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Steel and Metal Workers
Industrial Union

The Steel and Metal Workers Industrial Union (S.M.W.I.U.), part of the communist-led Trade Union Unity League or T.U.U.L., represented an attempt at organizing workers on an industrial basis in steel and other industries, prior to the formation of the C.I.O. Its impact was greatest around 1933. The union's National Headquarters were in Pittsburgh , for a time at 149 Washington Place, subsequently at 929 Fifth Avenue. Its newspaper, Steel and Metal Worker, was published in New York. While the SMWIU was a national organization, Pittsburgh and New York were the scene of its most concerted organizing efforts.

The UE/Labor Archives holds several issues of the Steel and Metal Worker. These reflect the goals, philosophy and activities of the union. The SMWIU was highly critical of early New Deal labor and economic policy. Most notably, they regarded the National Industrial Recovery Act (N.I.R.A.) and the agency created to administer it, the National Recovery Administration, with its various Industry Codes, as dominated by big business and hostile to the interests of workers. Another target was the American Federation of Labor, particularly the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers (AA). The AA, it was claimed, obstructed worker organization and economic advancement through its adherence to the philosophy of craft unionism and its fundamental conservatism. Blaming the AA for having sold out the workers during and following the 1919 Steel Strike, the Sheet and Metal Workers Union sought to contrast its effectiveness in tapping rank and file militancy with the ineffectiveness of the AA.

Activities in the Pittsburgh/Western Pennsylvania Region

In the Summer of 1933, the Steel and Metal Worker, boasted that the organization had achieved significant inroads in the Pittsburgh region: Three large locals had been organized in Ambridge. Local union headquarters had also been established in McKeesport (McKeesport Tin Plate), Coraopolis , Carnegie (Columbia Steel and Shafting Company), McKees Rocks (Pressed Steel Car Company) and Homestead.

The union also claimed to influence rank and file organization in Monaca, Farrell, Greensburg and other places.

The most palpable SMWIU impact was in Ambridge where in 1933 the union organized a militant Labor Day march through the streets of town which drew large numbers of workers from American Bridge and women workers from National Electric. The Ambridge Strike of 1933 was the scene of a violent repression and the eventual arrest of SMWIU organizer and strike leader James Egan. (tie in with leaflet) SMWIU strength in areas like McKees Rocks seems to hark back to earlier protests (e.g. IWW influenced McKees Rocks Pressed Steel Car. Co. Strike, 1909) and looks a bit forward to radical activity within the "Rank and File Movement" inside Amalgamated Association Lodges in places like the McKeesport Tin Plate Mill.