Copyright 2014. Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 19. All rights reserved.
Click the photo to view some historical photos from the construction of Local 19's current facilities on Columbus Boulevard.
With the metal product industries becoming increasingly active in the mid-1800s, many young people began to turn their craft into a trade. The small owned shops were run by relatives, neighbors, and close associations building small and cooperative relationships, eventually leading into the establishment of craftsmanship and togetherness which continues in the city’s labor force today.
In the late 1800s, the working conditions for trade workers became excruciating, with many hours and low pay. Risking their jobs, these men began protesting and establishing unions nationally. Local 19 had its charter signed on December 10, 1887, with the established name of The Metal Roofers, Tin Plate and Sheet Iron Workers Protective Association and a participation of less than 50 members.
The first minutes recorded for Local 19 were on August 13, 1900, and the first recorded election was held on October 26, 1900, where notable figure James McGerry become the clerk of elections, Michael Sheil was elected to the presidency, and John Steveline became Recording Secretary.
With more detailed notes beginning the following year, evidence shows that 31 new members joined the Local within that year. Meetings then began to be regulated after 1903 and the merger into the International. Through brief documentations of the meetings held in 1903, it shows that a group of members were sent to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to attend a conciliatory convention. At this convention, it is said that the number “19” was assigned to the local and that they joined with other locals to merge into the already-existing Amalgamated Sheet Metal Workers International Alliance.
With advertisements in German newspapers such as The Times of North America and Tagsblatt, membership within the local reached nearly 1,000 at the end of World War I. With the strike in 1921, membership dropped to 200, increased after, and then quickly went back down to 200 during the Great Depression.
After this rough time, memberships continued to increase with the attraction of employment opportunities and substantial wage and fringe benefits. Although membership numbers were not given to union workers until 1903 (and, even then, only journeyman were given one), there was still a long list of men who stayed members for long periods of time.
In 1924, Local 19 received a second charter issued by the International Association known as The Sheet Metal Workers International Association. Between the years of 1903 to 1982, in order to create larger and stronger locals, Local 19’s jurisdiction extended to covering about 28 counties.
Short clip documenting the founding and early years of the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association.