Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Local 206 Records
Until 1949, Local 206, which represented workers at the American Bosch plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, was affiliated with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UER & MWA). On October 19, 1949, following the expulsion of UER & MWA from the CIO, a majority of Local 206 members voted in favor of disaffiliation from the UER & MWA, due to CIO charges "that the UER & MWA, or some of its officers and members were closely identified or associated with the Communist Party and its 'fellow travelers', so-called, whose aims and purpose we consider harmful for this country in general, and for organized labor in particular." Members then voted to affiliate their local with the International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (IUE.)
Local 206 was also affiliated with a number of regional labor organizations, including the New England District #2 IUE-CIO, the Massachusetts State CIO (1951-1958), the Massachusetts State Labor Council CIO-AFL, and the Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO. These affiliations clearly provided the Local with a source of support, both financial and psychological. Delegates from the Local frequently attended conferences arranged by these organizations.
The history of Local 206 is closely tied to changes in the national and international economy. The national copper shortage in 1950, for example, resulted in lay-offs by Bosch. In the early 1970s the company laid off over eight hundred workers, and initiated several proposals aimed at greater efficiency. Denying the Local's claims that Bosch's own investments in Europe were taking jobs from its American employees, the company did concede that foreign competition was becoming a serious problem. Management cited European advantages in engineering, transportation costs, and low import duties. In 1971 workers struck in protest of the company's plans for increasing production. In the same year the Local sent a letter to U. S. Representative Silvio Conte, protesting Westover Air Base's use of Mack trucks which used German pumps and parts, while the Local's "own people are on the streets."
In the late 1970s, United Technologies Corporation (UTC) took control of American Bosch. In 1980 UTC announced its intention to build new plants in Georgia and South Carolina. Although the corporation stated that these plants would not affect its Springfield employees, the Local was clearly concerned, especially since the company was increasing its subcontracting, and the Springfield plant was losing its own engineers. The Local was also well aware that several other companies had recently moved their companies from western Massachusetts to the South.
In 1986, UTC announced that the Springfield plant would be closed. The corporation cited its responsibilities to its stock-holders, over-capacity, and increasing production costs at the Springfield plant as the major reasons behind its decision. The Local argued that the corporation's reasons were fictitious. The Local charged that UTC dividends were increasing; that the management failed to listen to the union's statements concerning the condition of the plant; and that UTC's recent investment with Fiat to bail out an ailing British helicopter firm, clearly contradicted their statement that it was too expensive to bring work to Springfield. The Local organized a rally to protest the closing, stating its determination that its workers should not join the 25,000 workers in Massachusetts who had lost their jobs as a result of industrial plant closures since 1984. The rally's slogan, "Make Them Stay, Or Make Them Pay," was implicitly critical of the federal government which awarded these companies large contracts, and allowed them to move to wherever operating costs were cheapest. Despite the protests, the plant ceased production permanently in the summer of 1986. The Local survived for a short time thereafter with state funds to retrain laid-off workers.