The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) International Union was originally formed in 1886 as the Journeyman Bakers National Union of the United States. After a number of mergers and name changes, it adopted its current name when it merged with the American Federation of Grain Millers in 1999. The union's archives document operations at the local, national, and international levels and include correspondence, administrative and financial records, publications, legal files, contract negotiations and agreements of its member locals, organizers' reports, photographs, and memorabilia. The archives also contain records of BCTGM's relations with affiliate organizations.
Series 1-8 of this collection are open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
Series 9-48 are minimally processed. This means that materials are in the same state we received them and have not been reviewed for content or condition. The collection may need to be screened prior to use. Please contact us before visiting the Special Collections reading room to view this collection. Preliminary inventories are is available under the Inventories/Additional Information section.
This collection contains audiovisual materials. Items that cannot be used in the Special Collections reading room or are too fragile for researchers require that a digital copy be made prior to use. If you would like to access these materials, please contact us prior to your visit, so we may determine the proper steps to be taken.
Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.
Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.
Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.
656.85 Linear Feet (Total extent. See Series records for extent details.)
162.25 Linear Feet (Processed Material. 41 reels of microfilm are also processed.)
494.60 Linear Feet (Unprocessed Material. Additional unprocessed materials are: 29 oversized folders stored in map case drawers, 20 bound volumes, 7 oversize items, 51 sound cassettes, 6185 digital photographs (born digital).)
The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union records date from 1886 to 2016, with the bulk of the materials coming from the post-World War II period, but also with material stretching back to the foundational era. They consist of a wide range of materials and include: correspondence; reports; minutes; contract proposals and agreements; strike authorizations; conference and convention proceedings; legal files including depositions, briefs, and decisions; constitutions, bylaws, and other organizational records; publications; and financial records. Less extensively, the collection also contains: news clippings; drafts of speeches, articles, and scripts; and surveys and other analyses. The BCTGM records include such special format materials as: photographs; charcoal sketches and cartoons; memorabilia; pins and buttons; banners; posters and broadsides; scrapbooks; audio recordings; video recordings (both film and tape); and digital data media (floppy disks, CD-ROMs, and hard drives). Documentation of contract negotiations, agreements, and strikes by the union’s locals, the 1957-1969 schism in the union, deliberations at its national conventions, the activities of its field staff, and the union’s insurance and benefit plans are particular strengths. Especially valuable is an extensive collection of the union’s various newspapers and newsletters at both the national and the local level, including microfilm copies of the union’s newsletter dating back to 1888.
Founded as the Journeyman Bakers National Union of the United States in 1886, the bakers union was renamed the Journeyman Bakers' and Confectioners' International Union just four years later when confectionery workers began joining its ranks. Acknowledging both its expansion into Canada and its decision to reorganize itself into an industrial union, the union changed its name to the Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union in 1903. With the exception of a twelve year period (1957-1969) when the union split and the American Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union also existed, it remained the BCWIU until it merged with the Tobacco Workers International Union in 1978 to become the Bakery, Confectionery, and Tobacco Workers International Union. After its 1999 merger with the American Federation of Grain Millers, the union adopted its current name, The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.
The earliest efforts to organize the bakers took place in New York City in the 1880s, with potential members coming overwhelmingly from the German immigrant community. Stuart Kaufman's history of the Bakers Union, A Vision of Unity, notes that of the approximately 7,000 bakers in New York City at the time, only several hundred of them were not German (Kaufman, p.1). The union's newspaper, The Baker's Journal, was founded in May 1885 as the Deutsche-Amerikanische Baeckerzeitung (the "German-American Bakers' Journal") by George Block, a labor activist and journalist from Bohemia, and it would become and remain a bilingual, German-English publication for several decades.
Block was a central figure in the union's early years, the closest thing the union had to a founding father. Five years earlier, he had published a pamphlet as part of his efforts to establish a bakers union in the New York City area in which he described the truly horrific working conditions found in bakeries of the period. Its survey of bakers reported they worked on average "16 hours a day for five days of the week, as much as 23 hours on Saturdays, and an additional five on Sundays." Much of the work was done in subterranean bake rooms, in which the workers also usually slept on filthy rags or flour sacks. The workers, though, were not the only people at risk. Health and food safety concerns prompted states to begin inspecting and regulating bakeries' sanitary conditions in the early 1890s, and the first inspectors found wastewater flowing into bread-making tubs, rotting sludge covering bakery floors, and rats so ubiquitous that they paid little notice of the bakers' or anyone else's presence (Kaufman, pp 1, 33). While these inspections put pressure on owners to improve sanitation, the other indignities in the bakeries--low pay, job insecurity, favoritism, and exploitative living conditions--remained unaddressed. Through organized resistance, bakery and confectionery workers slowly began to address those issues as well.
From its founding until 1912, the bakers union's secretary was its leader. Beginning in 1912 the union instituted a four-person leadership committee; nevertheless, committee members looked and deferred to Andrew Myrup as the de facto head of the union (he was treasurer, secretary-treasurer, and finally president during that time). In 1941, the union created the office of president, and it has maintained that structure to the present day.
A new challenge arose in the early years of the 20th century, though, that threatened to erase those gains: the purchase and consolidation of smaller bakeries by large corporate conglomerates. Called "The Bread Trust" by unions and the progressive press, these corporate bakeries confronted unionized bakers on two distinct levels: the bakers' professional identity as skilled craftsmen, and their political identity as organized workers with a measure of self-determination. Though bakers, especially those in large cities, were witnessing the economic transformation of the business of baking into an industry, many still saw themselves as craftsmen. Industrial consolidation represented an existential threat to the last vestiges of their existence as more than simple laborers. For all bakers, though, whether industrial or craft, urban or rural, these large companies threatened to fatally undermine both their ability to organize and the gains that unionization had already achieved. Confronted with a striking local, a corporate bakery with region-wide production could take advantage of ever-improving transport networks and simply ship baked goods in from other facilities. The union was then confronted with a dilemma: either the local could continue its strike with the odds stacked heavily against it, or the union could attempt to fight back on a regional or company-wide scale, a notoriously difficult task. The bakers thus confronted a problem in the 1910s and 1920s that many union would face again in the 1980s, when globalized trade began to revolutionize nations' economies.
Unsurprisingly, the Great Depression badly weakened the union, just as the 1893 depression had done in the union's infancy. Once-thriving locals that had improved wages and working conditions now watched their membership decline precipitously, as widespread joblessness and members' inability to pay dues took its toll. Even those bakers who managed to find work felt powerless to stop employers' violation of contract provisions or union rules, with a large supply of unemployed and increasingly desperate workers available to take the place of any worker who might complain. Even so, the 1930s were not a unmitigated disaster for the union. With the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, collective bargaining became much more common and unions gained some much-needed leverage. There was a learning curve for both employers and the union's local representatives with respect to negotiating and communicating, but by the mid-1930s bakers union officials perceived both sides becoming more accustomed to a less antagonistic relationship (Kaufman, p. 118).
While clashes between the union and bakeries never disappeared, the new relationship helped lead to an unprecedented level of prosperity for the union and its members in the boom years following World War II. By the early 1950s, the union had reason to believe this growth and stability would endure. Instead, the mid- and last-1950s would begin what was arguably the most difficult period in the union's history.
In 1956, Curtis Sims, the union's secretary-treasurer, informed colleagues of his concerns that the B&C president, James Cross, had been diverting union funds for his own personal use. After attempts to handle the issue internally failed and Cross's behavior grew bolder--including accusations that his supporters physically assaulted critics at the union's 1956 convention--Sims and his allies made their charges public in March 1957. A chain of events followed that would lead to the expulsion of the bakers union from the AFL-CIO nine months later, the simultaneous creation of a new, AFL-CIO-supported bakers union (the American Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union--aka "the ABC"), and federal prosecution of Cross and several aides in the early 1960s.
One other important effect resulted from the split in the union and the creation of the ABC: dozens of legal battles between the two bakers unions over the union's assets, often fought out local affiliate by local affiliate. The B&C attempted to hold onto the membership by maintaining ownership of each local's assets and emphasizing its control of the union's pension and welfare funds, part of a generally ineffective effort to stem the rapid re-affiliation of many locals to the ABC that occurred throughout 1958 and beyond. (Many of the legal files contained in Series V of this collection concern this B&C v. ABC litigation.) Eventually, locals that re-affiliated with the ABC comprised over more than 60% of bakers union membership (Kaufman, p. 153). After the conviction of Cross and five other B&C leaders on federal charges including embezzlement and conspiracy, the B&C's strategy oscillated between exploring an affiliation or merger with the Teamsters, on the one hand, and positioning itself as advantageously as it could for a possible reunification with the ABC on the other. Toward the end of the 1960s, after a very brief and unsuccessful affiliation with the Teamsters, the desire for reunification gained momentum and was successfully achieved in 1969 under the combined leadership of the ABC's Daniel Conway and the B&C's Max Kralstein.
The subsequent history of the bakers union mirrors that of the American labor movement as a whole since the 1970s: the loss of jobs and members to non-union and international markets, and dogged efforts to respond to these losses. Believing that success is built upon solidarity, the union has completed two mergers since reunification. In 1978, recognizing that they and the Tobacco Workers International Union increasingly negotiated with the same multinational companies, the bakers union welcomed TWIU members into their ranks. Twenty years later, the BC&T did the same, for much the same reason, with the American Federation of Grain Millers. As of 2017, the BCTGM has almost 67,000 members throughout the United States and Canada.
The following list displays the evolution of the names of the BCTGM, and the active years of former Presidents.
Journeyman Bakers National Union of the United States
Journeyman Bakers' and Confectioners' International Union
Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union
Leadership during the split of the bakers union:
A. American Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union:
B. Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union:
Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union (post-merger)
Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers International Union
Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union
Delinger, Kevin. 2016, October 20. "130 Years of Progress: The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, 1886-2016." UMD Special Collections & University Archives (blog). Accessed at:
Kaufman, Stuart. 1986. A Vision of Unity: The History of The Bakery and Confectionery Workers International Union. Kensington, MD: The Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco Workers International Union.
This collection is organized into eight processed series and 40 minimally processed series.
Records from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union were first accessioned by the University of Maryland Special Collections in 1972, but the first large donation was made in 1980, and records continue to be accessioned into the collection. The majority of the records were donated by the BCTGM national headquarters in Kensington, MD; any publications or records from the union’s local affiliates were typically given to the University by the BCTGM national office. Some materials in the collection were personal donations made by former BCTGM officials or labor historians.
A small amount of material from this collection has been digitized. Please visit the Libraries' Digital Collections and to search for relevant material.
The BCTGM records came to the University of Maryland’s Special Collections in approximately forty separate accessions, starting in 1972. The first large accession came in 1980 and was processed by Mary Bocaccio two years later, forming the core of the collection. When processed, it was divided into eight series: administration, locals, field staff, records pertaining to the International Union of Food and Allied Workers Associations, litigation, finances, publications, and additional materials (primarily memorabilia). The records were refoldered into acid-free folders and rehoused into acid-free document boxes. Oversize items and memorabilia were separated from the collection and housed in format-appropriate enclosures, and photographs were removed, with some affixed to mat board, and stored separately.
A folder list of the processed collection was compiled by Mary Bocaccio in 1982, and converted into an Excel spreadsheet in 2005 by Jennie Levine. Kevin Delinger proofread and standardized this spreadsheet for ingest into ArchivesSpace by Bria Parker in 2018. Revisions to the finding aid include a revised abstract, an enhanced historical note, and the creation of new notes describing the custodial history, processing, and scope and contents of the collection.
Accessioned material that was not incorporated into the finding aid was minimally processed between 2018-2020. Administrative files in the archive were reviewed, and all accessions not previously inventoried were inventoried and described by Kevin Delinger, Tyler Black and Jennifer Eidson. All accession records were updated with content descriptions. To make this material accessible, a series level record was added for each accession in the finding aid, listing the accessions in order by the accession number and including a descriptive title with dates. All of the accession inventories were combined into a master "Guide to Unprocessed Collection Additions" document for researcher access. For processing information about specific accessions, please open the series level record for more details.