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Manuscript Collections

 

Collection 63

Bricklayers, Masons and Plasterers Union of Monmouth and Ocean Counties

Records, 1892 - 1977

 

Processed by

R.B. Rauscher

 

Edited by

Barbara Carver Smith



Monmouth County Historical Association
70 Court Street
Freehold, New Jersey 07728

 

1993 August

 

Provenance: Accession # 1992.02.  Mr. Robert A. Schulz donated this collection to the Monmouth County Historical Association in January of 1992. Mr. Schulz was affiliated with the Bricklayers, Masons and Plasterers Union of Monmouth and Ocean Counties for thirty-five years. He resigned as the organization's last secretary in 1991. This collection consists of items held by Mr. Schulz while he served as an officer in the Union. Since he was both a local and regional administrator, his papers provide two perspectives on the union's history.

Restrictions: None

Size of Collection: Approx. 491 items

 

Historical Background

Before 1934, the Bricklayers, Masons and Plasterers International Union had four locals in Monmouth and Ocean counties. These locals were No. 8 of Asbury Park, No 22 of Long Branch, No. 39 of Red Bank, and No. 42 of Keyport. Suffering from the effects of the Depression, the building craftsmen of these locals sought ways of improving their lot. They resolved to recoup the craft trade's loss of work and influence in the two counties during those distressed times.

With these goals in mind, representatives from all four locals met in Long Branch on June 14, 1934. At that meeting, they forged a regional alliance. United, the four locals expected to enjoy a more favorable negotiating position. The coalition operated through the central Executive Committee, which was composed of four members from each local. This council handled all contract negotiations and searched for jobs on behalf of the four subordinate groups. Through the committee, the union flexed its concentrated political muscle. The board also attempted to discredit uncooperative contractors and material suppliers by placing them on an "unfair-to-the-union" list.

The committee claimed a jurisdiction from Old Bridge and Cheesequake in the north, to Allentown in the west, and to Atlantic City in the south. All union men working in the masonry trade reported to the committee. Portions of their union dues maintained it. In return, the committee insured that only men from the four locals worked on construction projects within their territory. For many years, the committee's counterpart was the Association of Contractors of Monmouth County. This association represented the area's entrepreneurs. Expectedly, the committee and the association occasionally squared off over wage disputes. The contractors' group fell apart in the late 1960s.

The Executive Committee met only occasionally. It operated primarily through an officer called the business agent. This administrator was the union's district spokesman. He handled all of the daily transactions, had the only paid position in the organization, and was reelected every two years. The first business agent received $0.05 per man, per hour, while the workman was actually employed. This arrangement provided an incentive for the business agent to keep his constituents working.

John E. Schulz (Robert A. Schulz' older brother) was the committee's first business agent and held that office until 1942. Most of the committee's correspondence in this collection is from John Schulz. Business Agent Schulz worked to promote the mason's trade in Monmouth and Ocean counties during the late 1930s when work was scarce. He sometimes lobbied in Washington for new public housing construction.

Schulz also frequently skirmished with New Deal agencies over union interests during this period. Just before WWII, the government started new projects on Monmouth County military posts. The military then expanded enlisted men's housing at Forts Monmouth and Hancock. Schulz fought to fill the resulting jobs with union men. As a result, he found himself at odds with the US Army. About this time, the amount of work increased to the point that Schulz needed help. He appointed Daniel P. Thompson, from Asbury Park Local 8, as assistant business agent.

After the war, following a brief period of material shortages, building in Monmouth County took off. Some of the individual locals enjoyed tremendous growth. At one point, the membership of the Asbury Park local equaled the numbers of the other three.

Between 1942 and 1946, there appears to be no business agent, although Thompson probably filled that capacity (Schulz resigned in 1942 to become Director of Public Housing in Long Branch). All of the correspondence of this period came from the committee's secretary Clifford W. Gregory. Sometime before September 1946, Thompson was elected business agent though Gregory continued to handle most of the external correspondence. Between 1951 and 1959, Gregory managed it exclusively.

The influence of the Executive Committee over the union locals slipped away after the prosperous 1950s. Two factors precipitated this decay. Local 8 of Asbury Park increased its membership and began to make independent moves that were out of step with the other locals. The union no longer enjoyed complete unity.

Simultaneously, the craft iteself lost prestige. New building techniques and prefabricated materials required less, or different, application skills. The demand for brickwork artificers fell. A decrease in the number of new apprentices followed the declining interest in the trade. Local BMPU impotence followed.

As Asbury Park Local 8 outgrew the others in numbers, friction ensued. A full rift followed and Local 8 hired Frank Dalton as its own business agent in 1961. Thompson continued to represent the three remaining locals. Disharmony continued to spread.

The Executive Committee continued to officially represent all four locals. However, by November 1964, Thompson represented only Long Branch Local 22. Apparently by then, each local had elected its own business agent. The union's national office moved to reverse this fragmentation during the late 1960s.

The four locals gradually amalgamated as total membership dropped. The locals of Red Bank, Keyport, and Long Branch merged and received a new designation, Local 4 (some minutes are identified with both labels: 4 and 22). The officers of the Executive Committee became the leaders of the new local.

The donor of this collection, Robert A. Schulz, was secretary to Local 22 when the mergers began. Later, he was president and then secretary of the Executive Committee. After Local 4 replaced the committee structure, he continued as its secretary. Local 8, which had relocated to Neptune, absorbed Local 4. Local 8 in turn merged with New Brunswick Local 5 in 1992. The parent organization is still located in Washington, DC, but is now called the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen Union.

 

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE COLLECTION

 
This collection is divided into two groups. The first portion includes the meeting minutes of two early bricklayer's unions located in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The oldest, Local 22 of Long Branch, was already in existence before the earliest records in this collection (May 1894). These minutes end in 1977 when other locals absorbed Local 22 (by then redesignated Local 4).

The second local represented here is Local 39 of Red Bank. Its minutes cover meetings between 1951 January and 1969 February. The records from both union locals generally discuss very insular details on meetings, memberships, social events, grievances, etc.

The letters and meeting minutes of the union's regional authority are the more historically significant part of this collection. This body, known as the Monmouth County Executive Committee (sometimes called the "Executive Board"), existed from 1934 to 1969. Correspondence spanning the entire life of the committee is in the collection.

These records reflect the growth and development of the BMPU in Monmouth and Ocean counties. From a broader viewpoint, these letters show how the dimensions of labor's power followed area economic conditions. The erosion of the union's strength during the Great Depression and it's revival during the explosion of wartime and postwar building at the Jersey Shore is all found here.

 


CONTAINER LIST


For a detailed description of the container contents, please see the hard-copy finding aid located in the Librarian's office.

1 / 1 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1934 - 1935. 64 items

1 / 2 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1936. 42 items

1 / 3 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1937. 35 items

1 / 4 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1938. 47 items

1 / 5 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1939 - 1940. 40 items

1 / 6 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1941 - 1942. 48 items

1 / 7 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1943 - 1944. 8 items

1 / 8 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1945 - 1946. 18 items

1 / 9 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1947 - 1948. 25 items

1 / 10 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1949 - 1950. 23 items

1 / 11 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1951 - 1952. 12 items

1 / 12 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1953 - 1954. 17 items

1 / 13 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1955 - 1956. 24 items

1 / 14 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1957 - 1958. 5 items

1 / 15 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1959 - 1960. 14 items

1 / 16 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1961 - 1962. 10 items

1 / 17 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1963 - 1964. 8 items

1 / 18 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1965 - 1966. 12 items

1 / 19 / Correspondence, Executive Committee, 1967 - 1969. 10 items

1 / 20 / Membership Rolls: Local 8, n.d.; Local 39, 1963, 1965, 1966. 4 items

1 / Envelope 1 / Pamphlets: Constitutions, Bylaws, and Codes, 1940 - 1965, n.d. 7 items

2 / 21 / Minutes and Miscellaneous, 1892 - 1894, n.d. 3 items

2 / - / Ledger Book: Minutes, Local 22, 1894 Sept 10 - 1899 Dec 27.

2 / - / Ledger Book: Minutes, Local 22, 1903 Oct 5 - 1936 July 24

2 / - / Ledger Book: Minutes, Local 22, 1936 July 24 - 1948 April 9

3 / - / Ledger Book: Minutes, Local 22, 1948 April 23 - 1958 June 13

3 / - / Bound Volume: Minutes, Local 22, 1958 June 13 - 1960 Dec 9

3 / - / Bound Volume: Minutes, Local 22, 1961 Jan 13 - 1965 April 9

3 / - / Bound Volume: Minutes, Local 22, 1965 April 23 - 1969 March 27

3 / - / Bound Volume: Minutes, Local 4, 1969 April 11 - 1973 Dec 14

3 / - / Bound Volume: Minutes, Local 4, 1974 Jan 8 - 1977 April 12

4 / - / Ledger Book: Minutes, Executive Committee, 1934 June 11 - 1953 April 6

4 / - / Ledger Book: Minutes, Executive Committee, 1953 May 14 - 1963 April 12

4 / - / Ledger Book: Minutes, Executive Committee, 1963 July 12 - 1969 Jan 15

4 / - / Ledger Book: Minutes, Local 39, 1951 Jan 11 - 1969 Feb 13

4 / - / Seal, "Bricklayers, Masons and Plasterers International Union of America, Long Branch, NJ No. 4, Mar. 31, 1969"

4 / - / Seal, "Monmouth County Executive Committee, BM&PU of A, Monmouth County, organized 1934"

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Blum, John M., Bruch Catton, Edmund S. Morgan, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Kenneth M. stampp, and C. Vann Woodward, eds. The National Experience. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968

Brody, David, W. Elliot Brownlee, James A. Henretta, and Susan Ware, eds. America's History. Chicago: Dorsey Press, 1987

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr. The Coming of the New Deal: The Age of Roosevelt. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1958

Schulz, Robert A. Telephone interview by Randy B. Rauscher, September 10, 1993

Works Progress Administration. New Jersey: Guide to Its Present and Past. New York: Viking Press, 1939

 

 

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This page last updated 21 July 2008.

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Monmouth County Historical Association received a general operating grant from the the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.
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