Part 3 – Labor and The Cold War

After the war, AFL and CIO affiliated unions competed bitterly for new membership. Many Teamster gains, as members of the AFL, came at the expense of CIO unions, which were linked to leftwing political and communist leanings. The bulk of Local 804’s newly organized warehouse and store delivery members had formerly belonged to CIO unions, such as the Retail, Warehouse, and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

Macy’s sold its delivery service to UPS in 1946. With the sale, Macy’s 800 drivers and helpers became Local 804 members. Leonard Geiger, a Macy worker and RWDSU Local 1 union official, led a 10-day strike against Macy’s to oppose the store’s decision to turn Macy deliveries over to UPS. The company made concessions, and Geiger was given a union position at Local 804. Two years later, he led Local 804’s successful effort to have Macy warehouse workers vote for IBT representation. Geiger went on to be elected President of the Local in 1949.

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RWDSU Local 1 Macy's Drivers struck when the company sold deliver services to UPS.

 

Macy's Driver Leonard Geiger went on to become a Local 804 organizer and President.

With a recession and the advent of the cold war, Republicans won control of the Congress in the 1946 elections.The Republican Party immediately went after the base of the Democratic Party - labor unions. In 1947 they passed the Taft-Hartley Act. It prohibited jurisdictional strikes, secondary boycotts and "common site" picketing, closed shops, and monetary donations by unions to federal political campaigns. Congress overrode President Truman's veto on June 23.

Taft-Hartley required all union officers to sign a non-communist affidavit. Unions whose officers did not file the affidavits could not use the services of the NLRB. They could not be officially certified as bargaining agents or obtain union shop agreements; nor could the NLRB process their unfair labor practice complaints or let them participate in representation elections.

A number of CIO local unions representing NYC area store employees had leaders who refused to file a non-communist affidavit. Because of these Taft-Harley violations, the incumbent union could not legally be listed on an election ballet. This gave Local 804 an additional advantage in representational elections.

While both labor groups spent considerable resources fighting one another, the real enemies, as today, were the political and corporate powers that fought to suppress workers’ rights. In 1947, Local members were arrested for leafleting outside of Bloomingdales while appealing to customers to have goods delivered. Their charges? Violating the sanitation code by creating litter.

Area UPS workers struck again in 1946 for fifty days. The decision to strike caused a rift in Local 804’s leadership. Local President Tortorella and Organizer Leonard Geiger supported the strike, while the majority of the Executive Board opposed it. Without an affirmative vote of the Board, the International declared the action illegal. The inter-local feud became so bitter that Tortorella “seized the union office” in the midst of the strike.

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Local 804 members participated in an unsanctioned strike in 1946.

  The strike led to a bitter split of the Executive Board.

Drivers won a 33.5 cent hourly raise, a 40-hour workweek and night differentials. However they did not make progress on one of their primary issues – an end to excessive overtime. A month later, President Tortorella retired and members elected a new slate of Local Officers headed by President Edward Conway.

Area Teamster locals continued organizing. An April 1948 joint organizing campaign between Teamsters Locals 138, 177, 478 and 804 for UPS warehouse workers resulted in a 2832 to 16 vote in favor of Teamster representation. In May of 1948, Leonard Geiger headed the successful campaign to represent Macy warehouse workers.

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Local 804 won the Macy's warehouse workers election
by 130 votes

 

Getting out the vote

 

 
Representatives from IBT Local 804 and RWDSU
supervise the vote
  Local 804 celebrates it's Macy's organizing victory 

Not all of Local 804’s campaigns were initially successful. In June 1948, Local 804 attempted to organize Woolworth Warehouse – basically raiding Wholesale and Warehouse workers Union, Local 65, CIO. Local 65 didn’t comply with the anti-communist provisions of the NLRB Act of 1947 and couldn’t appear on the ballot of the NLRB election. Yet Local 804 lost the election 146 – 155, with a bare majority voting for no union.

In 1949, the Local was granted a new charter. Local 804 was then known, as it is today, as Delivery and Warehouse Workers, Local Number 804. The local had grown to 10,000 members. Local 804 received a boost when IBT launched a major national organizing campaign of all store workers, with the exception of clerks, with a coordinated effort in the New York metropolitan area.

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Local 804 ramped up new organizing at the end of the 1940's

 

Teamsters set out to expand locally and nationally

By the end of the decade, Local 804 had become the primary union of delivery and warehouse workers in the New York Metropolitan area, adding 230 Gimbels Dept. Store warehouse workers and 685 JC Pennys warehouse workers, as well as countless local department, furniture and drug store employees.