Letter to the Membership

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1940 - February - May

At the February 14, 1940 meeting it was motioned and carried that the business office remain open on meeting nights so members could pay their dues before going to the meeting. This tradition has lasted 74 years and is still in effect today.

Beginning in 1940, we were seeing reports (in the IBEW Journal) from Alaska. Local 46 had jurisdiction in certain towns in Alaska and our members were working on Naval Air Bases in Sitka and Kodiak, as well as other ongoing work in other areas of Alaska. The Local established a Unit Local in Anchorage. But the message was clear in the International Journal, do not go up there without a dispatch because you could get stranded without a job!

At the May 8, 1940 meeting, a resolution was passed changing the work rules that Local 46 reserved the right to refuse to send men to any contractor who refused to pay the necessary taxes that would entitle their employees to old age pension, unemployment insurance, and state compensation.

1941 - August-October

At the August 1941 meeting, the members concurred with the Executive Board to approve a $5,000 investment in the new Labor Temple. To this day we are part owners of the Labor Temple in Seattle and receive notice annually to attend a stakeholders meeting.

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At the October 8, 1941 meeting, several International Officers and Delegates to the 1941 American Federation of Labor (AFL) convention held in Seattle attended the Local 46 meeting, and the legendary Harry Van Arsdale, Business Manager of Local 3 in New York, told Local 46 members about conditions and wages in New York.


On, April 8, 1942, it was motioned and carried that Local 46 take care of the standing of members captured by the enemy. This also covered members working on defense jobs and were known to have been captured.

By 1942, there are so many new members coming into the Local that the Business Manager and his assistant were allowed to swear applicants in during the morning and graveyard shifts. We even represented a cashier at Sears. The Local was bringing in hundreds of new members monthly at this time.

There was even discussion about the Local buying land and building a “home for our aged members” on Orcas Island. The Executive Board and officers even made a trip to look at land. The members voted to cancel the Local 46 elections in 1942 and the International concurred.

Throughout this period a tradition took hold of raffling off deceased members tools and giving the proceeds to the spouse or mother. At a raffle in 1945, a widow received $445, probably a tidy sum back then (about $5,698.17 today!)

1944 - April

In April of 1944, the members authorized the Executive Board to buy a lot or plat of land for a building site not to exceed $25,000. At the August 9th meeting of the same year, it was motioned and carried to set aside $250,000 in a building fund.

At that same meeting, it was motioned and carried that the Local send a carton of cigarettes to all members serving in the armed forces. The Local received many letters of thank-you and updates from our members who served around the globe.

At the September 13, 1944 meeting, it was announced that Square D was opening up a manufacturing plant in Seattle. That very same facility remained with Local 46 until it closed in the early 1980’s.

1945 Celebration of WWII End

Wild celebration as World War II ends, August 1945. Servicemen and civilians overflow sidewalks and jam the street at Third Avenue and Pike Street on Aug. 14, 1945, as official peace is declared by President Truman. V-J Day is celebrated as Aug. 15, although Japan’s surrender was formally signed Sept. 2, 1945.

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The Second World War finally ended with the Surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945. Surprisingly there was no discussion of this in the Local 46 minutes. We’re sure it was a big topic of discussion outside of the official meetings.

1946 - January

At the January 1946 meeting, the members had another discussion about not installing fixtures that did not have the IBEW Label. One member raised the issue of British made vacuum cleaners which, in turn, raised the whole issue of trade agreements and cheap labor; and we thought that these modern day trade agreements were a recent issue! Well, our members were discussing this issue 65 years ago; talk about a socially thoughtful Local.

1947 - January

At the beginning of 1947, the Local appointed a Building Committee.

In January 1947, the Local began meeting in the new Labor Temple Auditorium on First Avenue, an auditorium that is still used extensively today by many Unions, Central Labor Council and other affiliated organizations.

On June 11, 1947, it was motioned and carried that Local 46 begin awarding lapel pins to members with 25 years or more of membership. This was the practice until the early 90’s when the By-Laws were changed to give pins to members in five year increments, beginning with year 5.

At the July 9th meeting, a large scale drawing of our new building (at 2700 First Avenue, which is pictured on the cover of this book) was unveiled.

1948 - March

In March of 1948, the membership voted to end the practice of fining members for non-attendance at Union meetings. In June of that same year, the membership voted to transfer $100,000 from the General Fund so construction could start on the new building.

1948 - December

At the December 8, 1948 meeting, Senator Warren “Maggie” Magnuson was in attendance to discuss a new shipbuilding program.

‘Maggie’ was a real friend of the working people and was instrumental in bringing many Naval projects to the shipyards of Seattle, all the way up until he was defeated in 1980.

That was the last time the Navy brought any new construction program to Seattle.

1949 - February

In February of 1949, the Local went on record in supporting the Postal Workers Local 28 in their effort to get a new Post Office Terminal. The Local also voted on a resolution to discontinue the Organizing Fund. The minutes are clear on this resolution, it was defeated by “heavy majority”!

Decade Ends

As the decade came to an end, the minutes, though not completely clear, reported a discussion on applications for membership and the value of taking in “colored’s”. A committee was formed to investigate, and we also sent a letter to the International requesting information on minority groups such as “Negroes, Japanese and Filipinos”.

The International Union’s reply was very clear, “race does not enter into the Brotherhood picture”. The letter went on to explain that Negro contractors have signed with the IBEW in different areas of the country; also that Chinese contractors have signed with the IBEW in San Francisco. The next decade should be interesting. Read On!

1940 Growth in Union Membership (Todd Shipyard)

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The population in Seattle had seen very little growth in the previous ten years and stood at 368,583; but that was all about to change with the coming war.

At the beginning of the 1940’s the Local’s membership exploded with growth. Most likely this was a result of the Second World War. The war contributed to increases in production, especially in the shipyards, but also it was easier for workers to form Unions and feel more comfortable joining Unions since passage of the NLRA.

All classifications were coming into the Local: Oil Burner, Sign and Neon members, Wiremen, Motor Shop Winders, Radio, Manufacturing workers, Helpers and even Linemen were still coming into Local 46. And we were seeing women coming into the Local in much greater numbers, especially as the United States entered the Second World War.

1941 - April-July

The Local was contacted by the State Labor Council about helping members of the Sawmill Workers, Local 2545, on strike at Weyerhaeuser in Snoqualmie. The Business Manager reported that Local 46 had found work for many of the Sawmill members.

At the April 17, 1941 meeting, members voted to approve a Master Labor Agreement in the Shipyards of the Pacific Coast. The Pacific Coast Master Agreement remained in effect until the mid-1980’s when shipyards decided to go their own way and bargain individually.

In July 1941, Local 46 passed a resolution to be raised at the IBEW Convention, to include Alaska and British Columbia in the 9th District of the IBEW.

Today, Alaska is part of the 9th District, but British Columbia is part of the 1st District, which is all of Canada.

1941 Blackout in downtown Seattle

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Local 46 sent seven delegates to the International Convention in St Louis, Missouri. This was the 50th Anniversary of the IBEW; its 21st Convention and the first convention since 1929. At the time, Local 46 had 1,098 members, the most members the Local had ever had.

The Delegates to the 21st IBEW Convention:

Wm Gaunt, W. C. Lindell, Harry Hilpert, Ed Scheib, H. A. Jacobson, L Van Inwegan Jr, R. A. Kelly

On, December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the next day the United States declared war on Japan.

On December 11, after Germany declared war on the United States, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a declaration of war against Germany. Many Local 46 members served in all theaters of the war; we know this because of the letters the Local would receive from enlisted members saying if they were in Europe or the Far East.

1943 Lillian Cowdrey making Neon signs.

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1944 - September

At the September 13, 1944 meeting, it was announced that Square D was opening up a manufacturing plant in Seattle. That very same facility remained with Local 46 until it closed in the early 1980’s.

During this period there was much discussion about electronics and classes. Members seemed to be really interested in the changes in technology and had presentations at meetings, like a movie on fluorescent fixtures and how they operate. Members were encouraged to attend school.

Locals 46 and 77 continued to meet and probably worked on jurisdictional issues. There was also a real concern from all the trades about the construction work at Boeing being done by members of the Machinists Union, who were employed at Boeing. Some kind of agreement was reached between all the parties at a later date, thankfully for us, because today we do a lot of work on Boeing property.

During the mid-1940’s we were beginning to see members retire. These were members born in the 1870’s-1880 and beyond. They were finally able to hang up their tools and retire from employment. The IBEW had a small International pension at this time, but it looked like Social Security (founded in 1935) was making a difference in working people’s lives. Probably for the first time in history, workers in this country, because of Social Security, had the possibility of not working until they died.


In 1946, the International Labor Organization (ILO) Maritime Conference came to Seattle and Local 46 donated $250 to this event. Though there was no mention of Local 46 having delegates to this conference, we know that the International Union had delegates.

1946 - September

In September, Local 46 sent 14 delegates to the convention in San Francisco, California. The membership had shot up to 3,006; the Local had grown by almost two thousand members in five years!

1946 - November

Delegates to the 1946 International Convention:

Charles Adams, Robert Kelly, Robert Burdette, W. C. Lindell, Neal Day, George Park, William Gaunt, Emil Racine, Harry Hilpert, Edwin Scheib, J. E. Hicks, Louis Seifner, Oscar Krumm

At the November 13, 1946 meeting, the Business Manager talked about setting up new IBEW Locals in Alaska and had some of the Local 46 office staff fly to Alaska to set up the bookkeeping system.

1947 Drawing of the proposed new IBEW 46 Hall.


1948 - August

August 11, 1948, members voted to set wages and expenses at $40 per day, plus railroad fare, for the ten delegates who were attending the convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey the following month.

Our membership stood at 2,290, so a considerable drop in membership, which was to be expected, after the war.

Delegates to the 1948 International Convention:

Robert Burdett, H. A. Jacobson, Neal Day, Oscar Krumm, Wm Gaunt, W. C. Lindell, H Hilpert, Ed M. Scheib, J. E. Hicks, John Watt.

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