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Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America (IUMSWA) records

 Collection 0096-LBR

The Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America (IUMSWA) was formed in 1934 to unite all shipyard workers regardless of their trade/craft or level of skill. Records include extensive documentation of locals' activities and contracts; national administration; organizing efforts; negotiations; conventions; National Labor Relations Board and National War Labor Board cases; actions taken to stabilize the shipbuilding industry; and relationships with other unions. The IUMSWA archives also contain records from unions outside the shipbuilding industry that were in some way associated with IUMSWA, such as the United Railroad Workers of America, Marine Draftsmen's Association, and the Provisional Metal Workers Council.


  • 1934-1970

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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.


188.75 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America records date from 1934 to 1970, with the bulk of the materials covering the period 1940 to 1960. The records consist of a variety of materials, including extensive correspondence; reports; minutes; case files; publications; newspaper clippings; conference and convention proceedings; constitutions and bylaws; and speeches. Also present are regulations; press releases; statistical and other analyses; resolutions; petitions; membership lists; and legal records. In addition, the IUMSWA archives include such special format materials as photographs, memorabilia, posters, and scrapbooks. The archives document the wide range of IUMSWA activities. Coverage of union administration, locals, and relations with the United States government is particularly strong.

Administrative History

Prior to the 1930s, shipyard workers had been organized into a number of craft unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (A. F. of L.). During the First World War, A. F. of L. unions flourished as the demand for wartime shipping led to an unparalleled expansion of the industry. Yet following the signing of the Armistice, government construction orders fell sharply and the industry entered a sustained period of economic stagnation. The massive layoffs that followed the collapse of the wartime boom rapidly depleted trade union membership, and the high unemployment accompanying the general postwar depression of 1920-1921 further undermined union power. It was at this time, moreover, that the various shipbuilding firms launched their "open shop" offensive in an effort to eliminate remaining trade union presence. By 1923, the employers had defeated the unions, and many established company-dominated unions to replace legitimate labor organizations.

Both the Great Depression and the rise of fascism in Europe in the early 1930s, however, brought about abrupt changes in the status of the shipyard workers. Confronted by severe, arbitrarily imposed wage reductions and the spread of massive unemployment accompanying the Depression, workers increasingly turned to unionism as a means of resistance. By September 1933, workers employed at the New York Shipbuilding Corporation in Camden, New Jersey, had organized an independent union which defeated the company union. And in March 1934, following a strike under the leadership of John Green, a sheetmetal worker and shipfitter who emigrated to the United States in 1923 from Clydebank, Scotland, this union won recognition and successfully negotiated immediate wage increases and improvements in working conditions. Other shipyard workers employed along the east coast soon joined in the struggle to achieve organization, and in September 1934, six locals met in Quincy, Massachusetts, to form the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America (IUMSWA). The IUMSWA's subsequent organizational drive was thus propitiously launched at a time when the Roosevelt administration's preparations for the war against Nazism necessitated both the revival of naval shipbuilding and the rapid expansion of the merchant marine fleet.

The emergence of the IUMSWA marked a new departure in the nature of shipyard unionism. Like most of the new unions formed in the early thirties, the IUMSWA eschewed organization along craft lines, which would have created a separate union for each of the shipyard trades, and instead adopted the strategy of industrial unionism, by which all workers, irrespective of their particular trade or level of skill, were brought together into a single organization. In keeping with this "one union, one yard" plan of organization, the IUMSWA affiliated with the Committee for Industrial Organization (later the Congress of Industrial Organizations) in 1935. With the added strength provided by the CIO movement and the benefits of federally-supervised collective bargaining provided by the Wagner Act, the IUMSWA's bold organizing drives brought membership to well over 100,000 by 1940.

With the enormous expansion of shipbuilding during the Second World War, the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America achieved unprecedented gains in both membership and influence. A major victory for the IUMSWA during the buildup of the national defense, 1940-1941, occurred when Local 15 secured an agreement with the Bethlehem Steel Corporation for workers employed at the firm's Hoboken, New Jersey, shipyard on May 15, 1941. This agreement effectively ended Bethlehem's maintenance of the open shop in shipbuilding, an industry which it had dominated throughout the prewar years, and prepared the path for the successful organization of that company's steel manufacturing plants by the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC-CIO). As membership reached 250,000 during the war years, IUMSWA officials held important posts in government agencies responsible for setting wartime labor policies. When the war stimulated steady membership growth in the more established east and west coast locals, the previously weaker locals in the South Atlantic and Gulf shipbuilding districts likewise experienced dramatic gains.

In the years immediately following the war, the IUMSWA suffered huge losses in membership, as the industry once again experienced rapid decline in the wake of demobilization. Although in the ensuing period, the IUMSWA launched campaigns to secure federal commitments to rebuild the nation's merchant marine, no such action was forthcoming. The Korean conflict (1950-1953) only temporarily reversed the general post-WWII slump in new ship construction. The decisions of U. S. investors to finance shipbuilding overseas severely undercut the union's efforts to maintain jobs in the later postwar decades. Indeed by 1973, the IUMSWA's membership had shrunk to approximately 21,000.

In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, the IUMSWA has concentrated its efforts on two major issues: 1) worker health and safety, and, 2) revival of the shipbuilding industry in the face of continued unfair trade practices by foreign builders, which have been bolstered by the willingness of U. S. companies to utilize foreign-built ships under American flags.

In attempting to extend worker control over issues of job safety and health, the IUMSWA has conducted several major studies to measure the effects of asbestos exposure and the harmful impact of exposure to various metals during such processes as welding and burning. The first Occupational Disease Study was begun at the Bethlehem-Key Highway yard in Baltimore, Maryland, directly under the auspices of Local 24 and the Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Additional studies have since been conducted at other major shipyards under IUMSWA contract.

The influx of foreign-built vessels into the American merchant fleet has led to massive layoffs in several important yards. In 1979, workers at Bethlehem-Sparrow's Point, Maryland, were hit with some 2,000 layoff slips. In addition to unemployment caused by merchant fleet usage of foreign-built ships, the IUMSWA has also had to deal with the Reagan administration's encouragement of foreign companies in producing material for the U. S. Navy. The problem of foreign competition was aggravated by the refusal of the Administration to provide the industry with the type of protections other governments have afforded to their home producers, especially heavy domestic subsidization. To counter the foreign-built problem, the IUMSWA has been working closely with the AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department to secure much-needed legislation to make the market fair, and has successfully won application of the 1974 Trade Adjustment Act, which made workers laid off by unfair trade practices eligible for cash allowances, to the shipbuilding industry.

The IUMSWA has also been able to maintain union presence in related marine construction projects, including dredge building and offshore oil rig production, while at the same diversifying its membership to include city employees in Bath, Maine, fire equipment workers in West Virginia, employees in the New Jersey natural gas industry, and workers at an automobile dealership in Portland, Maine. Despite this diversification, the IUMSWA's membership numbers continued to decline, by approximately 50 percent, during the 1980s. The resultant financial difficulties led in part to the union's merger with the International Association of Machinists in 1988.


Organized as ten series:

Series 1
Union Administration Files
Series 2
Union Departmental Files
Series 3
Committees and Councils
Series 4
Conferences and Conventions
Series 5
Series 6
Government Relations
Series 7
Miscellaneous Records
Series 8
Publications, Posters, and Scrapbooks
Series 9
Series 10

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America records were accessioned in 1967 by the University of Maryland Libraries. They were donated by the IUMSWA national office, then headquartered in Camden, New Jersey. Additional materials were received in 1985 from Robert W. Pemberton, Vice-President of the IUMSWA.

Related Material

The University of Maryland Libraries holds several additional unprocessed accessions relating to the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America, including the archives of the Gulf Coast IUMSWA, and the Robert Pemberton papers.

List of IUMSWA Locals and their Locations

IUMSWA Locals:

  1. AL: Decatur. Local 64
  2. AL: Mobile. Local 18
  3. CA: Newport Beach. Local 52
  4. CA: Oakland. Local 11
  5. CA: San Francisco. Local 7
  6. CA: San Francisco. Local 30
  7. CA: San Pedro. Local 9
  8. CA: Vallejo. Local 19
  9. CA: Wilmington. Local 103
  10. Canada: Halifax, Nova Scotia. Local 34
  11. CT: Groton. Local 6
  12. CT: Stamford. Local 63
  13. DE: Newport. Local 91
  14. DE: Wilmington. Local 3
  15. DE: Wilmington. Local 36
  16. DE: WIlmington. Local 40
  17. DE: Wilmington. Local 79
  18. DE: Wilmington. Local 1591
  19. FL: Jacksonville. Local 32
  20. FL: Miami. Local 59
  21. KY: Louisville. Local 65
  22. LA: Amite. Local 78
  23. LA: New Orleans (Algiers). Local 29
  24. LA: New Orleans (Algiers). Local 73
  25. MA: Boston. Local 104
  26. MA: East Boston. Local 25
  27. MA: Neponset. Local 37
  28. MA: Quincy. Local 5
  29. MA: Quincy. Local 23
  30. MA: Quincy. Local 54
  31. MA: Quincy. Local 90
  32. MD: Baltimore. Local 24
  33. MD: Baltimore. Local 28
  34. MD: Baltimore. Local 31
  35. MD: Baltimore. Local 33
  36. MD: Baltimore. Local 43
  37. MD: Cambridge. Local 66
  38. MD: Perryville. Local 51
  39. ME: Bath. Local 4
  40. ME: Boothbay. Local 92
  41. ME: Portland. Local 50
  42. MI: Bay City. Local 49
  43. MI: River Rouge. Local 46
  44. NC: Wilmington. Local 71
  45. NJ: Audubon. Local 75
  46. NJ: Bayonne. Local 44
  47. NJ: Bayonne. Local 69
  48. NJ: Camden. Local 1
  49. NJ: Camden. Local 56
  50. NJ: Camden. Local 93
  51. NJ: Camden. Local 493
  52. NJ: Hoboken. Local 15
  53. NJ: Kearny. Local 16
  54. NJ: Leesburg. Local 55
  55. NJ: Perth Amboy. Local 60
  56. NJ: Perth Amboy. Local 62
  57. NJ: Pleasantville. Local 76
  58. NJ: Weehauken. Local 20
  59. NJ: Williamstown. Local 77
  60. NJ: Williamstown. Local 94
  61. NJ: Woodlynne. Local 74
  62. NY: Bronx. Local 38
  63. NY: Bronx. Local 70
  64. NY: Brooklyn. Local 13
  65. NY: Brooklyn. Local 21
  66. NY: Brooklyn. Local 39
  67. NY: Brooklyn. Local 67
  68. NY: Brooklyn. Local 102
  69. NY: Central Village. Local 58
  70. NY: Greenport, Long Island. Local 47
  71. NY: New York. Local 22
  72. NY: Newburgh. Local 53
  73. NY: Nyack. Local 72
  74. NY: Staten Island. Local 12
  75. NY: Yonkers. Local 57
  76. OH: Lorain. Local 45
  77. OR: Portland. Local 41
  78. PA: Chester. Local 2
  79. PA: Chester. Local 48
  80. PA: Erie. Local 68
  81. PA: Neville Island. Local 61
  82. PA: New Brighton. Local 277
  83. PA: Philadelphia. Local 14
  84. PA: Philadelphia. Local 17
  85. PA: Philadelphia. Local 35
  86. PA: Philadelphia. Local 42
  87. PA: Philadelphia. Local 101
  88. VA: Fortsmouth. Local 26
  89. VA: Newport News. Local 8
  90. VA: Norfolk. Local 27
  91. WA: Seattle. Local 10

Processing Information

When received, the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America records were stored in file cabinets. Subsequent to their transfer to the University of Maryland Libraries, the records were reboxed into record center cartons and placed in storage until 1981 when processing began.

The current order of the collection was established completely by the processors. Originally, the records were maintained in yearly chronological runs, irrespective of series arrangement. The initial arrangement scheme called for the IUMSWA archives to be divided into four series, Administration, Locals, Government Relations, and Miscellaneous Records. The large number of subseries in the first series prompted a reorganization of these materials into the current series numbers 1 through 4, with the nineteen groupings divided among them.

The archives have been refoldered into acid-free folders, with many of the more acidic materials placed at the end of individual files, preceded by a sheet of acid-free bond paper. The folders have then been housed in acid-free boxes. Oversize materials have been separated from the collection and housed in flat storage. And photographs and memorabilia have been transferred to the appropriate collections.

Guide to the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America (IUMSWA) records
Processed by Pete Hoefer.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742