… and exploit the workers in those lands at wages of 10 cents to 30 cents per hour."21
Bywater coupled his argument with the fact that Japan's economic policies restricted their own importing of American products and thus exacerbated the inability of American firms to compete in fair bilateral trade. His fervid opposition to American trade policy on the subject led him to burst out, "Only in America is protectionism a dirty word!"22
The campaign soon formulated itself under the banner of FITE (Fair International Trade & Employment), which Bywater would shoulder for both the District and the International, by making television appearances, writing for the New York Times, and meeting with Senators and Governors to give the crusade a very high profile. In his New York Times' article, Bywater remarked that "the flight of American capital to foreign lands has become an avalanche," and that "no economy can survive that kind of international trade for long," in reference to "discriminatory practices of other nations," such as Japan's large scale import quota.23 The imagery of the "avalanche" would soon become synonymous with the import issue, and the term would be espoused by a variety of other labor leaders who would speak on the subject.
Anxiety further mounted throughout the decade as the campaign consistently failed to bring Washington to pass any legislation regarding imports. The Hartke-Burke Bill of 1971, which would discourage plants from "running away" to foreign countries by repealing tax incentives, and would place a quota on imports, had met great difficulty at the Capitol. By 1972, Bywater had "warned that there is 'unmistakable foot-dragging on import legislation in this session of Congress while unemployment in our industry reaches new heights."24 In the first three years of the decade, it was reported that "440,000 jobs were lost in electronic, electrical, and other related industries," with imports cited as "a major factor in the deterioration in the job market in those industries."25 The diminishing of this sector and its consequential job loss took an incredible toll on local communities. According to John Lockett, President of Local 320 at GE in Syracuse, employment "has been reduced tremendously," and over the period of 1970-1977, the Local lost over six thousand workers. The depletion of employment has had far-reaching consequences. Lockett claimed that,
"Our communities are showing wear and tear in its community functions. The local small town and hamlet area associations that promote activities for its children and senior citizens are feeling the effects, small business are feeling the effects. Churches receive less contributions, schools threaten to discontinue programs, large stores are closing their doors."
Lockett spoke of "unfair practices such as dumping [of foreign goods on domestic markets], import of unfinished products" as major causes of the community's crisis.26
As efforts in Washington proved to yield little progress, the District began to turn to State and local governments to seek a way to enforce a policy which would prevent the closing of shops. While imports may have been one share of the problem's root, the mobility of capital - as corporations sought to cut costs with cheaper and unorganized labor in distant Southern states or foreign countries — proved to be a huge thorn in the side of labor's existence. Many of labor's efforts with these more local governments were geared towards the curtailment of this "uprooting" of shops. At a Trenton District meeting with New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne in 1974, the Governor "expressed deep concern over the loss of jobs… [and] pointed out that New Jersey had the highest unemployment rate in the nation." The Governor heeded the District's call for legislation by prompting the passage of a bill to set up "a New Jersey Industrial Development Commission with a program to assist business to remain and expand in New Jersey and to attract new industries into the State." The State planned to do so by offering industrial tax concessions which would allow New Jersey "to compete with other states which have been pirating industry out of this State through tax abatements and other schemes."27
By 1976, it appeared that much of the problem was competition with Southern states (where the phrase "Right To Work" would later be applicable), and the District turned its focus to seeking a large coalition with Northeastern and Midwestern industrial states alike, "to reverse the disastrous policies emanating from the White House, the Pentagon, powerful Congressional Committees and Southern lobbyists which are leading to the abandonment of this section of the U.S. as viable centers of industrial production and employment." Bywater even went so far as to see the waning of Northeastern industry as the product of a "high- powered conspiracy."28 The District's attempt to lessen the effect of plant moves on workers became a campaign for "pre-notification" by companies who planned on relocating. Working with dates ranging from two years to six weeks, the legislation they hoped for would require plants to notify their employees in advance with taxation penalties for non- compliance. Public hearings, in which the State and economic experts would try to determine the cause of the move and encourage the company to stay, would also be part of a proposed program that both Bywater and the subsequent administrations of Archer Cole and Sal Ingrassia sought to establish through legislation as well.29
However, by the 1980's, the problem of the runaway shop and foreign competition had been nowhere near solved. In 1977, the District was sorely disappointed when President Carter opted against establishing an import quota on color television sets, despite the fact that he was given the "green light" by the U.S. International Trade Commission.30 Pre-notification also failed to find its way into legislation, and the District found that it was forced to shift gears and give up hope with the federal government. The Leader alleged that, "With the Reagan Administration in the driver's seat, we cannot expect leadership out of Washington to deal with the plant relocation problem," and insisted, "it is important that the IUE and the entire labor movement exert pressure on both states to deal with this urgent problem."31 Indeed, the 1980's would prove to be an uphill battle for organized labor and heavy domestic manufacturing - a battle whose damages the District's efforts would be aimed at lessening.
As Bywater stepped out to run the International after his election victory in 1981, long-time local labor leader Archer Cole stepped in to serve as President of the District, until Sal Ingrassia was voted into office in 1984. Accompanied by a new team of Officers - Lou Dudek as Vice President and Harold Morrison as Treasurer (who would serve until the closure of the Union in 2003) - Ingrassia and District Three continued to tackle the persisting old problems of runaway plants, issues in Civil Rights, and occupational health standards.
The Social Action Committee was still fully operative, and now under the guidance of director Bernice Cattrell. As the ripples of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's and the problems it confronted, especially formal segregation, began to slacken, the Committee began to focus on a newer set of contemporary issues. According to Cattrell, the relevant issues of the time were "the impact of technology on women and minorities, quality non-profit child care, sexual harassment and domestic abuse, safety and health contract language, training and retraining for available jobs, and vocational education." Although the Union had helped enact Civil Rights and other types of workers' rights in the past, Cattrell admitted, "The Union's work is never done," and that conservative political forces were evidently at work as, "Civil Rights gains of the past continue to erode."32 Another cause for concern in terms of social action was the increasing numbers in the Hispanic work force. According to Ralph Rivera (IUE International Rep.), in 1984, "Hispanics in New Jersey, New York and other parts of the U.S. are confronted by many barriers that are the result of employment discrimination, basically because they are not represented in large numbers by unions… are paid low wages, with little or no benefits, because of their language barrier." Rivera urged the Union to place as a primary concern their need to bring Hispanic workers "into the fold" and enlighten them to the fact that the Union also had broad reaching social and community goals, despite the impression widely held that a Union only fights for wages.33
Throughout the 1980's, the Union also continued its fight to establish safety and health standards in the workplace. The OSHA standards which Jack Suarez had fought for had now evolved into the form of "Right To Know" legislation. Although the Reagan Administration had refused to adopt these programs on a federal level, the state of New York (as a result of the labor movement's efforts) had passed a bill in 1982 which established "the fact that workers and their families may be in danger because of exposure to toxic substances in the work site… Under the New York law, employers must post a sign in every workplace to inform their employees that they have a right to know about the content and effects of toxic substances utilized on the premises."34 Union campaigning immediately began in New Jersey for similar legislation, which resulted in an "amazing victory" in 1983 when "the N.J. legislature passed the strongest Right to Know Bill in the United States." Even a "reluctant Governor Kean," who was a large chemical company stockholder, opted to sign the bill. Twenty-seven thousand New Jersey companies would hence be required to "label chemicals used in the workplace," to increase workers' awareness of their hazards and toxicity.35 The law, which would also "protect residents from toxic wastes stored in factories, warehouses and dumps in the community," would come to be legally challenged by "powerful chemical companies and business groups,"36 but still held as a precedent set for occupational safety by labor unions in New Jersey and New York.
The District's fight against the chronic dilemma of the runaway plant persisted in the 1980's and would continue until the District's end. According to Ingrassia,
"The major problem in 1984 was the problem that we had in previous years, except… those problems were escalating. We were continuing to have plants closing, both in New York and New Jersey. We saw the escalation of jobs, at that point, moving to the south and moving overseas, moving to 'Right to Work States,' where these states were promising brand new facilities, training programs, ten year leases with no payment, tax rebates, where they were getting killed in our area, they were getting all of these advantages [elsewhere]… When they announced they were leaving and we'd say "what can we do to keep you here," they would say, "nothing."37
It seemed, therefore, to be a paramount problem for the District — given the increasing age of the region's industry, and therefore the strength of its labor movement — that corporations and investors no longer saw it to be beneficial to maintain operations in these states. Ingrassia further explained that these closings were leading to a massive reduction in membership, admitting that "the forces were aligned against us." Despite the mounting circumstances, the District was able to squeeze legislative action from federal and state legislatures regarding the issue.
On May 4, 1983, Archer Cole testified before Congress in favor of the National Employment Priorities Act "which would safeguard workers and communities against the tragedy of plant closings." He demonstrated how half a million jobs had been lost in New York and New Jersey within a ten-year frame due to plant relocations and cited the case of Kerr Glass in Keyport, N.J., where workers reported in the morning for their regular shift "only to find a padlock on the gate and a sign announcing that the plant was closed." Under this bill, which would ultimately fail passage, "companies would have to give one year notice of their intention to close."38 A mild degree of success was had when the "New Jersey Assembly became the first legislative body in the United States to pass a comprehensive bill [in March, 1984] dealing with the ravages of plant closings," known as the Plant and Job Retention Bill. It provided for severance pay for affected workers, at the expense of the company, as well as medical and life insurance for six months after the lay-off.39 However, it is apparent that the issue was hardly resolved. As late as 1988, the District was calling out Reagan's inability to understand the meaning of "human rights," as he refused to pass an extremely popular trade bill which would have provided for a 60-day notice for workers whose plants were to be closing. The Leader claimed that the Reagan Administration had "watched 40 million Americans drop out of the Middle Class [and had] been responsible for 8,000 manufacturing plants closing each year since 1980."40
The issue of imports and exports, and the trade deficit, were still of concern. The District held a telegram campaign to support the passage of a 1986 trade bill which "would fundamentally alter the way U.S. industry and government respond to foreign competition." Despite Reagan's protest that it was a "protectionist package that would 'plunge the world into a trade war,'" the bill which passed through the House "would force the President to retaliate against countries that discriminate against U.S. exports," through competing tariffs or quotas.41 Sal Ingrassia, in his addresses to members, was particularly concerned with our trade relations with Japan, whose case is especially relevant to the District as America's top competitor in electronics manufacturing. Sal's comparison showed that Japan and all other "industrial western democracies" passed plant closing legislation, and that we gave away America's manufacturing industries "on the altar of stupidity and free enterprise."42
The issue of free trade continued into the 1990's with the passage of NAFTA. Further heightening what the District viewed as unfair trade, this trade agreement advanced the ability of plants to relocate with the diminishing of the Mexican border as a significant economic barrier. Companies logically took advantage of "the huge wage and fringe benefit differential between American and Mexican workers," and adjusted geographically to do so. However, the official stance of the Union, as could be expected, was not against Mexican workers but rather against "Corporate America," who they accused of taking half a million jobs south of the border. As the Leader put it, "The fatal flaw in NAFTA is America's current corporate culture which focuses on short-term profits - by cutting costs - laying off workers - and shutting down manufacturing plants. The enemy is… our own corporations, who are ready to destroy our communities for the sake of the almighty dollar."43 The District was further dispirited when President Clinton sought Fast Track approval of NAFTA, which would allow him to extend the agreement to Central and South America without allowing Congress to amend the terms.44 The District concentrated its efforts and lobbied intensively, sending out thousands of cards and making thousands of phone calls, in an attempt to "derail" Clinton's Fast Track Legislation.45
The effects of an increasingly free global trade - deemed "unfair" by the labor movement and American manufacturing industries which were suffering more severely — were compounded by the challenging of the right to which labor held so dearly: the right to strike. President Reagan's decision to fire ten thousand air traffic controllers (whose strike the District supported) in 1981 set the legal precedent for strike breaking by allowing companies to hire permanent replacement workers, or "scabs," as the Union called them. The action, viewed as "warfare against labor" and one of "the worst union busting actions taken by a U.S. President against labor in the last 50 years," could be viewed as the most crippling event in the recent history of American labor.46 Viewed as a "basic American right,"48 many of the District's political efforts became geared toward defending this right for the years to follow. In 1989, Sal Ingrassia had already concluded that "the continuation of strikebreaking in America will lead to the demise of the trade union movement."48 Under NAFTA in the 1990's, striking became even more precarious, as the threat by plants to move to Mexico became even more real, and had a "dampening effect on the collective bargaining process." Sal Ingrassia would claim later, in regards to the subject, "I think that this whole country has been set up, has come to a pinnacle of anti- union activity." In 1993, the Union saw some success after putting on enough pressure to guarantee the passage of the Cesar Chavez Workplace Fairness Act through the House, which banned permanent replacement of workers.50
However, this success was short-lived, for the past losses of the IUE had surmounted considerably and hindered its ability to see further growth and progress. By this time, the District was no longer experiencing the financial stability and political clout as it once did in it its formative years under Bywater, and the signs were starting to show. As early as 1990, International Representatives were being given permanent layoff notices,51 and in 1992 Districts Two and Three were forced to combine since the International - then two million dollars in debt - could no longer afford to subsidize District Two, who had been dependent on funds for some time.52 In 1996, the whole Union's membership was down to about one hundred twenty-five thousand, and according to Ingrassia, organizing skills became less prevalent as the Union failed to bring in "new blood."53 The failure to enact favorable legislation had hindered the ability to organize and vice versa, as the political climate seemed to be less interested in the demands of the labor movement. By 2000, the IUE failed to sustain a decent membership level and opted to merge with the CWA (Communications Workers of America), and in 2003 Ingrassia's term ended as District President as authority over former IUE workers would be placed in the hands of CWA District One. This event marked the official end of IUE District Three after four decades of labor organizing and union activities.
The closing of the District can be viewed as the product of profound political and economic processes at work in the United States. All of the issues cited above, although arguably the major reasons, are a few among many factors which caused this waning of the Union. As Ingrassia demonstrated in a letter to Morton Bahr (CWA President), officially signing the deal between the two unions in 2000, New York and New Jersey "bore the brunt of our National Policy of Free Trade." The hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and thousands of closed plants, he attributes to the increasing trade deficit, the "national pastime" of scabbing introduced by Reagan, the inability to gain "meaningful and helpful legislation" from Congress, and the NAFTA and GATT Trade Agreements. Ingrassia wrote, "When we realize that there has not been a major piece of progressive labor legislation enacted over the last sixty years, you can fully understand the increasing minority status that the American Labor Movement finds itself in, as we begin the 21st century."
The future's outlook for American organized labor is indeed a troubling one, and the testament of IUE District Three serves as evidence of the fact. Although it stood and actively fought for the realization of important ideals and principles, such as Civil Rights, women's rights, minority rights, and of course, workers' rights, it often failed to gain important legislation which would engender these principles and also to secure permanently any progress it had achieved. Their efforts certainly yielded some lasting, tangible results, such as the Family Leave Act and Right to Know legislation, but in the end the District had closed against its will, and with much unfinished business. As Bernice Cattrell once said at a District meeting, "the Union's work is never done," especially since the same can be said for its opposition. Ingrassia requested, in a 2005 interview, that one must "remember that this country needs a viable labor movement if [it plans] to continue with the benefits and programs that we have."54 This statement is significant in that it dually gives credit to the social and political achievements of the District's past, and at the same time, emphasizes the undeniable value and relevance of a labor union as a motivating, agitating force responsible for the welfare of the common and working people.
1 Carey, James B. Letter to "All Local Unions in District 3." 9 July 1963. IUE Labor Archives Project. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers U., New Brunswick.
2 Golon, Robert B. "A Brief History of District Three [IUE]." April 2006. IUE Labor Archives Project. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers U., New Brunswick.
3 "Year of Achievement Under New District 3 Leadership." District Three Leader. Sep 1968: 4.
4 "Nine Week Otis Strike Ends. Members Ratify Settlement." District Three Leader. Nov 1967: 5.
5 "Urban Renewal Saves 1,000 Jobs at McGraw-Edison." District Three Leader. Nov 1967: 6.
6 "Wirtz Praises IUE-OJT Program. Renews Training Contract For '68." District Three Leader. Jan 1968: 10.
7 "Editorial: Contributing to Racial Progress." District Three Leader. Nov 1967: 2.
8 "Urge District Three Locals Establish Own Human Relations' Committees." District Three Leader. Jan 1968: 2.
9 "IUE Housing Program Picks Up Steam In Newark, Rochester, Troy, Brooklyn." District Three Leader Sep 1968: 9.
10 "First District Women's Conference Maps New Program." District Three Leader. Aug 1969: 2.
11 "Dist. 3 Women's Conference Adopts Broad Program." District Three Leader. Sep 1971: 8.
12 "Dist. 3 Women's Conference Wins Praise of Delegates." District Three Leader. Oct 1973: 14, 15.
13 "Pregnancy Benefits." District Three Leader. Dec 1978: 2.
14 "Local 1581 Wins $3,232 In Pregnancy Cases At Westinghouse." District Three Leader. Dec 1979: 7.
15 "Suarez Goes Before Congress On Plant Safety." District Three Leader. Feb 1970: 13.
16 "Fight Against Vinyl Chloride Wins New OSHA Safeguards." District Three Leader. Nov 1974: 11.
17 "Suarez Urges Passage of Federal Toxic Substances Act." District Three Leader. Mar 1976: 12.
18 "Employers Aim to Cripple OSHA Through Schweiker Amendments." District Three Leader. May 1980: 7.
19 "U.S. Court of Appeals Finds G.E. Guilty of Failing to Bargain in Good Faith." District Three Leader. Nov 1969: 3.
"G.E. Strikers Tell It Like It Is." District Three Leader. Nov 1969: 4.
Ingrassia, Sal. Interview with Bob Golon. "Transcript of Oral History Interview." IUE Labor Archives Project. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers, U., New Brunswick. Patchogue, NY. 14 Dec 2005. p. 8
20 "Sen. Case Introduces 'Import Labeling' Bill." District Three Leader. Nov 1968: 4.
21 Bywater, Bill. "As I See It: Import Quotas Supported." District Three Leader. Oct 1969: 10.
22 Bywater, Bill. "As I See It: Carter Disappoints On TV Imports." District Three Leader. June 1977: 18.
23 "District Three IUE Leads The Way In Fight To Save Jobs From Import Avalanche." District Three Leader. Jan 1971: 8, 9.
24 "Foot-dragging in Washington Perils Import Bill." District Three Leader. Mar 1972: 1, 15.
25 "Million Job Loss in Five Years Due To Imports." District Three Leader. Mar 1973: 7.
26 "How Imports Cost Local 320 Members 6400 Jobs." District Three Leader. Feb 1977: 5, 8.
27 "District Three Fighting To Halt Runaway Plants." District Three Leader. Nov 1974: 10.
28 "Lead Fight To Stop Exodus of Plants and Jobs." District Three Leader. Mar 1976: 4.
29 "Dist. Steps Up Action in Runaway Shop Fight." District Three Leader. Apr 1979: 9.
30 Bywater, Bill. "As I See It: Carter Disappoints On TV Imports." District Three Leader. June 1977: 18.
31 "Legislation on Plant Runaways Needed In New York and New Jersey." District Three Leader. 19 Sep 1981: 11.
32 Cattrell, Bernice. "Social Action Update." District Three Leader. Apr 1985: 2.
33 Rivera, Ralph. "Hispanics and the Labor Movement." District Three Leader. Dec 1984: 8.
34 "Protect 'Right To Know' Law in N.Y.; Labor Pushes Same Bill in Jersey." District Three Leader. Apr 1982: 12.
35 " 'Right To Know' Becomes Law in N.J." District Three Leader. Dec 1983: 10.
36 "N.J. Labor Fights to Keep 'Right to Know' Law." District Three Leader. Dec 1984: 12.
37 Ingrassia, Sal. Interview with Bob Golon. "Transcript of Oral History Interview." IUE Labor Archives Project. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers, U., New Brunswick. Patchogue, NY. 14 Dec 2005. p. 15
38 Cole, Archer. "Point of View: Testifying on Plant Closing Bill." District Three Leader. July 1983: 16.
39 "Landmark Legislation to Curb Plant Closings." District Three Leader. June 1984: 7.
40 "Plant Closing Notification Is A 'Human Right'." District Three Leader. June / July 1988: insert.
41 "House Votes Trade Bill Over Reagan's Protest." District Three Leader. July 1986: 15.
42 Ingrassia, Sal. "Reflections… Japan - What Price Friendship?" District Three Leader. July 1987: 20.
43 "District Three Says - Yes To Historic National Health Care. No to NAFTA." District Three Leader. Fall / Winter 1993: 4-5.
44 Ingrassia, Sal. Newsletter to District 3 Members. 19 Sep 1997. IUE Labor Archives Project. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers U., New Brunswick.
45 Ingrassia, Sal. Newsletter to District 3 Members. 12 Dec 1997. IUE Labor Archives Project. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers U., New Brunswick.
46 "Dist. 3 Sparks Drive to Help Striking Air Controllers." District Three Leader. 19 Sep 1981: 3.
47 "Urge Action Now to Safeguard Right To Strike." District Three Leader. July 1983: 1, 10.
48 " 'Right To Strike' Major Issue of June Council Meeting." District Three Leader. June 1989: 3
49 Ingrassia, Sal. Interview with Bob Golon. "Transcript of Oral History Interview." IUE Labor Archives Project. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers, U., New Brunswick. Patchogue, NY. 14 Dec 2005. p. 22
50 Ingrassia, Sal. Newsletter to District 3 Members. 28 July 1993. IUE Labor Archives Project. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers U., New Brunswick.
51 Ingrassia, Sal. Newsletter to District 3 Members. 22 Aug 1990. IUE Labor Archives Project. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers U., New Brunswick.
52 Ingrassia, Sal. Interview with Bob Golon. "Transcript of Oral History Interview." IUE Labor Archives Project. Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers, U., New Brunswick. Patchogue, NY. 14 Dec 2005. p. 25
53 Ibid., p. 23
54 Ibid., p. 28