UAW Local 848

Local 848 Has Deep and Strong Roots

Dallas County Treasurer Joe Wells speaks with Local 848 retiree Dan McGrew

Local 848 Has Deep and Strong Roots

Because 2013 marks the 70th year of our union local, the retirees invited Dallas County Treasurer Joe Wells to speak about the beginnings of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in Texas. Wells got a little history lesson of his own before the meeting when he spoke with 96-year-old Dan McGrew of Local 848. McGrew started working at the Texas Engineering & Manufacturing Company (Temco) in 1948, the same year that Wells was born.

McGrew told Wells that he went to the tool crib on his first day at work, and was signed up for UAW Local 390 at Temco. He recounted how Bob McCullough, the plant manager at North American Aviation, a division of General Motors which built the Jefferson facility during World War II, had raised money from Dallas banks to re-open the eastern half of the plant under the Temco name. Temco employees still hold meetings and remember McCullough fondly.

McGrew kept his job through the Temco period and stayed as it joined other companies to form Ling-Temco-Vought, then LTV. Local 390 merged with Local 893 at Vought (the west side of the Jefferson facility) to form Local 848 in 1962. Most of our retirees, and some of our active members, know the rest of that story.

However, not many people alive today can recount how it all began. That’s why Joe Wells is important. Wells has the complete story about how the CIO, initially formed in 1935, finally came to Texas in 1941. Joe’s father, Nat Wells, was a new lawyer in 1937 when the Supreme Court found the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 to be constitutional. Wells went to work for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Fort Worth right away.

Some of the cases he handled concerned the CIO’s Hat and Millinery workers, who were trying to organize in the big garment industry of Dallas. Hoodlums, in collusion with the Dallas police and the Dallas Morning News, used rough, often illegal tactics to stop them. In one instance, the hoodlums ripped clothing off the union women and allowed the newspaper photographers to take their pictures. Other union people were beaten or jailed. Joe Wells told 848’s retirees that the Chamber of Commerce, the police, and the Dallas Morning news had instituted a “reign of terror” for union people in Dallas!

An officer of the Hat and Millinery workers, George Baer, lost an eye when he was assaulted by goons. What Wells’ investigations eventually revealed was that the goons had come from the Ford Motor Company in East Dallas. Henry Ford had hired a thug named Harry Bennett to head his “Service Department.” Their “service” was to spy on Ford employees within the plants, then beat them up outside the plant. “inside” and “outside” teams worked together. In Dallas, fifteen hoodlums were employed in this unsavory business. Blackjacks and whips made of electrical wire were manufactured inside the East Dallas plant. They hooliganized and beat at least fifty people, and killed at least one, to keep the CIO out of Dallas.

The Ford anti-union program was so successful in Dallas that, eventually, the hoodlums had little or nothing to do. They idled around and, in a few cases, pilfered auto parts from Ford. Ford fired them, and two of them, “Fats” Perry and Jim Longley, traveled to Detroit to ask Harry Bennett to insure their “jobs.” They failed at that, and there is some evidence that Bennett planned to have at least one of them killed.

Ford made a big mistake when they treated their hoodlums the same way they treated other employees. The two hoodlums went to Nat Wells and the NLRB seeking to be reinstated or to draw back wages. In the course of their testimony, Wells established the entire story of Ford’s hooliganism and the collusion of Dallas police and the Dallas Morning news. They established a direct link to management. Other lawsuits in other cities had revealed much of the nationwide story, but only the Dallas suit could prove a direct link between the hooligans and Ford management. The NLRB ruled, in 1940, that the Ford Motor Company was guilty of breaking labor law and the entire Ford company, the last holdout in the auto industry, was organized by the UAW under court order in 1941.

Ford workers from East Dallas soon made their way to Grand Prairie and organized Local 645 at North American, which lasted until the end of World War II and was replaced by Local 390 at Temco and Local 893 at Vought. The rest is history, your history!

--Gene Lantz


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