Union History: 1901-1978

1901 - United Textile Workers of America receives American Federation of Labor (AFL) charter.

1901 - First Canadian local of Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America (AMCBW) founded in Stratford, Ontario.

1902 - Catherine Schultz is dubbed “Joan of Arc of Retail Clerks” in Chicago strike.

1904 - International Fur Workers Union (IFWU) formed.

1906 - Upton Sinclair publishes The Jungle which ushers in a new era for the North American meatpacking sector, especially in terms of food safety regulations.

1910 - Mary Anderson of the Boot and Shoe Workers Union (BSWU) is named Director of AFL’s Women in Industry Service.

1919 - Winnipeg General Strike involves more than 30,000 workers from most sectors of the economy, who set the stage for major labour reform, including union recognition and legitimate collective bargaining rights.

1920 - Mary Anderson (BSWU) is named first head of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau.

1920 - UFCW predecessor unions help to establish the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Association (IUF).

1937 - Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) charters the National Leather Workers Association (NLWA).

1937 - United Retail Employees of America receives CIO charter. The union’s name is later changed to Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

1938 – International Fur and Leather Workers Union (IFLWU) created by IFWU and NLWA merger.

1940 – Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee (PWOC) begins organizing meat industry plants across Canada.

1942 - Patrick E. Gorman elected to top office of Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America (AMCBW). Known as “Mr. Amalgamated” for more than half-a-century, he leads the union thorugh decades of organizing victories and mergers, and ultimately helps set the stage for a merger with the Retail Clerks which creates UFCW.

1943 - the PWOC officially becomes an international union charted by the CIO. Called the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA), Fred Dowling becomes the new union’s first Canadian Director, and serves in the role for more than 25 years.

1946 - Ralph Helstein elected International President of the UPWA.

1947 - James Suffridge elected to top leadership position at the Retail Clerks International Association (RCIA), which he holds for 21 years.

1947 - Fred Dowling, supported by Romeo Mathieu in Quebec, secures a master contract for the Canadian meatpacking sector, only after a long, hard-fought battle with Canada’s largest meat companies, Canada Packers, Burns Meat, and Swift & Company.

1948 - Holford Harris, first African American elevated to Executive Board of AMCBW.

1948 - RCIA begins organizing workers in health care and non-profit hospital field.

1956 - International Fur and Leather Workers merges with Amalgamated Meat Cutters.

1960 - National Agricultural Workers Union merges with Amalgamated Meat Cutters.

1961 – UPWA activist Huguette Plamondon nominates Tommy Douglas for NDP leader at the political party’s founding convention.

1963 - Leaders and activists from the UPWA march with Martin Luther King Jr. to Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Throughout the 1960s, and prior to, the UPWA was a proud ally of the civil rights movement, and the fight for racial equality shaped and guided the union's policies, politics and contract priorities.

1968 - United Packinghouse Workers Union merges with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters.

1968 - James Housewright elected International President of the RCIA.

1970 - Canadian Region of Retail Clerks is established, with Clifford R. Evans as the union’s first Canadian Director.

1972 - Retail Clerks Minority Coalition is created during the RCIA Convention to promote diversity and inclusion within the labor movement. Name changed to UFCW Minority Coalition when RCIU and AMCBW merged.

1976 - Addie L. Wyatt elected first woman Vice President of Amalgamated Meat Cutters.

1977 - RCIA changes name to Retail Clerks International Union (RCIU), and is 5th largest AFL-CIO affiliate.

1977 - BSWU merges with the RCIU.

1977 - William H. Wynn elected International President of the RCIU.

1977 - Richard Perry is first African American elected Vice President of RCIU.

1977 - Norma Steill elected the first woman Vice President of RCIU, and in 1984 becomes the first woman UFCW Regional Director.

1978 - Consolidated Independent Union Local 951 affiliates with the RCIU.

 “Amalgamated women know that they have made progress because of the union. They know too that banding together in true trade union solidarity will attain for them improved benefits. Women are ready to become full partners in the struggle for a decent way of life. Their skills and talent are needed and they are willing to contribute to the union cause.”

~ Addie Wyatt