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Documenting Labor Inside and Out
Union Democracy
IUE vs. UE at General Electric

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UE Organizer's Bulletin, ca. 1954
Cover of "Organizer's Bulletin" issued by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) ca. 1954 (Helen Quirini Papers).

Unions have a long history at the Schenectady plant of the General Electric Company (GE). Workers were initially represented by craft unions, including a group of armature winders who held a "folded arms" strike in [1905? 1906?] that was the first sit-down strike in the United States. In 1926, GE established a company union, the Works Council, which was ineffective. In 1934, a small affiliate of the radical Trade Union Unity League that had formed at the Schenectady plant in 1932 and another small union organized with many British socialists in 1933, merged into a single union of three hundred members. In 1936 that union became Local 301 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). UE Local 301 was one of the first locals to join the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The failure to achieve pay increases lead to UE Local 301's first major strike in 1946.

Subpoena issued to Helen Quirini, 1954
Subpoena issued to Helen Quirini to appear before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations on February 19, 1954 (Helen Quirini Papers).

However, by the late 1940s, the UE, including Local 301, faced a more serious challenge than the management of General Electric. It was accused of being Communist-dominated and was under investigation by the United States government over the course of many years. As part of the goverment's inquiry, members of UE Local 301 were called to testify before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations chaired by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.

In 1949 the CIO expelled the UE (along with other unions in its ranks with alleged Communist connections) and replaced it with the International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (IUE). In a series of challenges, including three elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, the IUE attempted to replace UE as the bargaining agent for workers at the General Electric plant in Schenectady. As part of the process, both sides issued booklets, flyers, and pamphlets arguing their case for representing workers. Not only do these materials document the struggle between two competing labor organizations, they demonstrate the concerns of the day over the threat of Communism in the United States.

UE Local 301 Information Bulletin, ca. 1952-1954 IUE-CIO News bulletin, ca. 1951
UE Local 301 Information Bulletin, ca. 1952-1954 (Helen Quirini Papers). IUE-CIO News bulletin, ca. 1951 (Helen Quirini Papers).

The UE organizer's bulletin pictured at the top of this page is described in its preface as "a handbook on Congressional and other witch-hunting committees and how they aid Big Business in its drive to lower the living standards of the American people through speed-up, frozen wages, high taxes, high prices - and ultimately if not stopped - through depression and war." Similarly, an information bulletin issued by UE Local 301 discussed what it saw as "red-baiting" by the IUE and the CIO. On the other side of the issue, the IUE issued its own flyers contrasting the "Communist Style" of confusion versus the "American Style" of debate.

By 1954, Local 301 was the largest local remaining in the UE. However, its supporters were increasingly under pressure to sever their connection with admitted Communists and more and more workers supported joining the IUE. In March 1954, UE Local 301's business manager announced that the local would withdraw from the UE and join the IUE. The third and final NLRB election between the UE and IUE took place on June 30, 1954. Having lost the previous two elections between the two, the IUE finally won, 9,005 votes to UE's 5,179.

Front cover, Electrical Union News, June 29, 1954 Back cover, Electrical Union News, June 29, 1954 Local 301 News, July 2, 1954
Front cover, Electrical Union News for June 29, 1954, issued by United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 301 (Helen Quirini Papers). Back cover, Electrical Union News for June 29, 1954, issued by United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 301 (Helen Quirini Papers). Local 301 News, July 2, 1954, issued by IUE-CIO (Helen Quirini Papers).


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Digital Exhibit created by Cynthia K. Sauer, Consultant, and Brian Keough, Head, 2002
Copyright 2002 M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives
Comments to bkeough@uamail.albany.edu