Labor Day Weekend Spotlight: Iron Workers Local 783

The fall semester is well underway, but there is still one last holiday weekend before the real grind begins: Labor Day. In addition to enjoying the outdoors and grilling hamburgers, one longstanding Michigan tradition is the annual walk across the Mackinac Bridge. For almost sixty years, curious and adventurous residents from above and below the bridge partake in the event.

Especially on the eve of such a holiday, we should not forget the iron workers who risked their life to create one of the world’s longest suspension bridges.
During the construction of the Mackinac Bridge, iron workers banded together to form Iron Workers Local 783 of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, and Ornamental Iron Workers. After much planning, Marquette’s local chapter was officially installed on November 23, 1957 just three weeks after the Mackinac Bridge opened to motorists. The NMU Archives is lucky enough to have a collection, MSS-24, which documents the creation and administration of Local 783.

sarapiconeA copy of the original 1957 union agreement.

The original charter says roughly 70 men signed the original charter as founding members of the chapter. In addition, this folder also contains a letter from the General Treasurer which outlines the initial funds supplied to the chapter, Due and Benefit Stamps (100 each) for paying members, and confirmation that Local 783’s seal was officially on order. (Box One, Folder 10).

In a copy of the 1964 approved union bylaws, monthly dues were $6.00 a month for journeymen and $5.00 a month for apprenticeship members. The bylaws also carefully outline election procedures for officers, how the revenue from union dues would be used, and how worksite stewards must be placed on each job immediately (Box One, Folder 7).

sarapictwoThe first of two books which document meeting minutes.

In addition to the original charter list and the bylaws, the collection also contains meeting minutes, financial and benefit records, and election information. The records span from the chapters founding in 1957 to 1994 when the Local 783 merged with Local 8. In addition to these union records, you may also be interested in Sheet Metal Workers Local 94 (MSS-044), UAW Local 2178 (MSS-104), and UPIU Local 209, 110, and 21 (MSS-094) manuscript collections.

As we celebrate Labor Day this weekend, let us remember those who fought for early labor rights in America. For more on our collections, including more records pertaining to the labor movement in the UP, please visit our collections website here.

Blog written by Sara Kiszka

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