UE History

Fifty Years Ago, Union Women Founded New Organization to Fight for Equality

March 22, 2024

Fifty years ago today, 3,200 women gathered in Chicago to found the Coalition of Labor Union Women to fight for equality in their unions and in society. Amy Newell, who served as UE General Secretary-Treasurer from 1985 to 1994, recalled that “It was really terrific to have an organization that was raising issues of women in their unions, as well as issues of women in the workplace.” But perhaps the most important legacy of CLUW is that it encouraged women not only to run for office in their unions, but also to fight for recognition that women’s issues are union issues.

UE: A Remarkable Example

January 29, 2024

We are republishing this article written by retired UE Political Action Director Chris Townsend about our union’s history, principles and importance to the broader labor movement.

In late March of 1936, a stalwart group of unionists in the electrical and radio manufacturing industries gathered in snowy Buffalo, New York, to found what quickly became the third largest union in the CIO upsurge. The various streams of unionism that converged in Buffalo represented the grizzled union diehards in the manufacturing shops of some of the biggest corporations in the country; General Electric, General Motors, Westinghouse, and RCA among them. It also included new faces, young militants, workers energized by the overall left-wing growth in response to the catastrophe of the Great Depression.

“Building Strike Power” Convention Held in City of Steel ... and Strikes

October 7, 2023

UE’s 78th Convention was held in Pittsburgh, a city that is not only home to the union’s national office but also to a rich history of worker organizing and strikes. From the 1840s to today, the women and men whose labor built this city struggled — and often struck — to reclaim a share of the wealth their labor produced.

August 3, 2023

Today marks the 75th anniversary of one of the most violent attacks on a UE picket line in history. On August 3, 1948, 1,500 national guards, armed with tear gas, machine guns, and tanks, arrived in Dayton, Ohio to suppress a strike by 600 UE members at the Univis Lens plant. The workers voted to strike after their employer refused to offer even a single cent in wage increases during contract negotiations.

UE Fought for Child Care as “Infrastructure” as Far Back as WWII

May 9, 2021

In their attacks on President Biden’s much-needed proposals to invest in physical and human infrastructure, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, many Republican politicians have derided applying the term “infrastructure” to programs that support working families. They dismiss child care, elder care and paid family leave as “liberal social programs” as opposed to the “real infrastructure” of buildings, roads, and bridges.

The experience of UE members during World War II, when millions of women took jobs in manufacturing, tells a different story.

UE’s First 75 Years in Vermont

July 9, 2019

July 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of UE's first contract in Vermont, with the Jones and Lamson Machine Company in Springfield. Chartered in October 1943 to organize Springfield's machine tool industry, Local 218 won its first NLRB elections, at Vermont Foundries and Jones and Lamson, early in 1944, concluding first contracts with both companies in July.

The Question of Unity: A UE Leader’s Lessons About Building People’s Power

August 21, 2018

The legendary Ernest Thompson was a rank and file UE leader in New Jersey, the first African-American on UE’s national staff, and the national secretary of UE’s Fair Practices Committee (FPC). A new edition of Thompson’s autobiography Homeboy Came to Orange: A Story of People’s Power, co-written with his daughter Mindy Thompson Fullilove, was published this year by New Village Press.

Homeboy Came to Orange tells the story of time in UE, but also his organizing for “people’s power” in the segregated northern city of Orange, NJ, where Thompson became active in community organizing after leaving UE. Beginning with a fight to desegregate the schools his daughter attended, Thompson built organizations which increased the political power of working-class African Americans in their city, based on a program called “A New Day for Orange” that addressed urban redevelopment, unemployment, improving the school system, civil rights, recreation and representative government.