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Local 827 History
UNION HEADQUARTERS HISTORY by JOSEPH B. AMISON (Deceased), Business Agent
Following the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, the National Labor Relations Act, more commonly known as the Wagner Act, was passed in 1935 to take effect in 1937.
The Wagner Act reaffirmed the rights of employees to organize and bargain collectively.
The Act immediately was challenged in the courts by big business and was finally ruled to be constitutional by the Supreme Court.
The Bell System, fully realizing that the law was constitutional, called district "representatives" of working groups together to meet with Company officials to form councils.
The Company officials told the councils that they had an experienced staff and that they would prepare a constitution, which met the law and that they would present this document to the council for their approval. This did happen. The council approved the constitution and did not take it to the membership for a vote.
In New Jersey the new organization was named "Employee Association - Plant Department New Jersey Bell Telephone Company."
The "Employee Association" held meetings in Newark at the Bell Telephone Company headquarters. The Company provided office space and furniture at no cost to the association.
Prior to July 1, 1937, which was the effective date of the Wagner Act, the Company told the Employee Association that they would have to move out of the Company quarters.
In making the separation, the Company gave the Association a gift of $5000 and the office furniture.
The first rented office space was in the Wiss Building at 671 Broad Street, Newark, New Jersey.
Following the move to the new office space, it was realized that a dues structure was needed to offset the operating costs and expenses. The Company agreed to dues deductions, cards were printed, and after signatures, twenty-five cents per member per month was collected.
In the years that followed the organization started to grow:
- The dues were increased to fifty cents per month.
- The name was changed to the "Telephone Workers Union of N.J."
- The General Committee was formed.
- The membership was about 2,000.
- The first convention was held in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
- The "Reporter" became the official Union newspaper.
- Then World War II.
- After the war the Telephone Worker's Union headquarters was moved to 91 Halsey Street, Newark, New Jersey.
The Union now had two full time officers, one full time clerk and one part time clerk.
The Union started to grow rapidly. The membership was near 5,000 in 1955. Once again the office space was inadequate and the General Committee authorized the purchase of a three story brownstone building at 34 James Street, Newark, New Jersey.
During the 1955 convention in Atlantic City, the delegates authorized that a referendum vote be taken by the statewide membership to affiliate with the IBEW or the CWA.
The vote was completed. The Telephone Worker's Union affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and became Local 827, IBEW. The charter was issued and is dated November 18, 1955.
By 1962 our membership had grown to a high of 7,500. In the years that followed, New Jersey Bell was also growing and by 1971 our members were 11,000 strong.
In 1971 after the contract had been ratified, proposals were made to revise the Local By-Laws in order to bring a greater degree of efficiency to the Union.
The majority vote of the membership established that the Officers and six Executive Board Members became full time.
Once again the office space became too small and a modern, spacious building was leased in the center of the state. In May 1972, Union headquarters moved to Cranbury, New Jersey.
Realizing that some day it would be necessary to move again during the years that followed, a Building Committee was appointed.
In the middle seventies, the present building sites were purchased; first 5 acres and then the second 5 acres located in East Windsor, New Jersey.
On Saturday, March 28, 1978, early in the morning, a fire completely destroyed the leased offices in Cranbury, New Jersey. Fortunately, most of the records were saved and by Monday morning the Union headquarters had been moved across the street and we were back in full operation.
On July 20. 1978, the Officers, Executive Board, General Committee, staff and invited guests attended the ground breaking ceremony. Construction soon started and on December 2, 1979, on a cold wintry day, the new headquarters was dedicated at 263 Ward Street, East Windsor, New Jersey.
The history of this organization proudly reflects the growth, the sacrifices made by the Officers and members, and our determination to service our membership.
Today, the Local Union 827, IBEW headquarters building stands as a symbol to our members and all organized labor. We stand ready to the commitments of the future, we will continue to service our members to the best of our abilities.