112 Year History - February 2, 1905 - April 1, 2017
It all started on February 2, 1905. The scale was about .40¢ an hour and Iron Workers labored 6 days a week. Later that same year, inside Architectural Iron Workers Local 47 and Finishers Local 88 were also chartered. In June 1905 Local 26 and United Metal Workers Local 1 joined Local 44. Iron Workers Local 26 had been organized here in 1901.
In January 1907 Local 47 amalgamated with Finishers Local 88. Local 88 joined 44 in June 1910. This brought our membership to about 80 and the scale was 50¢ an hour.
Machinery Movers and Riggers Local 142 was chartered here in September 1913. Our scale had moved to 60¢ an hour, but construction was down and 44 received only 5¢ in increases over the next five years.
Late in 1918 we negotiated for a 10¢ increase to 75¢ an hour. The scale in Local 44A, Dayton, Ohio, was 87 ½¢ an hour. Dayton was a sub-local of Cincinnati.
In the next year and a half we received 40¢ in raises, but the work declined and we gave 35¢ of that back in an effort to stimulate construction in Cincinnati.
In 1921, because of the increase in reinforced concrete construction, the Executive Board met and agreed that a separate Local was needed to handle this work. On March 31, 1921, Rod Local 372 was chartered and Joe Obermeyer, who had been the Recording Secretary in 44, became their first Business Agent, a position he held for 27 years.
Transfers from 44 into 372 and the lack of work dropped our membership from 180 in 1920 to about 70 in 1922.
Sometime in 1923, Riggers Local 142 amalgamated with 44. This gave us about 40 more members.
From 1921 until 1925 when he resigned, Dutch Luschinger was the Business Agent. He was later to become an International Representative. When Dutch resigned, President Tommy Gerns appointed "Red" Knox Business Agent. Red was a big tough Irishman. However, our Executive Board minutes indicated that Red had a little drinking problem. President Tommy Gerns then resigned and John J. "Jack" Dempsey was acclaimed President.
The President and the Executive Board made the decisions in those days, and after 4 hectic years, Brother Knox was told that if he didn't attend to the Local's affairs properly, he would be removed from office. Two meetings later he was fired by the Executive Board. President Dempsey became Business Agent in September 1929.
Along about this time, the stock market crashed and we started into the depression. 1929 was a good year for construction in Cincinnati. One job that gained national attention was the Netherland Hilton Hotel, and the Carew Tower. Overland Steel set first column on March 6, 1930. But because Overland was using non-union men on the Empire State Building, Local 44 struck this job to support the pickets in New York. 44 walked out on March 24th after having completed 3 floors in 15 days. When the strike was called off on May 17th, and work resumed, it took those two derricks on the tower just 46 days to top out the remaining 45 floors. They averaged a floor a day after the strike! 15,000 tons of iron. All 48 floors in a total of 61 working days. Iron Workers from Local 44 had set a new world record for steel erection.
In 1931 Construction workers were being alternated to provide some employment for everyone. Wages were frozen for 13 months. In 1932 Building Tradesmen agreed to a 20¢ reduction in pay in another attempt to stimulate construction in Cincinnati.
The scale got back to $1.50 by 1937, and even though local elections were held every year, a motion was made to disperse with elections for 5 years. It seems that Local 44 members were well satisfied with their Business Agent Jack Dempsey and the way he represented them. Others noticed something special about Brother Dempsey too. In 1939 General President P.J. Moran reached into Cincinnati and selected our Business Agent to go to St. Louis and serve as the General Treasurer of our International Association, an office he held until his death 20 years later on December 20, 1959. This concluded almost 50 years membership in this organization for Brother John J. Dempsey and Local 44 should be proud that one of our own was chosen to this prestigious position.
Through the 2nd World War, the scale stayed at about $1.65. After the was our membership began to increase more rapidly. 1947; 350 members, 1950; about 450 members, $2.45 an hour. Local 44 was still growing.
In 1948 we purchased a new Union Hall out on Beekman Street, the first we had owned. This was also the first time since 1905 that our offices weren't within a block or two of Liberty & Walnut Streets downtown.
1953 saw our District Council develop our Health and Welfare plan. The first contributions was 7½¢ per hour. By 1980 the cost were $1.00 an hour and this provided Iron Workers with over 50 billion dollars worth of coverage.
In 1955 the scale was $3.20. Along about this time our Local was setting up our Apprentice Program and school. By 1957 Apprentices began attending classes at Central High School. Through the years this program has provided our Local with hundreds of highly qualified Journeyman and now has a full time Coordinator and over ten Instructors. The Apprenticeship Program is a work in progress. Due to advances in technology and the changing market the Program is constantly updated to meet the industries requirements.
We decided in 1961 that our Beekman St. neighborhood was going downhill. The Madison Avenue Hall was purchased at a cost of $18,500.00 and we spent another $10,000.00 on improvements.
In 1962 the District Council developed our Pension Plan. The first contribution was 10¢ an hour. A special provision entitled any retiree that had been a member at least 10 years to a $25.00 per month pension. A member retiring with 25 years credit would receive $45.00 per month.Through the years, this contribution has been increased and there is presently over 700 million dollars in our Pension Fund.
Through the 70’s, we saw good and bad times. By 1975, scale reached $9.99 and members were reaching 55 cents per hour towards welfare and pension. In 1977, construction began on the Carrol Lee Cropper Bridge. A steel, arch-shaped truss bridge over the Ohio River which connected KY to IN. During this time, 300 travelers were added to the already 500 members to man the boom in the area.
In 1978, Local 44 purchase 7.5 acres of land and a building near Red Bank Road in Madison, OH. This became the new Hall and JD Patton on Turkey Foot RD was used as the training facility.
After a strike and working without a contract for a year, an agreement had been reached and the new wage was $15.88 per hour in 1981. By this time an additional bridge had been built over the Ohio River called the Combs-Hehl Bridge.
The boom slowed during the 80’s. There were over 200 members not working in 1983. Although work was slow, wages continued to climb and by 1990, the wage had increased to $17.73 with $2.25 per hour for health and welfare and an additional $2.30 per hour for the pension.
Through the 90’s, The Ironworkers of local 44 erected several rides at Kings Island Amusement Park. The Taylor-Southgate Bridge was also built which replaced the aging bridge between Newport, KY and Cincinnati, OH. The work continued through the turn of the century which included two new sports stadiums for the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals.
By 2005, wages had increased to $24.00 per hour with $5.50 to health and welfare and $ 4.45 into the pension fund. In 2008, the erection to the tallest building in Cincinnati began, The Great American Building. At 665 feet, it is also the third tallest building in the State of Ohio.
Times were tough through the Great Recession. From 2006 to 2014, Local 44 lost 198 Members. Some retired however many more sought other employment to provide for their families since the ironwork was scarce. In 2009, Local 44 voted to purchase a new property in Hebron, KY which would become the new Hall. This building was transformed into the state-of the-art training facility we use today. It is the envy of other Locals. This was the result of great effort and work by the leadership and Members of Local 44.
With the economy rebounding, the membership had grown and by August of 2016, had reached it numbers of 2006, before the recession. The scale rose to $26.97 with $7.10 to health and welfare and $9.50 going to the pension. The North American Stainless Plant expansion, P&G Mason and the Ford Plant expansion helped fuel the growth. 2016 finished off strong with hours up and full employment for the majority of the year.
The year 2017 began with a surprise mandate from Eric Dean the President of the International. The International had decided to merge 8 locals throughout the country. It was determined that the smaller locals were not able to gain ground after the Great Recession. In order to remove the burden of increasing work assessments on their Membership, Locals with 200 or less active Members were to be merged with sister Locals. Local 372, the Cincinnati Rodbusters, were included in this action. On Jan. 5th, 2017, Local 372 was merged into Local 44. This came as a big surprise to all parties involved. Naturally, the Members of both locals had many reservations. Business Manager Dave Baker and Business Agent Jarrod Tiemeier of Local 44 worked cooperatively with Robert Barker the Business Manager of Local 372 to make the transition as smooth as possible. There have been bumps along the road but this merge has strengthened the Local.
The combining of the Apprenticeships was probably the most difficult challenge. 372 had a 3 year program where as 44 a 4 year Apprenticeship. James Hyden the Coordinator at 44 met this difficult task head on. With the help of the Instructors from 372, they were able to merge the programs into one.
Through the efforts of the leadership and the members from both Locals, the newly mixed Local 44 is becoming an economic powerhouse in the Cincinnati area. After 95 years of being separated, they are now one again!
Organizing and efforts to gain market share has also been an intricate part that has help the Local to rebound and grow. These efforts along with community outreach has secured a place and need for Local 44 in the Greater Cincinnati Area today and for years to come.