Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers. Local 278 Records
Local 278 represented the workers at the Chapman Valve Manufacturing Company of Indian Orchard, Massachusetts, which was later purchased by the Crane Company of New York. At its peak, the company employed more than 1,000 workers manufacturing valves, fittings, and plumbing material. The union, founded as United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE) Local 278, organized most of the plant in March 1942 and won a NLRB representation victory of most production workers in May. The victory was contested by an America Federation of Labor affiliate which was strong in the foundry, a company union which was a carryover from earlier company paternalism, and Chapman Valve president J.J. Duggan, a prominent Springfield citizen. Nevertheless, collective bargaining began in June of 1942.
Tensions between the members of Local 278 and the national policies of UE surfaced as early as May 1942. On May 29, the UE national officers (many of whom adhered to the political positions of the Communist Party, U.S.A.) pressed Local 278 to pass a resolution calling for a second from in the war in Europe. Local 278 officers refused to do so. At the same time, however, the local was an active supporter of other UE locals and proponent of the social unionism of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). When the UE was expelled from the CIO for its connections to the CPUSA, Local 278 left the UE and affiliated with the newly formed CIO union in the industry, the International Union of Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (IUE).
From the late 1940s to the late 1970s, Local 278 was a fairly stable for at Chapman Valve and its successor, the Crane Company. A conspicuous testimony to the local's stability was the continued election of a core officer, particularly Edward Brunelle as president (1948-1980), as well as Joseph Gray, Theodore LaRose, and Eugene Beauregard. Local 278's stability was also institutionalized through its control of the Chapman Valve Athletic Association (a carryover from the pre-union days), by its establishment of a women's auxiliary, and by its creation of the Chapman Credit Union.
In the 1980s, however, the corporate strategies of the Crane Company demanded a more active response from the rank and file. With the retirement of Edward Brunelle, a new leadership emerged, eventually directed by Dennis Riel. The Crane Company meanwhile began the slow elimination of the plant's productive capacity, shifting production to other plants. After stormier labor-management relations in the early 1980s, Crane finally made the decision to suspend its Indian Orchard operations. Local 278 made an unsuccessful attempt to buy out Crane's interests in the plant, but the factory closed permanently in 1984.