One gloomy overcast day in 1963, a group of food service workers employed at the U. S. Army Presidio, San Francisco, came by the National Maritime Union's office in San Francisco. The union's officers listened intently to their issues, and agreed they would assist the workers - provided they would have the support of a majority of the employees. The food service workers assured the union that it would have One Hundred Percent (100%) support. Immediately, the officers of the union envisioned a tremendous opportunity to organize employees employed by civilian contractors on military bases throughout the country.
It wasn't long after that eventful day in 1963 that the maritime union formed a shoreside division calling itself the ITPEU. They hired an organizer (Roy Wilson) who in turn hired Herb Herman and Sandy Barton; and they began the organizing of members into the ITPEU, first the Presidio of San Francisco, and then Vandenberg AFB. At that time, all of the organizing was concentrated in California. Shortly after that, Mr. Wilson was transferred to Washington, D.C., working with Mr. Tal Simpkins who at that time was the Administrative Assistant to the Director of the AFL-CIO Maritime Committee. Together they worked on administration and legislative matters pertaining to service employees.
The ITPEU was alone fighting that battle. It proved to be an uphill battle. There were some large, powerful groups opposed to contracting out. However, thanks to the determination of our Washington team, along with several contract employers, and our friends in Congress, the ITPEU was successful in achieving many of its goals.
In 1965, the Service Contract Act was enacted to protect workers on contracts in excess of $2,500.00. The Department of Labor became responsible for Issuing wage determinations. Basic to the Act is the concept that service employees should receive wage rates and fringe benefits that are at least comparable with those prevailing In the locality and that collective bargaining stability should be afforded to organized service workers.
In the meantime, the organizing of service employees continued. The union assigned a Vice President to direct the ITPEU Division's organizing, most of which was still concentrated in California.
In late 1968, the union's Vice President decided to start an organizing drive in the Southeast. Many large contracts were located there. At that time, this was a major undertaking, especially since the Southern states were known for their anti-union philosophy, "Right-to-Work" laws and employees untutored in trade union values and objectives.
Knowing the difficult task ahead, the union assigned John Tanner, who knew what unions were all about, as the ITPEU Division's Regional Organizer. By late 1969 and early 1970, he had successfully organized Food Service Contracts at NAS Glynco, GA; Hunter Army Airfield, GA; NAS Jacksonville, FL; Naval Station, Mayport, FL; Fort Stewart, GA, and five to six hundred civilian employees at a seafood processing plant located in Brunswick, GA.
Organizing had now spread to the Southwest and Northeast sections of the country. Roy Boyd became a part of the team traveling with Mr. Tanner, explaining the ITPEU Health & Welfare Benefits Plan which was the first of its kind for service contract workers.
Obviously all contract sites had to be serviced. In the Northeast, the most logical person was Mr. Elwood Hampton, then an Agent in the Port of Baltimore. Mr. Hampton not only got involved in servicing ITPEU contracts, he also accepted the responsibility to organize new contracts. His first success was NAS Patuxent River and he went on from there.
Mr. Tanner and Mr. Boyd had by now successfully organized a large food service contract in Texas over four hundred (400) employees at Fort Hood. The ITPEU Division had to have someone to service that contract. Mr. Ralph Smith from Galveston, Texas, who had prior success in organizing maritime workers and who had just recovered from a very serious Illness, was assigned to service Fort Hood.
At the same time, another maritime union officer by the name of John Conley was working In Seattle. In 1968, he didn't know much about the ITPEU, as there were no ITPEU contracts in the Northwest. He was pretty busy servicing maritime union members, covering dry cargo and tanker vessels, Military Sealift Command Ships, four Army Corps of Engineers Dredges, and eight National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) vessels. All of that was soon to change.
It was about this time that the union sent its mid-west Regional Representative, J. C. Hughes, to work with Mr. Conley organizing a large food service contract some three hundred and sixty (360) Ft. Lewis, WA. That task took Mr. Hughes and Mr. Conley three weeks working the parking lots from 5:00 AM to 7:00 PM each day and led to the first ITPEU contract organized in the Northwest.
During this same time, one of the most significant pieces of legislation was being enacted by Congress, thanks to our representatives in Washington, and to the Laborers International Union, which by then was also organizing service workers, and which joined the ITPEU in supporting this legislation. On October 9, 1972, President Nixon signed Into law several amendments to the Service Contract Act, one of which was titled Section 4(c). Unions could now negotiate directly with contract employers, and their collective bargaining agreements rather than the Labor Department's area wide wage determination would now be the document which determined the wage and fringe benefits for the bargaining unit workers.
This amendment also obligates successor contractors to be bound by the wages and fringe benefits set forth in the CBA. Another amendment allows contracting agencies to award contracts for up to five-year periods rather than only one year. As you can understand, these two amendments by themselves were very, very significant to the ITPEU and its members.
Organizing was really going full speed ahead. The ITPEU Division now had a team of Representatives throughout the United States. Fort Bragg, NC, came on board July 1, 1972; Fort Knox, KY, October 26, 1973; and Keesler AFB, MS, July 1, 1974.
Vice President J. C. Hughes became the union Vice President In charge of the ITPEU in 1978, but resigned within a year of taking office. Mr. Louis Parise then took over the helm as Director of the ITPEU Division. Mr. Parise had substantial ITPEU experience through negotiating contracts, helping members and assisting the prior Vice President.
Ralph Smith, meanwhile, had not only organized several more contracts in Texas, but also Fort Richardson, Fort Wainwright and Eielson AFB in Alaska and Fort Carson, CO. In the Northeast, Mr. Hampton organized several more contracts: Andrews AFB, and the U. S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD. Mr. Tanner also had successes in Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. By now, the ITPE had grown to about six thousand (6,000) members.
On August 7, 1979, the ITPEU Pension fund became effective. It started with Companies making $.1O to $.20 cents per hour contributions. Today there are more than one hundred (100) companies covering one hundred ninety three (193) contract sites, contributing an average of fifty cents ($.50) or more per hour Once again the ITPEU was in the forefront providing benefits to its members.
By this time, several changes were made in the structuring of ITPEU Representatives. Mr. Conley was transferred from Seattle, WA, to Savannah, GA, in 1978. Elwood Hampton was reassigned to the Union office in New York.
It was then decided to divide the country into three sections - North, South and West. Elwood Hampton was assigned as the Area I Coordinator. Mr. Conley was assigned as the Area II Coordinator and Henry Dooley, based in San Francisco, was assigned as the Area III Coordinator.
Shortly after the restructure to Area Coordinators, the ITPEU was faced with a potential loss of 500 - 600 members. The ITPEU bargaining unit at Fort Gordon, GA, was being raided by another union. That contract was going Full Food Service and the ITPEU represented only Mess Attendants. Mr. Parise assigned Mr. Conley, as the Area II Coordinator, to the task.
Realizing the effort that would have to be put into this project to achieve success, Mr. Conley recruited the services of Area I Coordinator Elwood Hampton, John Tanner, Roy Boyd and two other outstanding ITPEU Representatives - Jim Coston from the Mississippi area and Rudy Gantt from Baltimore. After many weeks of hard work by this team, going from Mess Hall to Mess Hall, talking to as many employees as possible from early AM to late PM, the ITPEU prevailed.
The ITPEU opened an office outside the main gate of Fort Gordon. Mary Williams was hired out of the Ft Gordon bargaining unit and assigned to that office as the local ITPEU Representative.
Those major wins by ITPEU created a rush of adrenaline among the ITPEU Representatives and Organizers as the organizing between 1979 and 1986 brought in another 8,500 members, going from six thousand (6,000) in 1979 to fourteen thousand five hundred (14,500) in 1986. Taxi drivers employed by Yellow, Checker and Star Cab Companies in Las Vegas voted to join the ITPEU. Five Hundred (500) workers employed by Aquaslide "N" Dive, the world's largest manufacturer of swimming pools and plastic accessories, voted ITPE. It was a long and winding road for the Aquaslide 'N" Dive workers. They weathered a year and a half strike and five years of negotiations before ITPEU prevailed with an agreement. Another group of workers at Omni Fabricating, Inc., makers of small boats, joined ITPEU. 1986 marked the first union organizing of a Marine Corps Base when employees at Camp Lejeune, NC, elected ITPEU as their bargaining Representative. Other successful organizing drives in 1986 brought three hundred and sixty (360) Food Service employees at Lackland AFB, and more at Kelly AFB in San Antonio, TX, into the ITPE family. Another important gain in 1986 was the establishment of the ITPEU Annual Benefit Fund, instituted to provide and maintain Vacation Pay, Holiday Pay, Sick Leave, Training Pay and other benefits for eligible employees. Again the ITPEU was in the forefront providing another prototype benefit Plan to service contract workers.
Between the years 1979 and 1986, several more changes were made to the ITPEU Representatives staff. In 1983, Dennis Arrington, a former maritime union member, was assigned to assist Ralph Smith in the servicing of ITPEU contracts in the Texas area. Ruthie Jones, a former Chief Shop Steward at Nellis AFB, NV, was recruited in 1986 to take over as the Las Vegas ITPEU Representative and handle contracts and military base sites in Nevada and Colorado. John Brenton, a former maritime worker, was brought aboard in 1980 to service contracts out of San Pedro. John left a couple of years later to go back to sea for a few years, returning in 1990 as the ITPEU Representative In San Francisco.
At the same time on the legislative front, ITPEU continued to spearhead the drive for tightening Service Contract Act regulations, which protect workers from reckless wage slashing by the Federal Government and some contractors.
Members of the ITPEU scored an important victory in the U.S. Senate In 1986 when the Gramm Rudman Amendment was defeated by a vote of 62 to 34, thus maintaining current wage levels In Service Contracts with the Pentagon. Again, thanks were due to our Washington team, led by Tal Simpkins, and to the ITPEU Representatives and members who bombarded their respective Senators with their letters. It paid off.
Up until March of 1988, the ITPEU remained a division of the maritime union. At that time, the maritime union merged with another union; and the ITPEU became a group within the Unlicensed Division of District No.1 MEBA/NMU.
In 1991, a referendum was held restructuring ITPEU as its own division of District No. 1 MEBA/NMU and the first officers of ITPEU were designated. John Conley as Chairman, H. Ralph Smith, Vice Chairman, John Brenton, Ruthie Jones and Mary Williams as Directors.
In 1993, the ITPEU became fully autonomous as District No. 5-ITPE, NMU/MEBA, changing the officers' titles to President; Secretary/Treasurer; and three Vice Presidents. At this time, the ITPE membership through meetings held on the ITPE job sites voted overwhelmingly to adopt a new District No. 5-ITPE Constitution. ITPEU's officers were re-elected, without opposition, in 1994, as they had been three years earlier.
Secretary/Treasurer H. Ralph Smith submitted his resignation to take effect December 31, 1996. Pursuant to the Constitution, John Brenton was named to succeed Secretary/Treasurer Smith and Elwood Hampton was named to succeed Mr. Brenton as Vice President. During the nomination period of July 1997, there were four members seeking the three Vice Presidential positions, while all other positions were unopposed. As a result of that election, the three incumbent Vice Presidents were re-elected.
On February 27, 1998, an affiliation agreement was signed between District No.5, ITPE-NMU/MEBA and District No1 I PCD-MEBA pursuant to approval by the District's Delegates.
On the 23rd day of March, 1998, the ITPEU held Its first Convention. The officers and delegates gathered at the convention site - The Capital Hilton Hotel, Washington, DC. By Constitutional Amendment 98-2, the name of the Union was changed from District No.5, ITPE-NMU/MEBA to the Industrial, Technical & Professional Employees Union, AFL-CIO, and, for the purposes of brevity, we are still known as the ITPEU. Shortly after that, at meetings of the Benefit Plans full board of trustees, the Plans names were also changed from ITPE-NMU-MEBA to ITPE Health and Welfare, ITPE Pension and ITPE Annual Benefit Plans.
The ITPEU dissaffiliated from DISTRICT NO. 1-PCD-MEBA, AFL-CIO as of June 30, 2001.
Effective July 1, 2001, the ITPEU membership, by an overwhelming VOTE of 3971 YES to 66 NO, voted to affiliate with OFFICE & PROFFESIONAL EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, AFL-CIO.
The OPEIU HAS 100,000 members in the UNITED STATES AND ANOTHER 40,000 members in CANADA. By affiliating with OPEIU, ITPEU will be strengthened by the larger voice which one gets by being part of a larger organization.
The ITPEU currently owns its own Headquarters Building in Savannah, GA. We continue to be an effective, aggressive and innovative union, organizing grass root membership, making our membership more informed by direct contact through our representatives, newsletter publications, web-site information and political action, protecting our members through our liaison with the U. S. Department of Labor and providing our representatives with the latest technological equipment to serve our members.