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IMBER QUALITY PRODUCTS UNION LOCAL AMALGAMATIC LITHOGRAPHERS LABEL OF AMERICA L.J.IMBER CO. 1639 W. EVERGREEN AVE. Union bug CHICAGO, ILL.
L.J. IMBER CO. CHICAGO MADE IN U.S.A.
The Farm Equipment & Metal Workers union was started in 1938 at the International Harvester plant in Chicago, Illinois. It gained traction in other factories within the company over other worker’s unions, such as United Auto Workers, due to the FE & MW union prioritizing recruitment of African-American workers and implementing anti-discrimination policies. The union had African-American leadership within the organization, which was rare during that time. The union is said to have had roots in the Communist Party, but the extent of the ties may have been exaggerated by the company who was firmly anti-union. The union made significant progress towards worker rights through the use of work stoppage strikes. When World War II started, the union supported the wartime “no strike pledge,” but did decide to strike and those actions enabled the union to raise worker wages by 80%.
In 1947, the FE union had their most successful worker rights movement at an International Harvester plant in Louisville, Kentucky. The union was able to unite black and white workers, uncommon at the time in Kentucky. Through the use of work stoppages, any time company management breached their contract, the union got results and was seen as superior for worker rights to UAW.
The beginning of the end for FE was the passing of the Taft-Hartley Act, which limited the activities and power of labor unions. In 1952, International Harvester requested work speedups, pay cuts, and more leverage over workers. In response, 30,000 FE members went on strike. The strike lagged and the union ran out of money. Many workers crossed the picket line and one was found murdered. Though later acquitted, a local union leader was arrested and tried for the murder, which resulted in a negative opinion of FE in the media and public. FE gave up on the strike after 87 days and signed a company favorable deal. That same year, the House Un-American Activities Committee brought in several FE leaders to testify further alienating the group. FE continued to lose members in the 50s and eventually merged with UAW in 1955.
Dirnbach, E. (2020, March 12). "Management has not right to exist": On the militant Farm Equipment Workers union. In Organizing Work. Retrieved from https://organizing.work/2020/03/management-has-no-right-to-exist-on-the-...