As far back as the 1800s, North American masonry-trowel trades workers protected their wages and working conditions by forming unions and associations. In 1823, for example, journeymen stone cutters in New York City went on strike in support of the 10-hour workday, and in 1835 masons in Troy, New York went on strike for higher wages. Craft unions gained strength in Canada during the 1850s as employers tried to dismantle the existing wage system and undermine workers’ standard of living. The financial crisis of 1857 wiped out most unions, but following the Civil War, Bricklayer unions began to form in New York, Maryland, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Missouri and New Jersey. Today’s BAC was formed on October 17, 1865, with John A. White, a member of the Baltimore, Maryland Local, serving as President. Since its founding, BAC members have created a proud legacy of fighting for good jobs and wages, better and safer working conditions, and dignity for every worker.
In 1881, BAC became an international union with the admittance of Locals representing workers from Hamilton and Toronto in Ontario, Canada. One year later, the Union took a stand against segregation by admitting Locals representing the southern United States. The Union’s acceptance of all masonry workers was formalized at the 1897 Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. Delegates to the Convention agreed that membership in the Union should be open to “all members of the mason craft . . . without condition as to servitude or race.”
BAC was one of the first unions to support the eight-hour workday, which was a top Legislative priority for delegates to the 1869 Convention. In the late 1870s, Canadian workers began their push for the nine-hour workday, and by the early 1890s, following successful strikes against the anti-union National Builders Association, the nine-hour workday became part of the Union’s collective bargaining agreements. Eleven years later, and thanks in large part to the efforts of BAC members, the eight-hour workday became the rule for workers across North America.
William J. Bowen was elected BAC President in 1904. Under his leadership, BAC’s craft jurisdiction expanded. In 1917, for example, tilelayers became part of the Union. When he left office in 1928, BAC’s membership had grown to roughly 130,000 members. The Great Depression, however, took its toll. By 1933, the Union’s membership had dropped to 35,000.
Harry Bates became president of the Union in 1935. He served until 1960, and was instrumental in expanding the Union’s participation in the creation of national policy. Bates helped pass the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, a nationwide program to develop low cost housing for workers. He worked to make fair labor standards a part of U.S. defense policy, and negotiated to ensure that 95 percent of defense construction would be performed by union members. Bates also participated in the development of the Seabees, the Construction Battalion of the U.S. Navy. He will long be remembered by the labor movement for chairing the convention that voted to merge the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations to form the AFL-CIO. By the 1950s, BAC’s membership included bricklayers, stone and marble masons, cement masons, plasterers, tilelayers, terrazzo and mosaic workers, and pointers, cleaners and caulkers. By 1960, the Union had grown to 156,000 members, reflecting Its broader craft jurisdiction and new work opportunities.
The 1960s and 1970s were a pivotal time for BAC, the labor movement, and the construction industry. During this period, new materials were introduced, and the nonunion sector grew. In response, BAC took three important steps:
The International Masonry Institute (IMI) was established as a labor-management trust fund to promote the unionized masonry-trowel trades industry, strengthen the Apprenticeship and training system, expand research and development, and improve labor management relations.
New departments were created to address collective bargaining, communications, education, organizing, and trade jurisdiction.
The International Pension Fund and BAC’s political action committee (BACPAC) were created.
In the early 1980s, poor economic conditions in the Canadian and U.S. construction industries, competing materials, non-union competition, and a general deterioration in the political and legal climate for unions created challenges for BAC. In response, the Project 2000 Committee was formed under the leadership of then-president John T. Joyce. In 1985, the Committee presented a plan designed to ensure the Union’s survival for the remainder of the century as an independent masonry-trowel trades union. Following the Committee’s plan, many improvements were made to the Union’s structure and operations.
2000 to the Present
At the 2000 Convention, BAC President John J. Flynn announced the formation of the Millennium Morning Project (MMP). The MMP was established to create a Strategic plan – a blueprint – for the Union that would ensure its growth and survival in the 21st century. The MMP Report and recommendations were unanimously adopted by the delegates to the 2005 Convention. The Report, “A Union of the Future,” contains detailed recommendations to guide BAC and position the unionized masonry-trowel trades industry to grow and prosper for another century. It focuses on improving the coordination of activities between the Locals, the International Union, and IMI, expanding work opportunities for members, and implementing new operating goals for Locals and the International Union that are targeted to improving member services.
Central to this strategic plan is the recognition that every BAC member is an important part of the Union’s proud history and bright future. For more than 100 years, dedicated members have enabled the Union to weather recessions, depressions, and changes in the political climate that have not always been hospitable to organized labor. As a result of their contributions, today BAC continues to provide members with superior services and representation.
The BAC has recently developed the following Code of Conduct and has asked the cooperation of all unions, members and contractors.
BAC Code of Conduct:
A Commitment to Quality, Dependability, and Value
The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers 2005 Convention passed a resolution endorsing the following BAC Code of Conduct:
As a member of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, I will uphold the code of conduct embedded in our Union’s name – IUBAC:
- I will come to work on time prepared to give my employer a fair day’s work for a fair wage, and to work to the highest standards.
- Be Union through and through – loyal to, and respectful of, my brothers and sisters in the trade and the labor movement.
- Work Better because I have received the finest, most comprehensive masonry-trowel trades training in North America.
- Willingly Accept responsibility for the quality of my work and behavior on the job.
- Always be Committed to growing the unionized masonry-trowel trades industry for current and future generations.
The BAC Code of Conduct recognizes that our Union is composed of individuals who represent the best in the masonry-trowel trades industry, as well as in the labor movement. This Code represents a commitment by our Union, members, and signatory contractors to produce work of the highest quality, to be the most productive, to advance our Union’s causes, and to promote the unionized masonry-trowel trades industry.
For BAC members, the Code is a commitment to look out for their fellow members, and to work to the highest standard. It is an acknowledgement that as professional craftworkers they take pride in their work, and that doing less than their best work could jeopardize the work or safety of others on the job.
For BAC signatory contractors, the Code recognizes their responsibility to provide a work environment for craftworkers conducive to producing the highest quality work, productively, by delivering the proper materials and tools on schedule, and by ensuring a safe work environment. Equally as important is their recognition that these craftworkers – BAC members – deserve to be treated with the respect their skills merit.
For BAC officers and leaders, the Code represents an obligation to make sure promises on both sides are kept. This is done by providing members with the best training, by committing to supplying signatory contractors with a quality workforce made up of individuals who understand the important role they play in making sure that projects are completed on time and within budget, by ensuring that members are treated with respect, provided safe working conditions, and paid wages and benefits commensurate with their productivity and the quality work they perform, and by setting the example in adhering to the Code of Conduct.
This Code is a recommitment on the part of our members, signatory contractors, and officers to producing quality work, to creating a dependable workforce, and to adding value to all projects in which they are involved. This commitment has distinguished the unionized masonry-trowel trades industry from the rest for more than 140 years and will continue to do so in the future. Each of the Code statements embodies specific actions toward that end. April 2007.