Our Union is Born
The first national organizational drive for workers in the chemical industry began in April, 1940 when the AFL assigned one of its staff organizers, H.A. Bradley, the task of signing up the nation's chemical industry workers, with his initial job being to establish a workable Council of Chemical Worker Unions throughout the country.
In September, 1940, the International Council of Chemical and Allied Industries Union was formed in Akron, Ohio, with Bradley becoming its president.
That 1940 Council meeting was attended by 54 delegates from 42 federal labor unions in 19 states who represented some 10,000 workers in the industry. By the middle of 1944 the Council was made up of 161 locals with a membership of nearly 29,000. Part of the growth could be attributed directly to the fact that 12 locals in Canada, which had been part of another international union, voted to become members of the Council.
On September 11, 1944 then, the American Federation of Labor President William Green formally chartered the Council of Chemical and Allied Industries Union as the International Chemical Workers Union, AFL, with Bradley being elected President of the new union at the Convention held in Cleveland, Ohio.
Even though the new ICWU won its charter from the AFL, the Union's birth was not without difficulties as the United Mine Workers, through its District 50, claimed jurisdiction over the chemical industry and its workers. Also, the UMW was applying at the same time for reafiliation with the AFL after having left the rival Congress of Industrial Organizations. Even though the AFL ignored the UMW's claim, District 50 did not relinquish its jurisdictional claims to the chemical workers and for years fierce organizing battles between the two unions were fought.
The ICWU, nontheless, continued to grow slowly and steadily and in 1948, the Union acquired its own Headquarters Building in Akron, Ohio. By the time of the move to the new building, the International Union staff included 38 organizers, a research director and a legal counsel.
By now, the Union was well on its way toward representing the workers in the chemical industry in both the United States and Canada as more and more workers voted to join the ICWU.