Building the Bay Area for almost a Century
It is unique to the trades that while the products of our labor are fixed in the minds of the city’s people, the lives and sacrifices of the builders are largely unknown. And so when attention is turned to the Iron Worker, it is usually a spotlight on the great structures that frame the skyline. But it is the day to day work—our dependence upon each other on the jobsite and in the battles of the labor movement—that forms the fabric of the Union’s endurance.
An Evolving Organization
San Francisco Local 377 of the International Association of Bridge, Structural,Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers has a long history that winds back through a century of labor struggle and achievement.
Several locals chartered at the turn of the century represented Iron Workers in the different phases of our craft. Of these, Bridge and Structural Iron Workers Local 31, and Housesmiths and Architectural Iron Workers Local 78 were the most prominent. Although the charter and banner of Local 31 burned in the 1906 Earthquake, the surviving minute book still reveals years of the inner life of the Local.
It was not until 1916 that Local 78 won the eight-hour day, following a desperate lockout by hardline faction of the employer’s bargaining association. But the employers’ offensive against the building trades was widening into an all out open shop drive. The militant Locals 31 and 78 joined in a radical upsurge and threw their support behind the maverick Rank and File Federation of Workers of the Bay District. A cautious International revoked the charters of the two locals and in 1921 chartered Local 377.
Free-thinking members brought their independent ideas into the newly chartered Local 377, and many will maintain that this spirit survives in the ranks to the present day. Over the decades, the Local grew and developed along with the beautiful city it helped to create.
The 50th anniversary of the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1987 drew one million people to the site of one of the Ironworkers’ proudest accomplishments.