Asheville Local 332 History

Asheville –Bits & Pieces of History

Original Charter No. 332

IAFF Charter Application, May 2, 1932

IAFF President: Fred W. Baer

IAFF Secretary/Treasurer: Geo. J. Richardson

Local 332 Temporary President: D.B. Dover

Local 332 Temporary Secretary/Treasurer: Hubert H. Hayes

Organized by: W.B. Plemmons, President, WNC Central Labor Union

Asheville Charter No. 865

IAFF Historical Documents, May 11, 1946

IAFF President: Fred W. Baer

IAFF Secretary/Treasurer: Geo J. Richardson

Local 865 Temporary President: D.B. Dover

Local 865 Temporary Secretary/Treasurer: Ed Prince

Organized by: James F. Barrett, AFL Organizer


Police and Firemen Join A.F. of L. Union

Asheville Citizen-Times, May, 1946


Feeling of Insecurity Prompts Action Members Say

The alchemy of political strife produced some strange by-products and one of the strangest has just occurred in the ranks of the police and fire department here.

The development that was buzzing in political circles yesterday was the fact that both departments have been unionized—that is, the members to a man have signed up with a union, an affiliate of the American Federation of Labor.

The members of the fire department, it was learned, have received their charter as a full-fledged local in the International Firefighters Association, with the department enrolled one hundred per cent.

The police, it was learned, have signed up one hundred per cent and are applying for a charter as a local in the State, County and Municipal Employees Association.

Behind these two developments lies an interesting story, a story that has been developing slowly over a period of several months.  For obvious reasons, the spokesmen who tell the story must remain anonymous for the present.  But the facts are there for all who care to examine them.

Some months ago, members of the fire department became concerned they say, over certain working conditions to which they were subjected.

They sought to take these up with J. Weldon Weir, Director of Public Safety, in an effort to have them remedied.  In each incident, they reported, they were blocked from reaching Mr. Weir’s ear.

Finally in successive attempts, they sent emissaries to Mr. Weir seeking a hearing on their grievances.  In each instance the answer came back, not direct from Mr. Weir, but through Chief of police Dermid: “Sorry boys, just keep your shirts on, there’s nothing we can do.”

The firemen had no means of knowing whether or not their complaints ever reached the ear of the city manager, or of the city council.  All they knew was that their attempts were frustrated time and again as they sought relief.

Then came the “pep meeting” around May 2 when the “bee was put on them” for contributions to the Weldon Weir campaign fund to be used in the county primary election.

They were assembled and told by none other than Mr. Weir himself that they must come across with amounts ranging from $15 to $30 depending upon rank and salary.

A similar “pep meeting” was held with the police department members being invited by Chief of Police C. W. Dermid to come through with currency of the realm for the Weir faction war chest.

Last Straws

Those two money raising parties were but the last straws in a long series of events which led to unrest among members of the departments.

They did not initiate the unionization move in the fire or police departments, for that, at least in the fire department it started some months ago, but they did through resentment aroused, particularly in the fire department, bring matters to a swift and one hundred per cent culmination.

Members of both departments, talking to this reporter yesterday, frankly admitted that they were loath to take the steps, but felt, in view of the developments, that it was a matter of security and protection.

Spokesman for the police department made it plain that they were not dissatisfied with their working conditions which they described as ideal.  They said they were looking to the future.

Spokesmen for the fire department were just as frank in saying that their failure to get better working conditions after repeated attempts was the chief motivations in the action they took.

For the information of those who still may be curious, the money “requested” of the police department under threat of “turning in their suits” was supplied in part.  The money similarly “requested” of the fire department, was not turned into Mr. Weir’s faction.

But, nevertheless, Mr. Weir’s faction is operating an elaborate headquarters in the legal building and is well financed.  Mr. Weir appears to have lots of support, but that is another story.


Firefighters Local No. 865 is Strong Union

The North Carolina Federationist, May 1953

By: U.C. Davis, First Vice President

North Carolina State Federation of Labor

Local Union No. 865 was organized five years ago, as a result of the Southern Labor Conference held here that year in May.  A few advantages and advancements made by the Firefighters as a result of forming this Local Union include:  Increase in pay from $161.30 a month then being paid, to the present salary of $240.00 a month, senior firemen.  The 10-days vacation period in effect five years ago increased to 15 days each year.  A sick-leave period to 15 days each year, cumulative to 120 days.

            Best of all gains, however, is found in a real civil service law that protects members of the department in all matters, from wrongful discharge to promotions, with seniority closely guarded.

            Members of the Fire Department now and for some time have been enjoying one day off each week.  Before organization, members had no off-day at all, working seven days a week.

            A Ladies’ Auxiliary to the Local Union has been formed, and the members of this auxiliary have worked wonders for members of the department. The union has contributed to the morale, efficiency and unity of the fire service; cooperation within the department has greatly improved since formation of the Local Union.

            The road has been long and difficult at times, and even now the membership is facing a great struggle in negotiating a new increase in pay.  The members now know, however, that their united efforts will not be in vain.

  1. D. Hensley, one of the chaplains of the Local Union, will open the State Federation of Labor Convention in Ashevilleby giving the invocation at the opening session.  He is also Chaplain of the Asheville Central Labor Union. Brother Hensley brought additional honors to Asheville recently when he was elected President of the State Association of Fire Fighters at the Wilmingtonmeeting.

The following three articles give a glimpse of the history of how North Carolina Legislators

Declared illegal “Public Employee Unions” and “Contracts between Public

Employee Unions and their Employers.”

Asheville Local 865 was a Local at this time.

Hoffa Threatens Strike across Nation if Antitrust Laws Pass

Asheville Citizen-Times, Wednesday, May 20, 1959

BROWNSVILLE, TEX (AP) – James Hoffa Tuesday threatened a nationwide strike of all labor if Congress harnesses unions with antitrust laws.

            “They talk about a secondary boycott,” the short husky Teamster president said in scorn.  “We can call a primary strike across the nation that will straighten out the employers once and for all.”

            The antitrust proposal came from Senator John L. McClellan (D-Ark.) in a recent Senate speech, Hoffa said.  Some business interests have proposed in congressional hearings that all unions be put under antitrust laws.

            In Washington, AFL-CIO President George Meany made it clear Hoffa could not count on AFL-CIO Unions in any such protest strike.  Meany said “Hoffa’s threat is a pretty good indication, if any indication was needed before, that we were perfectly right in kicking the Teamsters out of the AFL-CIO.” “When legislation is enacted and we don’t like it, then it is our policy to seek out change through the legislative system and not through revolution,” Meany said.

            McClellan denounced Hoffa’s remarks as a threat against Congress and the people.  “Don’t minimize or underestimate the danger to our free economy and internal security that are involved in this threat,” he said.  “Such dangers do exist. They are real and sometimes something must be done about them.”

            The 300 delegates of the South Atlantic Coast District Convention of the International Longshoremen’s Union cheered Hoffa’s remarks should such a law be passed.  “The only answer is that if such a law passes, we would have all our contracts end on a given date,” the turbulent Teamster Chief declared.  From the context it was clear that he referred to all unions, just not the Teamsters.  “Such a uniform contract expiration would permit all unionized workers to strike at the same time.”

            Hoffa also alluded to the possibility of a nationwide strike in the current issue of life Magazine.  Hoffa is quoted as saying, “We may eventually have to do what labor unions do in Europe and call for general strikes.  We are organizing all transportation fields.  We are trying to create a conference of transportation unions.  So we are now in the position to control the strike issue.  If Congress is stupid enough to pass a bill banning secondary boycotts, we will fix it so all our contracts expire on the same day.”

            In Washington, Sen. Pat McNamara (D-Mich.), himself a onetime Teamster official said, “Any such strike would be suicidal, just crazy.”

Union Ban Clears House

Asheville Citizen-Times, Thursday, May 21, 1959

Raleigh (AP) – A proposed law to prohibit union membership for law enforcement officers and firemen passed the halfway mark Wednesday in its legislative journey.

            The House completed action on the bill with an overwhelming third reading vote after a supporter painted a picture of firemen pressing demands while cities burn down.

            The name of Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa also entered the debate on the need for bill sponsored by Rep. Frank Snepp of Mecklenburg as an outgrowth of a Teamster’s organizing drive among Charlotte policemen.  The bill now goes to the Senate.

            Rep. Wayland Spruill of Bertie raised the prospect of idle firemen in the case of fire in arguing for the measure to outlaw union membership.  “Supposed they call a strike and said, “we won’t pick up a hose, we won’t put out fires unless you do what we want.”

N.C. Outlaws Union Membership for Firemen, Enforcement Officers

Asheville Citizen-Times, Thursday, June 4, 1959

RALEIGH (AP) – A ban on union membership for law enforcement and firemen became law Wednesday.  Bitterly fought by labor officials and spokesmen for firemen, its passage through the legislature echoed with the name of Jimmy Hoffa, Teamster’s National President.  Sponsors called it a needed bulwark against union bids for power.

            Fiery debate before the Senate enacted the measure with the voice interjecting the name of Charles Cannon, Tar Heel textile magnate.  “I’ve got a belly full of Charles Cannon telling the General Assembly what to do,” cried Sen. James Simpkins of Craven who lost an effort to send the bill back to committee. He called it a “hate bill” which he claimed would soil the state’s national reputation.

            Sen. J. Carlyle Rutledge, whose county of Cabarrus embraces the Cannon textile empire, demanded Simpkins apologize “for such an uncouth statement when it refers to one of the foremost citizens of this state.”  The young Craven Senator refused.

            Rep. Frank Snepp of Mecklenburg introduced the bill as an outgrowth of unionizing drive on the Charlotte police force.

            After the formality of ratification, the measure will prohibit state government agencies from entering into contract with labor unions.  It will spell out the power of government agencies to forbid their workers from joining labor unions.

Asheville was an IAFF Local when Public Employees Unions were barred

in 1959 and one of the first to re-affiliate when the law was overturned.

The following three articles give a record of how the NC law

Prohibiting public employees unions was overturned in court.

IAFF May Assist Firemen’s Assembly

Hose & Nozzle January-February 1968

Three federal judges have given the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) permission to join the Charlotte Firemen’s Assembly in its fight to allow public employees to unionize.

Judge J. Braxton Craven Jr. of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 4thcircuit and Judges Wilson Warlick and Woodrow Wilson Jones of the U. S. District Court for Western North Carolina handed down the decision.

The Firemen’s Assembly, consisting of 349 men from the 435-man Charlotte Fire Department, is challenging state laws prohibiting it from becoming a union.

Statutes Ruled Unconstitutional

The Hose & Nozzle, March – April 1969

A three-judge federal court panel has decided that North Carolina Statutes outlawing union activities by police and fire department employees are unconstitutional.

However, the judges upheld a state law which forbids local or state governmental units from doing business with unions.

The panel, composed of Judges J. Braxton Craven, Woodrow Wilson Jones and W. Wilson Warlick, handed down its opinion Tuesday.  It was turned over to attorneys for both sides with the request that they draft a judgment based on the opinion.  The judgment then will be declared the official decision in the case.

William A. Watts, assistant Charlotte city attorney, who represented city officials in the action, said it might take two weeks to draw up the judgment.

November Hearing

The opinion resulted from a hearing last November in U. S. District Court.  The Charlotte Firefighter Assembly and the International Association of Fire Fighters, a labor Union, challenged the state law.

The opinion called the antiunion law “void on its face as abridgement of freedom of association protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States.”

“The flaw is an intolerable overbreadth unnecessary to the protection of valid state interests,” said the opinion.

The judges said freedom of association is “an aspect of liberty protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and by the rights of free speech and by peaceful assembly explicitly set out in the First Amendment.”

“There is no valid state interest in denying the firemen the right to organize a labor union – whether local or national in scope.”

They found “nothing unconstitutional” about the law which “simply voids contracts between units of government within North Carolina and labor unions and expresses the public policy of North Carolina to be against such collective bargaining contracts.”

“There is nothing in the United States Constitution which entitles one to have a contract with another who does not want it,” the panel said.

Should either side take exception in drafting the judgment an appeal to the U. S. Supreme Court would follow.

The court declined to provide the injunction Charlotte firemen had sought to prevent city officials from enforcing the state law banning unions and providing criminal punishment.

The court said there “is no evidence that the solicitor….has sought indictment against any firemen or that he intends doing so.”

The judges asserted they “think it unseemly” for a federal court to take action against state or local officers “except in situations of the most compelling necessity.”

They said a judgment striking down the state laws “seems to us, on the facts of this case a fully sufficient remedy.”

  1. LeVonneChambers, the lawyer who led the fight for the firemen, said the “next step along the line would be repeal of the statute banning cities from dealing with unions or some judicial challenge of this section.”

Charlotte city officials had no comment.


Charlotte Announces Union Affiliation

The Hose & NozzleMay – June 1969

Charlotte firemen have become the first to re-affiliate with the International Association of Fire Fighters.

The decision was announced at a press conference attended by HowardMcClennan, president of the organization.

Four firemen were installed as officers in the some 400 strong Local 660 . The group was organized after a federal decision knocked down a state law banning union membership among firemen and policemen.

The law was enacted by the General Assembly in 1959 and had the immediate effect of putting out of business the International Association of Fire Fighters locals.

The state law came under fire last year from a group of Charlotte firemen called the Fireman’s Assembly.  The group defined its purpose as social but it quickly became involved in the labor affairs.  The city ordered the group to disband, claiming it was in violation of state law and the group filed suit.

Before the law was passed in 1959, the IAFF had locals in Charlotte,Asheville, High Point, Greensboro, Raleigh, Durham, and Wilmington.

The new officers include W. J. Martin, president; Robert William Brawley, vice president; Robert Middleton, secretary, and R. D. McCall, treasurer.

All were former officers in the Firemen’s Assembly.


Asheville Asks Pay Increase

The Hose & NozzleJuly – August 1969

Asheville firemen asked City Council for systematic raises over the next few years to boost their pay to the average paid in cities of 50,000 to 100,000 populations.

All 124 city firemen are members of the Asheville Fire Fighters Association, Local 865 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, affiliated with AFL-CIO.  The local union president, James Shroat, was the spokesman at the City Council meeting.

Shroat said the three cities in the state with more than 100,000 residents (according to 1960 census figures) pay senior firemen $321 every two weeks.

In the 50,000 to 100,000 class, Asheville, Raleigh, Durham and High Point pay their senior firemen as average of $294 for two weeks work.  However,Asheville is low in this class, paying senior firemen $220 for two weeks work.

In the 25,000 to 50,000 class, Shroat presented figures from Burlington,Fayetteville, Wilson, Wilmington, Goldsboro, Rocky Mount and Gastoniaaveraging $245 for the two week paycheck for a senior fireman.