Chemical and Atomic Workers

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An illustration of atomic related equipment inside a circle with with orange text surrounding it, against an orange background. 

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The Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW) was founded in the San Joaquin Valley of California.  It originated with oil-rig workers striking over being denied an eight-hour work day in 1917.  In 1918, the American Federation of Labor granted the group a charter under the name Association of Oil Field, Gas Well, and Refinery Workers.  During the 1930s, the union joined the Congress of Industrial Organizations.  The union took Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union as its name in 1955 and became a nationwide union.  Local 2-443 was a chapter from Montana.  In the late 1960s, the local went on strike over what they claimed to be dangerous work conditions in oil refineries.  The Montana strike grew to include over seven hundred thousand employees.  Around the same time as the Montana strike, OCAW was lobbying congress to pass what became the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).  By the early 1970s, OCAW contracts included clauses directly addressing health and safety issues.  In 1999, OCAW merged with the United Paperworkers union and formed the Paper Allied-Industrial, Chemical, and Energy Workers International Union (PACE), which as over three hundred thousand members.

The success of both the OCAW and the passage of OSHA was in no small part due to OCAW long-time union official Tony Mazzocchi (1926–2002).  During a period of American corporatization of labor in the 1980s, Mazzocchi also pushed for the formation of what became the Labor Party Advocates (LPA).  LPA was retitled the Labor Party in 1996.  The party does not have a national mainstream political voice.


Hanlan, J. (2004). Oil, chemical, and atomic workers union (OCAW). Robert E. Weir and James P. Hanlan (Eds.), Historical encyclopedia of American labor. Retrieved from….

Catalog ID CL0236