A Brief History of the Architectural and Ornamental
Iron Workers Union of Chicago
Chicago has always been a beacon of Union strength in the United States. At one point 25% of organized workers resided in Chicago, the City of Broad Shoulders. In October of 1871 the tragedy known as The Great Chicago Fire turned over three-square miles of a growing Chicago into rubble and ash. Any type of wooden construction would not be allowed in the downtown area and for some distance outside of it. Chicago was rebuilt with ground breaking technology, using a relatively new construction material. STEEL. The first of such buildings was the Home Insurance Building, built in 1884 on the corner of Monroe and LaSalle.
In 1890 the Architectural Iron Workers Union was founded with a small membership of 579 members. The Union was divided into three separate language speaking factions, they were German, English, and Bohemian. As skilled workers go, they had some of the lowest wages ranging from 17 ½ to 25 cents an hour for a ten-hour day.
The Union grew exponentially over their first year and when they had a membership of around 1,500 members in late 1891 they went on strike for higher wages and an 8-hour work day, but were defeated. Two years later, during the construction of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, they timed another strike perfectly and won the 8-hour work day. Hard times befell the Architectural Ironworkers Union after the exposition and they decided to join a larger International Association. In December of 1900, we became Local #14 of the United Metal Workers International. The President of this local O.H. Hill thirsted for growth and a stronger Association to become a part of. It happened in October of 1903, and we were given Charter number 63 in the International Association of Bridge and Structural Ironworkers.
Ever since that time Local #63 has contributed greatly to our International, many times loaning our very own great leaders such as O.H. Hill, Ray Robertson, Roy Williams, Ray Dean, and General President Eric Dean, to help mold this Union into what it is today. The History of our great local never changes, but it stands as a road map for success in our future. We were comprised of farmers and immigrants, yet we took on the likes of Carnegie and J.P. Morgan. We mastered our craft and stood tall with each other during The Great Steel Strike in 1919, and during The Great Depression in the 1930’s. Our character stands taller than the buildings that we work on.