Turning vision into action
Denver's new labor council board first put its vision into practice during the governor's race in 1998, asking local unions to release staff and members to campaign with the labor council among union households. For the first time, union members reported to the labor movement, not to a candidate. Activists from a variety of unions met and worked together, and they also wound up recruiting volunteers not only from their own unions, but from other locals as well. We lost the governor's office by half a percentage point, but the labor council learned that locals were willing to work as a team. The labor council also learned that union political organizers liked the idea of multi-union mobilization.
Union activists then put their political action into practice again during a longterm organizing campaign among service workers at Denver public schools. Communications Workers of America Local 7777 sought to organize the school district's 425 food service workers, but the seven school board members, who had power over whether thy could organize, wouldn't even return activist's phone calls. Union activists saw only one option: elect board members who would endorse organizing.
First, to create community awareness, the labor council partnered with Job with Justice and faith-based groups including the Ministerial Alliance to hold a workers' rights board hearing where the food service workers told of their low pay and lack of benefits.
Then, with vigorous volunteer support from bilingual and Spanish-speaking parent groups, the labor council recruited and elected two new school board members, who convinced their colleagues that the food service workers should have the right to organize. In mid-1999, 125 part-time custodians voted to join CWA, which today continues to organize the food service workers.
With skills honed in school board and city council races, labor council activists were primed to create the "Colorado Miracle" of November 2000. After talking with 40,000 union members, the campaign was one more escalation of the multi-union strategic campaign union activist had created over two years--a partnership among local unions, the labor council and the state federation.
In 2001, after electing a working family - friendly city council member, the labor council focused its energy on a multi-union organizing campaign - including AFSCME, HERE, Machinist, Teamsters, SEIU, and UFCW -- at Denver International Airport.
Living the legacy
In his work to help make Denver a Union City, Young and other activists from Local 208 have been demonstrating a principle that Local 208 members have been practicing over the past one hundred years: solidarity and sacrifice to build the labor movement. When it comes to recruiting volunteers to build the Union City program and other labor movement initiatives, Local 208 is always up to the task of fulfilling the legacy and heritage of their founders. History just keeps repeating itself.
(Excerpted from an article by Jane Birnbaum in the November/December 2001 issue of America@Work)
Keeper of Local 208 Records from 1967-1998
On September 11, 1967 I started working for Pipefitters Local Union #208 located at 1411 Elati Street, Denver, Colorado. Mr. Thomas Hambly was the Business Manager at that time and he is the one who hired me to take Lucy Prock's position, because she was retiring. The other lady in the office was Marlene Steenbergen.
At first it was pretty intimidating, working with so many construction workers, learning about unions, union elections, and union contract negotiations. During my 31 years I worked with many Business Managers and Agents. (Business Managers Tom Hambly, Roy Nylander, Budd Hutto, A. R. Thorp, Dale Camblin, and Dennis Cole). No matter who came into office, member records were always kept up and the office worked well. When work was slow we only had two workers, later it went up to four. Some of the full time workers were Jerrie Draper, Shirley Cridlebaugh, Barbara Young, Debbie Ross, and Debbie Reiling.
By the time we moved to 6350 Broadway, it was a much-needed move. We had been so cramped in the old building. All member records were kept and updated by hand, by computing the numbers of hours individuals worked we could figure the amount of the vacation monies, insurance and pension payments. Eventually the reporting forms submitted by the contractors had individual breakdowns of everything.
For most of my 31 years, I really loved my job and enjoyed the work that was always varied, there was never a dull moment. Most of all, I felt a kinship to the membership. I was always very thankful that I had landed this union job, with the benefits to protect me in future years. I felt a deep loyalty to the members. When I retired on September 11, 1998, I felt a sense of loss of the many friends that I had made in Pipefitters Local Union #208 .....Happy 100th Anniversary to Pipefitters Local Union #208!
Plumbers and Pipefitters Ladies Auxiliary #8
(Written by Kit Barsik and used with the permission of Plumbers Local # 3)
Ladies Auxiliary #8 was organized March 3, 1917 for the purpose of offering aid and support to the husbands, sons and fathers of Plumbers Local #3. The Auxiliary was also created as a get-acquainted and social organization for the members and their families.
The members of Local #3 immediately offered their support with a donation of $27.00 to fund the Auxiliary treasury, plus a silver gavel to recognize the official status of the new organization. Shortly thereafter, with nine members signing, the official charter was issued on June 12, 1917. Upon invitation, the Auxiliary was joined by Pipefitters Union #208 and Railroad Pipefitters Union #605. Local #605 was chartered from March 20, 1913 to November of 1937.
The Auxiliary was an active organization for approximately 70 years. It was involved in many activities for the good and welfare of the members as well as society in general. The early years reflected the popular events of the times, with social occasions such as ice cream socials, card parties, barn dances, picnics, box suppers and minstrel shows. These events were fundraisers, but they also helped to build the membership and provide for social get-togethers, with members of Local #3 invited.
Among the more serious endeavors conducted by the Auxiliary was the support of various labor unions during their calls for strikes and boycotts of businesses. Also, response was prompt to all requests for assistance from the Red Cross, Travelers Aid Society, USO, Navy Mothers, War Chest donations, War Bond purchases, Heart Fund, Cancer Fund, Community Chest, and various hospitals. Several Distinguished Service Certificates were awarded the Auxiliary for their efforts. Many members sewed garments for the Red Cross, donated blood to the Blood Bank and baked cookies to serve the service men and women as they traveled through Denver during the war years.
The Christmas season, especially, was an important time for the Auxiliary to offer aid through the giving of Christmas baskets to any needy families of Locals #3 and #208. There were many periods of high unemployment and, at times, illnesses were also responsible for families being in need. This custom was begun in 1931 and continued throughout the years. These baskets were very much appreciated by the recipients, and they were offered in a spirit of helpfulness. Also, during the Christmas season, the ladies of the Auxiliary assisted the Santa Claus Shop for underprivileged children by dressing dolls, donating them and helping in the distribution of toys.
Political education and involvement was an important part of the Auxiliary agenda, beginning as early as 1932 with co-sponsoring a legislative bill to set the minimum wage for women at $12.00 per week. In more recent years, a political action committee was formed, known then as D.A.C.O.P.E. (Denver Area Committee on Political Education) with Auxiliary #8 member Rose McDonough as Vice Chairman of DACOPE and also Chairman of Women’s Activities. Mrs. McDonough was later replaced by Kit Barsick, another Auxiliary #8 member, due to Mrs. McDonough’s illness. Many members of Auxiliary #8 donated their time to attempt to register as many union members as possible to enable them to vote on the so-called “Right To-Work” bill being introduced by anti-union sponsors. Many labor unions throughout the metro area also assisted in this “get-out-the-vote” drive. Their efforts were successful in defeating this amendment. This could be one of the more meaningful efforts made by an organization devoted to the cause of labor unions.
Since there are so many in number, it is not be possible to name all the outstanding women who, through the years, kept the Auxiliary active and progressive. However, its very existence for 70 years indicates there were many “guiding lights”. Regretfully, Auxiliary #8 is no longer an active organization due to dwindling membership and pressures of today’s society on family life.
Acknowledgement: Kit Barsick.
History of the Metropolitan Denver Construction Plan (MDCP)
A survey by the Department of Labor of the minority utilization in the five counties (Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, and Jefferson) was made in 1968 and 1969. Through that survey, it was determined that there was an underutilization of minorities in the construction industry at the time. Because of this survey, the Labor Department concluded that an increase of minorities in the skilled trades was long overdue. The survey showed that the amount of minorities in these five counties was 16.8%. The goal was then established to integrate each craft to include at least 17% minorities.
In 1970, a coalition of Labor, management, Hispanics and African Americans was formed to work out a reasonable solution. Three persons from each category were represented in the coalition. The coalition hired a staff to fulfill the obligations and goals of greater integration in the trades.
Supplementary agreements were established so that “Trainees” were accepted in the industry to meet the requirements of 29 CFR 5A of the Labor Agreement. The Federal Bid Conditions were established to implement the functions of MDCP. It was agreed that the MDCP would be utilized to fulfill the requirements of each craft by accepting and referring trainees from the MDCP.
Trade councils were then set up to evaluate and refer to the industry personnel they chose to fill these requirements. The Trade councils’ makeup was the same as the Policy Committee, but it only included one labor rep, one management rep, one black and one Hispanic from each craft. They would meet, interview and recommend trainees to be hired by the different crafts.
The MDCP was given five years to complete this task. Each year, the industry was polled to set up new supplemental agreements to set goals for that year. It was estimated that 500 trainees from MDCP in five years would bring the industry into compliance.
At the end of five years, the MDCP referred over 500 trainees, but it retained approximately 476. The industry, with the approval of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCC), was released from the requirements of the Bid Conditions.
The industry chose to use the MDCP and the Federal Bid Conditions instead of putting in Part II of the Bid Conditions, as Philadelphia did. The difference between Part I and Part II of the Bid Conditions was that Part I participants voluntarily agreed to pursue their goals by hiring trainees and training them up to the requirements of journeymen in each craft. This was done in increments, as is the case with apprentices. Part II of the bid conditions was where the industry refused to use the Hometown Plan (MDCP) and was forced to employ a quota. Since they refused to train them, they were forced to pay each person journeyman pay. As a result, the industry received less production because of a lack of journeyman training.
The first craft to produce a journeyman from the MDCP was Pipefitters Local 208. Next were the carpenters. Most of the crafts made a reasonable effort. Some made more efforts than others. The MDCP made an impact on the usage of minorities, including women, that opened the door for not only the requirements of the Bid Conditions, but providing minorities an equal opportunity for employment and advancements in the industry and a better way of life.