Abel, I. W.

TLS as Steelworkers Secretary-Treasurer, 2 weeks before certification of his election as Union President

Price: $25.00

Description:
(1908-1987, Iorwith Wilbur Abel) US labor leader. In 1925 he worked for the American Sheet and Tin Plate Co. (now U.S. Steel) in Canton, Ohio, later at Canton Malleable Iron Co., the Timken Roller Bearing Co., and the Colonial Foundry. Laid off in the Depression, he was convinced that a union would have protected him from losing his job, and became active in the labor movement. In 1936, Abel found work again at Timken Roller Bearing and with the assistance of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) he organized Steel Workers Local 1123. An effective, strong negotiator and union president, in 1year alone he led 42 wildcat strikes. He actively participated in the 1937 Little Steel strike and his skilled leadership brought him to the attention of national SWOC. In 1937, he was hired by SWOC to lead the union's organizing staff and became a protege of Philip Murray, SWOC president. When SWOC merged with the Amalgamated Assn. of Iron and Steel Workers in 1942 to form the United Steel Workers of America (USWA), Abel was appointed director of the USWA Canton District and became a member of the executive council of the Ohio CIO. During WW II, he served on the National War Labor Board, representing the CIO. When Murray died in 1952,USWA secretary-treasurer David J. McDonald was elected president and Abel secretary-treasurer. In the early 60s, Abel was angered by what he saw as McDonald's weakness in winning new national contracts. When McDonald altered the union's constitution to permit him to serve 2 more 4-year terms, Abel challenged him in the 1965 presidential election. The election occurred Feb. 9, 1965 but voting irregularities and challenged ballots delayed a final result until April 30. Abel relied heavily on voting and ballot-challenging procedures in the relatively new Labor Management Reporting & Disclosure Act (the "Landrum-Griffin Act"). Union officials and federal monitors eventually declared Abel the winner by 10,142 votes out of 600,678 cast, and on May 20 McDonald declined to challenge the result. Abel was sworn in on June 2 and elected a VP of the AFL-CIO and served on the federation's executive council. In 1968, he was elected president of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department. During his presidency, membership rose by over 500,000 as he engineered mergers with the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers in 1967, the United Stone and Allied Product Workers of America in 1971, and District 50 of the Allied and Technical Workers of America in 1972. He also broadened the union's inclusiveness, encouraging increased minority participation in local, regional and national union affairs and to end job discrimination by local unions. But reforms were not enough; workers sued the union for race and sex discrimination numerous times in the late 60s & early 70s. In 1974, he was forced to sign a consent decree that altered seniority rules to overcome discrimination suffered by women and minority workers. Abel was a vigorous proponent of the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act and strongly advocated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, which protected interests of private pension plan participants. He also won several strong national steel and other metals contracts and established the union's 1st strike fund and quickly amassed $85M. He resumed coordinated bargaining with the major steelmakers, and established separate bargaining councils for aluminum and other metals industries. In 1971, imports of foreign steel reached a (then) all-time high, and 108,000 steelworkers were laid off. Abel and the USWA executive council realized that the steel industry's tendency to stockpile steel in anticipation of a strike led to a boom-and-bust cycle that hurt workers. To counteract this cycle, in 1973 Abel negotiated the Experimental Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with the major steelmakers which proved a great success during the 1974 national steel contract talks. Abel won a $2.00 an hour raise over 3 years and the right to engage in local strikes over non-economic working conditions (which the union had agreed to ban in earlier contracts). The ENA contributed to a 2nd round of successful contract talks in 1977 but employers unilaterally withdrew from the pact in 1980 (as was their right) after the 1979 industry recession. His strong advocacy of the rights of minorities within the union led him to be appointed a member of the Kerner Commission in 1968, which investigated the 1967 race riots. In 1971, he was appointed to the Economic Stabilization Program, President Nixon's wage and price restraint board, but resigned in 1972 over the Program's decision to strictly limit wage increases for workers. In, 1977 Abel was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ford. After the 1977 contract, steelmakers continued to cut back production and union membership sank by 650,000. Older union members were also angry over the 1974 consent decree that stripped them of their seniority. Before the 1977 presidential election, Abel announced his retirement and his protege, Lloyd McBride, ran as Abel's successor and won. TLS on 11 x 8 official letterhead as United Steelworkers of America Secretary-Treasurer, Pittsburgh, April 15 1965, to a Chicago Salvation Army social worker, sending his autograph for the children he is aiding.

Condition: Very good
Type:Letter






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