A BRIEF HISTORY OF ORGANIZED SHEET METAL WORKERS IN SOUTH BEND
An Auspicious Start
For four days in January 1888, eleven delegates representing eight mid-west tinsmiths and cornice makers organizations met in Toledo, Ohio. They discussed wages, hours, working conditions as well as labor relations and construction industry matters. On January 25, 1888 they voted to join their organizations into the Tin, Sheet Iron and Cornice Workers International Association. The Panic of 1893 brought about the collapse of the fledgling international’s finances and the union reorganized at the Detroit convention in 1896 changing its name to the Amalgamated Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association.
South Bend Joins The Ranks
By 1901 the international union had grown to over 170 locals across the United States and Canada. Nine of those locals were in Indiana. On June 26, 1901 a charter was granted to a group of tinsmiths and sheet metal workers in South Bend, Indiana. Twenty-five men signed the charter that hangs in the South Bend Area Hall and training facility. The December 1901 issue of the Amalgamated Sheet Metal Workers’ Journal lists W. C. Wolf as president and John Baumgartner as recording secretary of the Amalgamated Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association Local Union #164. The charter members of Local 164 were W.C. Wolf, J.A. Frank, Stephen Tatar, J.F. Leslie, John Baumgartner, Ed. Harris, John Thompson, C.J. Leroy, C.A. Brown, Andrew Troeger, Wm Kirkendoffer, Wm Reily, Noah Shirk, S.J. Pierson, John D. Knespert, H.G. Primley, Victor Sawicki, Benj. Fruit, W.H. Peffly, A.O. Wilson, Fred Weiss, August Krupf, John Priest, and Geo. Martin.
164 Goes Into 20 Once
Information provided by the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association in 2001 lists Gus Jena as the first Business Agent for Local 164 who served from 1925 until 1944. During that time Paul Heinrich served in 1939. Jacob Boersema served from 1945 to 1948. Fred A. Weinberg served from 1949 to 1954. Ervin H. Grewe served from 1955 to 1970 as Business Agent, becoming the first Business Manager of Local 164 in 1971 to 1972. Neal L. Decker served as Business Representative from February 1971 until June 1973 when he was elected Business Manager. He served as Business Manager until October 31, 1983 when Local 164 was merged into Local 20. Joseph Hunt served as Business Agent from 1973 to1975. James H. Wagner served from 1976 to 1981. Warner H. Drews, Jr. served from 1982 to the merger in 1983.
Bridging Into A Second Century
Neal L. Decker served as Business Representative and Vice-President of local 20 from November 1983 until December 1984. Jim Moore served as Business Representative and Vice-President from December 1984 to July1990. Warner H. Drews served as Business Representative for the South Bend Area of Local 20 after the merger. He continued to serve as Business Representative and Vice-President of Local 20 from July 1990 to 1992. Eric J. Brown served as Business Representative and Vice-President of Local 20 from 1992 to 2007. He also served as Organizer for Local 20 from May 1991 to June 1992. Brad Chamness served as Business Representative and Vice-President of Local 20 from 2007 to 2013. He serves as Business Representative for the South Bend Area of Local 20, and has since 2013.