History and Purpose of Local 19

 

Local 19 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers International Union was chartered back in 1886 – a pioneer of the labor movement. In those days of “craft” unionism, no one could be admitted to membership unless they satisfied the following requirements: They had to be men of good character who had never engaged in strike-breaking or antiunion activities. They had to pass an examining board, to prove they were qualified journeymen bakers. Admittance of any member had to be acted upon by the entire membership, and if any member raised any objection against the applicant, membership was denied. Because of this rigidly exclusionary policy, by the end of its first twenty-five years of existence, Local 19 could boast of only 900 members, all journeymen bakers.

 

In 1919, a major strike was called. Some members remained at work as strike breakers and the Union lost - not just the strike, but its sense of purpose as well, and many members fell away. Finally, only a handful of bakers remained, just enough to keep the charter alive. Over the years many attempts were made to revitalize Local 19, but all of them failed until January, 1934, when our late President, Brother Harvey Friedman, appeared on the scene and began a dynamic drive to rebuild Local 19, not based on the old craft system that shut people out, but on a new system that brought the benefits of union membership to men and women working in diversified industries. Soon Local 19 had contracts covering candy workers, cracker workers, macaroni workers, potato chip and pretzel workers and workers in kindred industries. Under Harvey Friedman’s leadership, the Union grew to more than three thousand members, and outstanding economic gains were realized by the membership.

 

The new system which grew out of his vision came to be known as the Factory Shop Unit System, which governs Local 19 today. Under this system, members in each shop elect one or more representatives from among themselves to serve both as Shop Stewards and Executive Board members. Local 19 has made great strides under this system and method of operating, benefiting the entire organization by making membership available to workers in diverse industries and providing equal representation regardless of race, creed, gender or craft – long before it became the “thing to do.”

 

If we remain faithful to the principles and objectives of Local 19’s Founders, we shall continue to survive and grow despite the active resistance of hostile employers, the proliferation of anti-labor legislation, and the challenges of high technology and global competition. We need only hold firm to our belief in the basic rights of self-organization, collective bargaining and united action for the improvement of working conditions.