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Catherwood Library

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Question of the Month

From the Catherwood Library reference librarians

September 2001

PLEASE NOTE: The Reference Question of the Month is kept current only during the month for which it was written. Archived questions will not be updated, and over time may contain inaccurate information or broken web links. We provide archived questions as a service, since much of the information will remain accurate and of continued interest to the ILR community.

Question: I am trying to identify an old labor union with the initials "U.B.F.C. & S.D.W." These initials were found on an antique metal tray, along with the words "union made" and "AF of L." Can you tell me what the initials stand for and how old the tray is?

Answer: The initials stand for (International Union of) United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink & Distillery Workers of America, commonly referred to as the UBW. According to Labor Unions, edited by Gary M. Fink, the union was founded in 1886 under the name, Brewery Workers National Union. It became affiliated with the American Federation of Labor the following year. Also in 1887, the members decided that the union would be open to all persons employed in breweries, regardless of craft. Again according to Fink, this decision made the United Brewery Workers the "first real industrial union in the organized labor movement in the United States" (39).

The Catherwood Library has Proceedings of the union from 1886-1973.

The first years of the proceedings were entirely in German, followed by years when they were produced in German and English. In 1903, the first year for which we have an English version of the proceedings, the title of the union was International Union of United Brewery Workmen of America. This name continued through the 19th convention in 1912. By 1917, the union called itself (International Union of) United Brewery and Soft Drink Workers of America.

The name, International Union of United Brewery, Flour Cereal and Soft Drink Workers of America, first appeared in the proceedings of the 1920 convention, but the emblem reproduced in those proceedings contained the complete name of the union and did not include "A. F. of L." or "union made".

The emblem below, which corresponds with your description of the one on your tray, appeared on the cover of the 1923 proceedings.

If your tray has this rectangular emblem, it was probably produced after 1920

According to Labor Unions, the union suffered a set back from which it never fully recovered with the commencement of Prohibition in 1920. In addition, years of jurisdictional battles with the then A. F. of L.-affiliated International Brotherhood of Teamsters further eroded its strength. The 1939 proceedings contain documentation of protests to the A. F. of L. regarding infringement on the use of the Brewery Workers' label by the Teamsters. A. F. of L. President William Green, however, did not support the U. B. F. C. &S. D. W. in their dispute with the Teamsters. In 1941, the Brewery Workers were suspended from the A. F. of L. and, the "Affl. with A. F. of L" was dropped from the emblem by the 1942 proceedings.

Therefore, your tray was produced before 1942.

The United Brewery Workers continued to compete with the Teamsters. By 1947, this rivalry had become extremely acrimonious and its manifestation as the "Pittsburgh Beer War" was the subject of a Congressional hearing.

The union affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations in 1946 and, at that time, became known as the International Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink, and Distillery Workers of America. Later, it became part of the AFL-CIO. Its strength continued to be eroded by "raids" on its jurisdiction. Changes in the industry, especially the closing of many local breweries, caused the UBW leadership to look for ways to gain bargaining and organizing power. At a special convention held in 1973, the delegates voted to merge with their old enemy, the Teamsters. The UBW leadership recognized that the jurisdictional battles were consuming valuable resources and that the workers in the industry would be better served by a merger with the more powerful Teamsters.

The U. B. F. C. & S. D. W. is now the Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference of the United Brotherhood of Teamsters.

For More Information About This Union

Union Publications

  • Schluter, Hemann. The Brewing Industry and the Brewery Workers' Movement in America. Cincinnati, Ohio: International Union of United Brewery Workmen of America, 1910
    ILR HD 6515 B75 S3
  • International Union of United Brewery Workmen of America. Local Union no. 17. Silbernes Jubilaum, 1886-1911. Cleveland, Ohio: Brewery Workers Local Union No. 17, 1911?
    ILR HD 6515 B72 O37 1911 (in German)
  • Mauer, Fleisher & Associates, Inc., Washington, D. C.. Union with a heart: International Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink, and Distillery Workers of America. Cincinnati? 1961
    ILR HD 6515 B75 M45

Union Periodicals

  • The Brewery Worker. Cincinnati: International Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink, and Distillery Workers of America
    ILR Film 2112 (1886-1949)
  • The Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Malt, Yeast, Soft Drink, and Distillery Worker. Cincinnati: International Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Malt, Yeast, Soft Drink, and Distillery Workers of America
    Film 2112 (1949-1973)
  • International Union of Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink, and Distillery Workers of America. On Tap. Brooklyn, N.Y. : International Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, and Soft Drink Workers of America
    ILR HD 6515 B72 N5 v. 2-4 (1951-1953)
  • New York Brewery Worker. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Brewery Workers Local 3, I.B. or T.
    ILR 6515 L6 N53 v. 1-19 (1963-1976)

Union Proceedings

  • International Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink and Distillery Workers of America. Proceedings [of the} Convention. Cincinnati.
  • ILR HD 6515 B75 I6 2nd (1887), 5th-6th (1891-1892), 9th-28th (1896-1942)
  • ILR Film 1325-203 and 1325-204 1st-2nd (1886-1887), 4th-28th (1889-1942), "Special Convention" (1888)
  • International Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink, and Distillery Workers of America. Convention Proceedings. {Cincinnati, Ohio?}: The Union.
  • HD 6515 B75 I6 29th-40th (1946-1971) and "Special Convention" (1973)
  • International Union of United Brewery, Flour, Cereal, Soft Drink, and Distillery Workers of America. Report of International President to the Delegates of the Convention. {Cincinnati}
  • ILR HD 6515 B75 I612 34th-35th (1956, 1959), 39th-40th (1968, 1971)
  • Fiche ALU H5.6 34th-36th, 39th-40th (1956-1961, 1968-1971)
  • Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference of the United States and Canada, Phoenix, 1977. Conference Convention, Executive Board minutes, General Sessions. Phoenix: Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 1977.
    ILR HD 6515 L77 B84

Other Resources

  • Fink, Gary M., ed. Labor Unions. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1977
    ILR Reference Office HD 6508 L24
  • United States. Congress. House. Committee on Education and Labor. The Pittsburgh Beer War. Hearings before the special subcommittee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives, pursuant to H. res. 111 (80th Congress, 1st session). Washington, D. C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1947.

— Researched by Susan LaCette