David Kaplan Papers, 1941-1965



1933 Jul Founding of Independent Union of All Workers in Austin, Minn. Wage agreement follows strike of November, 1933.
1933 Aug Founding of union at Wilson & Co., Cedar Rapids, Ia. Recognition agreement follows strike of April, 1934.
1936 Dec Midwestern group including Austin and Cedar Rapids ask CIO to initiate organizing drive in meat packing industry.
1936 Dec A group of Chicago packinghouse workers begins organizing on CIO pledge cards.
1937 Oct 24 Formation of Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee (PWOC) announced at conference in Chicago attended by representatives of approximately 70 groups. Van A. Bittner, chairman; Don Harris, director of organization; Henry Johnson, assistant director.
1939 Jul 16 National conference and mass rally in Chicago addressed by John L. Lewis.
1940 Feb First agreement negotiated by Armour and Company at Kansas City plant.
1941 Aug Suit under Wage-Hour Law results in application of 40-hour week to all packinghouse workers. Millions of dollars in back pay.
1941 Aug 8 Armour signs first master agreement in the industry covering 17 plants.
1942 Jul CIO appoints Sam Sponseller chairman of PWOC.
1943 Oct 16 CIO dissolves PWOC and grants charter to United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA). Lewis J. Clark, president; Edward F. Roche, sec.-treas.; Frank Ellis, vice-pres.; Philip Weightman, vice-pres.
1944 Dec U.S. Army takes possession of Cudahy Bros., Cudahy, Wis. on direct order of President Roosevelt. Company had defied War Labor Board, refusing to apply order for maintenance of membership and dues checkoff.
1945 Feb War Labor Board issues directive ordering settlement of meat packing wage negotiations. Establishes meat packing commission under chairman Clark Kerr of University of California.
1945 Apr UPWA Exec. Bd. adopts official procedures for investigation and disposition of cases involving racial discrimination.
1945 May UPWA sends Jennie Shuck, Sioux City, Ia., as representative to “Conference on Women in Industry” called by the Secretary of Labor.
1945 Jun 22 Economic Stabilization Director finally approves WLB directive, thus ending case begun 22 months earlier.
1946 Jan 16 National strike against 17 major meat packers begins. Plants seized January 26 by President Truman. Government applies 16-cent hourly increase. Plants returned to packers April 30.
1946 Jun UPWA announces goal of $1 an hour minimum in packing industry (then 88.5 cents).
1946 Jun 6 Ralph Helstein elected president. Lewis J. Clark secretary-treasurer.
1947 May Sugar refinery workers under CIO Local Industrial Union charter vote to affiliate with UPWA.
1947 Sep National strike in Canada against Swift Burns by Canada Packers lasts 57 days. Ends with 10-cent wage increase.
1948 Mar 16 UPWA begins national strike against major meat packers.
1948 May 21 Ends strike at all companies except Wilson. (Wilson ends two weeks later). No gains made beyond pre-strike offer. Wilson refused further recognition.
1948 Jun Attempt to defeat Helstein and administration slate at 5th Convention fails. Russell R. Lasley elected vice-president replacing Weightman.
1950 May A. T. Stephens replaces Frank Ellis as vice-president. Convention creates a Canadian Vice-Presidency. Fred W. Dowling elected.
1951 Feb Wage increase of 9 cents negotiated with meat packers is blocked by government wage-freeze order during Korean War. Union authorizes officers to call strike if necessary.
1951 May Wage Stabilization Board agrees to modify its order denying packing industry increase.
1951 Dec Puerto Rican Federation of Sugar Workers votes affiliation with UPWA.
1952 May G. R. Hathaway replaces L. J. Clark as secretary-treasurer.
1953 Mar American Sugar Refining Co. strike at New Orleans ends after 13 weeks as 900 members win five months of back pay at 11.5 cents an hour increase.
1953 May Holds first national conference on Anti-Discrimination and Women's Activities.
1953 Jul Joint bargaining agreement concluded between UPWA and AMCBW.
1955 Apr Strike begins at Godchaux Sugar and Colonial Sugar in Louisiana. After 147 days strike is won.
1955 Nov Amalgamated Meat Cutters and UPWA send joint telegram to George Meany advising of their intent to effect a merger. Efforts called off October, 1956.
1957 Oct Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses national conference. His Southern Christian Leadership Conference receives $11,000 check from UPWA Fund For Democracy.
1958 Mar 5 Four-week strike involving 4,600 at Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J.
1959 May Frank Schultz replaces A. T. Stephens as vice-president.
1959 Oct Seven-week strike ends at Swift plants with agreement to continue cost-of-living clause. A joint strike by UPWA and AMCBW.
1959 Aug Establishment of the Armour Automation Committee with $500,000 contribution from the company for programs to assist readjustment of employees displaced in plant closings.
1960 Feb Conclude 109-day strike against Wilson plants with agreement by company to meet terms substantially equivalent to other major packers. Issue of status of 3,000 “replaced” strikers to be arbitrated.
1960 Mar Arbitration panel headed by Judge Joseph S. Perry orders strike “replacements” put at bottom of seniority list behind Wilson strikers.
1960 United Packinghouse Workers of America, AFL-CIO, changed to United Packinghouse, Food, and Allied Workers, AFL-CIO. The initials UPWA were retained.
1961 Jan Lettuce fields of Imperial Valley, Calif. struck in cooperation with Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee. Seek $1.25 minimum. Growers use imported workers from Mexico to break strike.
1961 Sep Armour master agreement introduces concept of Technological Adjustment Pay under which employees displaced by plant closing draw a minimum weekly income while waiting reassignment. Interplant transfer arrangements and moving expense allowance.
1961 Oct First awards of Russell Bull Scholarship are made to Miss Charlayne Hunter and Mr. Arthur S. Smith. Scholarship goes to student applicant making significant contribution to struggle for civil rights. Miss Hunter was first Negro student to enter University of Georgia.
1964 Sep Master agreements introduce vesting of pensions, major medical insurance, and widen scope of agreement to cover processing units.
1966 Oct First national strike in 19 years is concluded in Canada with 70-cent wage and benefit package. Strike began July 20 involving 5,300 employees of Canada Packers.
1967 Mar Agreement reached with Armour to open master agreement six months before expiration. Wage and benefit package estimated at 66 cents spreads to rest of industry.
1967 Dec President Johnson signs Wholesome Meat Act, culminating campaign pushed by UPWA for over 10 years.
1968 Jul Constitutional Convention receives text of merger agreement with Amalgamated Meat Cutters for ratification.

Based on a history prepared by Leslie Orear.

Ralph L. Helstein (1908- ), UPWA President, 1946-1968

Ralph Helstein, the son of Henry Helstein, a manufacturer, and of Lena (Litman) Helstein, was born and reared in Minnesota. He received his B.A. (1929) and his L.L.B. (1934) from the University of Minnesota.

Shortly after his graduation from law school, Helstein was appointed to the NRA staff in Washington, D. C., as labor compliance officer for Minnesota in charge of implementing the NRA labor codes. From 1936-1943, Helstein had a private law practice in Minnesota; during that time, he served as General Counsel of the Minnesota State C.I.0. and in 1942 became General Counsel of the United Packinghouse Workers of America. Finally in 1946, Helstein became UPWA's second president and remained in that position until the union merged in 1968 with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of America (AMCBWA).

Throughout the period of Ralph Helstein's presidency of the UPWA, he was credited with the union's success in “obtaining a guaranteed work week, maintenance of membership, and improved working conditions, as well as the wage increases which arose from his legal procedures.” Under Helstein's leadership, the UPWA was among the first unions to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion and sex. In addition, as a result of Helstein's concern for international labor organizations, the UPWA organized the sugar workers in Puerto Rico, attempted to establish effective Latin-American labor relations, and became the first U.S. organization to affiliate with the International Union of Food and Allied Workers' Association.

In 1968 when the UPWA merged with AMCBW of A, Ralph Helstein served as an officer in the merged union until his retirement in 1972.