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Guide to the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 66 Records WAG.010

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
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New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2630

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Claudia Hommel, Mary Hedge, and Robert Shaffer, 1984

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 11, 2018
Description is in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Historical/Biographical Note

The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFTPE), Local 66 is a labor union for engineers in the New York City and New Jersey area. During its long history, Local 66 organized architects, drafters and surveyors, as well as chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, and industrial engineers.

The Architectural Guild of America was organized as a national union for architects and architectural draftsmen in 1934, on the heels of the New Deal and the impetus given to union organizing by passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act. New York City was center of the new Guild, with at least one other chapter in Washington, D.C. The Guild paid particular attention to the problems of wage parity and unemployment for architects working for the WPA. In keeping with the times, it exhorted its members to be concerned with the question of political representation for workers and solidarity with other unions.

In early 1937, the Architectural Guild of America affiliated with the International Federation of Technical Engineers', Architects' and Draftsmen's Union (IFTEADU) to become "Guild Local 66" with 23 charter members (soon to grow to over 60). The IFTEADU had been chartered by the AFL in 1918 to represent "all technical engineering, architectural and drafting employees." In 1936, the IFTEADU was reporting a membership of 3600.

The new Local 66 soon came head to head with its CIO rival, the Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists and Technicians (FAECT). The FAECT was organized in NY in 1933 and reported 6000 members in 16 locals by 1936. At first, the FAECT proposed a three-way affiliation with the Architectural Guild and the IFTEADU. From 1935 until 1937, discussions of merger and joint work on the WPA issues were carried out between the Guild, the IFTEADU and the FAECT. The Guild (later Local 66) hesitated, stipulating separate status for a local of architectural men, thereby maintaining an orientation to organizing along craft lines as opposed to industrial organizing.

In early 1937 the Guild joined the IFTEADU-AFL and the FAECT joined the new Congress of Industrial Organizations. Joint work fell apart and disputes quickly grew over method (the FAECT was viewed as too brash and radical, too quick to strike), over jurisdiction in organizing new shops and, soon after, over accusations of Communist control of the national FAECT leadership. From the viewpoint of Local 66, the FAECT's "doctrinaire, more left, less pragmatic" methods led it into a disastrous strike against Ebasco in the late 1940s. Even now, the FAECT (which became defunct in the 1950s) is held responsible for opening up the engineering field to job-shopping (company use of non-union contractors).

From the beginning, Local 66 planned to have independent engineering and architectural sections. However, the architectural division was soon outweighed by new divisions of engineers and draftsmen. The Ornamental Iron and Bronze industry soon became the largest division with up to 400 members, 150 of them employed at the General Bronze Corporation in Long Island City.

Local 66 held its first strike against the marble industry in 1941 in a failed attempt to organize under a single contract the shops of all employers belonging to the Marble Industry Employers' Association. In general it preferred to negotiate and often brought its cases before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). During World War II, it often appealed to the National War Labor Board to grant wage increases as a move against "wartime profiteering" by the companies.

Another attempt (and strike) in 1950 to organize all field engineers and surveyors hired by members of the Building Trades Employers Association was set back when the NLRB ruled in favor of the Association's request for shop by shop elections.

From 1940 until 1962, Local 66 was led by J. Lawrence Raimist, a licensed engineer. Son of Louis Raimist, a labor representative for the Bakers Union, he joined the Guild in 1934, served in key positions and as editor before becoming president and later business manager. Raimist was not without his detractors, within the leadership of the international and the local and among the rank and file. Documents in the Mergenthaler shop files indicate for example the problems he had in accepting the criticism of an international representative who came to help Raimist, and before the Mergenthaler unit voted to disaffiliate from Local 66, the dissenting members demanded Raimist's resignation as condition for staying in the union.

Raimist's contributions included a long series of battles with companies on behalf of employees represented by his or other IFTEADU locals. He served for a period of time in the 1940s as international vice president, always urging the international to more aggressively organize engineers. Raimist resigned in 1962, having committed 27 years to the unionization of the white-collar engineers.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Local 66 had ongoing agreements with several large companies, including Foster Wheeler, R. Hoe, Lederle Laboratories, S.S. White Dental Manufacturing Co., Mergenthaler Linotype and General Bronze. The changing technology of the 60s, particularly in construction and in printing (with the demise of hotmetal printing) brought large changes to the work conditions and jobs. Computer technology has changed the way engineering draftsmen draw up their plans, requiring less specific education and skill to handle specifications, etc. Demographic changes in the location of work created changes in how Local 66 functioned internally as well. With jobs spreading further out from the city to the outreaching counties, workers followed suit. Meetings were attended by smaller numbers and day-to-day involvement in the union lessened.

Under Ed Meskin's leadership in the 1970s, Local 66 opened its campaign to organize the hundreds of engineers employed by the Port Authority. It was forced to withdraw after more than ten years of activity on behalf of PA engineers when it lost the last NLRB election.