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United Steel Workers Great Lakes Seamen Local 5000 - GLMS 50

Introduction | Organizational History | Scope and Content | Series Description | Inventory


This collection was donated to the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes on March 24, 1982. Literary and property rights were transferred to the public. Duplication is permitted for the purposes of conservation and scholarly research.

The processing of this eleven cubic foot collection was completed in August 1992 by Mark J. Barnes.

Organizational History

The founding of the United Steelworkers--Great Lakes Seamen Local 5000 was an event produced by two separate by converging streams in the history of Great Lakes labor history. The inability of such organizations as the National Maritime Union and the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association to successfully counterbalance the efforts of United States Steel Corporation and the Lake Carrier's Association to continue operations of lake fleets with open shop labor practices was a characteristic of labor/managment confrontations throughout the first half of the twentieth century. In contrast, the United Steelworkers of America had enjoyed more success in organizing union representation for iron miners and steel workers.

With an ability to obtain leverage in disputes with US Steel and LCA that other organizations lacked, the United Steelworkers of America began its organizing campaign in 1951. Strikes could be coordinated for unlicensed crew members of lake fleets along with sympathy strikes by miners and steelworkers to shut down both US Steel and LCA fleet operations.

The United Steelworkers of America became the parent organization for the Great Lakes Seamen's Union and Local 5000 was founded during 1951 in Cleveland, ohio. With this new and vigorous Local in the city where LCA maintained its headquarters, the Great Lakes Seamen began negotiating contracts with the threat of widespread industry-wide strikes to back their position. The Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation was the first LCA member to negotiate a contract with the new union. US Steel remained the major target for new contract agreements because of its dominant position among lake fleets and its control over LCA.

By 1956 the development of negotiated contracts with other LCA members and the steelworkers strike of that summer brought US Steel to the bargaining table. In September 1956 US Steel began negotiations with the marine Engineers Beneficial Association. Contracts with other maritime unions including the Great Lakes Seamen followed.

Files in this collection reflect the growth of Local 5000 since the 1950s. Contracts are now negotiated with such shipping lines as the Great Lakes Fleet Division of US Steel, transportation divisions of Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Inland Steel Company, Wisconsin Steel Company, Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, Oglebay Norton Company's Columbia Transportation Dvision, Hanna Mining Company, and the Interlake Steamship Company.

The significance of the role that Local 5000 came to play in labor relations for Great Lakes Maritime crews can be examined through a contrast between the sense of isolation many unlicensed crew members felt in the pre-World War II era in signing contracts to work in open shop fleets and the advice given in the newsletter The Great Lakes Sailor that stated in bold face: "WHEN IN DOUBT, ALWAYS FILE A GRIEVANCE."

Scope and Content

This collection contains files acquired and created by the United Steel Workers--Great Lakes Seamen's Local 5000 office in Cleveland, Ohio. The eleven cubic feet of files span the years 1937-1981. Most files represent interests of the members of Local 5000 after 1960.

A relatively small portion of the administrative records of Local 5000 are present. Scattered sets of meeting minutes appear along with membership correspondence files. Financial records cover the years from 1953-1962.

The collection documents organizing elections held for the Great Lakes transportation companies that employed members of the Great Lakes Seamen's Union. Elections held to establish union representation for workers on the fleets of the Interlake Steamship Company, the Shenango Furnace company and the US Steel Corporation are several of those covered by Local 5000 files. These election files are found in the series on subject correspondence under company names.

The series of Contracts and Agreements forms a useful component of the collection for examining the terms of employment negotiated by labor and management. The years from 1937 to 1980 are covered. Most items are from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Series Description


1955, 1970, 1974, n.d.
2 file folders
Arranged chronologically
Series contains an undated copy of the constitution for the Lake Sailor's Union and copies of the bylaws from 1955, 1970 and 1974 for Great Lakes Seamen's Locals 1104, 5000, and 7000.

1966, 1969, 1971, 1972-3, 1975-1976, 1977 (scattered)
2 cubic feet
Arranged by Local, then alphabetically
Series contains copies of minutes from various sources compiled at the office of Local 5000 of the Great Lakes Seamen's Union. Included in part are Executive Board minutes (August 1972, April-June 1974, August 1979), Civil Rights Committee minutes (1972-1973, 1976), Coast Guard 9th District meeting minutes (April-May 9166), minutes of meetings between Union representatives and the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company (August, December 1977), Winter Meeting minutes (1969, 1971, 1975-1976) and Colulmbia Transportation Company's minutes for meetings of Masters and Chief Engineers (March 1975). Arrangement is first by minutes related to Local 5000 in an alphabetical order. Following these minutes is a second alphabetical grouping for minutes from sources outside Local 5000.


0.5 cubic feet
Arranged chronologically
Series contains correspondence regarding membership in Local 5000.

1946, 1952-1981
6 cubic feet
Arranged alphabetically
Series contains a subject file maintained at the office of Local 5000 in Cleveland, Ohio for the years 1946, 1952-1981. Among the more extensive files are those regarding the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, the Canadian Maritime Union, Civil Rights, the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, the Coast Guard, the Columbia Transportation Company, Fleet Negotiations, Float Opportunities, House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Subcommittee, Independent Fleet Negotiations, Interlake Steamship Company, International Harvester Company, the Maritime Committee of the AFL-CIO, the Lcoal 5000 Newsletter, the Pickands-Mather Company, Safety Issues, the Shenango Furnace Company, US Steel Corporation, the Wilson Marine Transit Company, and Winter Navigation.


1955-1957, 1967, 1969
0.25 cubic feet
Arranged alphabetically
Series contains copies of reports compiled by the National Labor Relations Board regarding organizing elections to unionize positions with the lake fleets of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, Columbia Transportation company, the Great Lakes Steamship Company, the Pickands-Mather Company, and the Tomlinson Fleet Corporation, 1955-1957, 1967, 1969.

April-May 1969
0.25 cubic feet
Arranged alphabetically by company fleet, then chronologically
Series contains reports filed daily by captains of lake vessels to note their location in route to their destination. Reports for the period April-May 1969 are present for fleets of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, the Hanna Mining Company, the US Steel Corporation, and the Wilson Marine Transit Company.

January-September 1973
2 file folders
Arranged chronologically
Series contains the Activities Log of the Union Lodge Secretary for Local 5000.

0.5 cubic feet
Arranged alphabetically
Series contains reports compiled from various sources and retained at the Local 5000 office in Cleveland, Ohio.


1937-1980 (scattered dates)
2 cubic feet
Arranegd alphabetically by company, then chronologically
Series contains contracts and agreements between marine transportation companies and unions representing the lake fleet crews. Of particular interest are files on the Boland and Cornelius Company (1953-1968), the International Harvester Company (1953-1971), the Republic Steel Corporation (1955-1968), and the US Steel Corporation (1954-1977).

1962, 1971, 1980
3 file folders
Arranged chronologically
Series contains formal decisions from grievance claims hearings.


0.5 cubic feet
Arranged chronologically
Series contains ledger books used to maintain account records for members of Local 5000.

0.2 cubic feet
Arranged chronologically
Series contains ledgers used to record payments made by the Treasurer of Local 5000 to cover operating expenses for the Local's office.

1 file folder
Arranged by item
Series contains a financial report for Local 5000 from 1968.

0.1 cubic feet
Arranged chronologically
Series contains reports detailing the expenses for operating the Columbia fleet. Included also are lists of licensed officers and stewards employed by Columbia.


0.2 cubic feet
Arranged chronologically
Series contains a clippings file maintained by Local 5000 members regarding issues of concern to lake boat crews.


Box 1


1-2. Constitution and Bylaws, 1955, 1970, 1974
3. Minutes--Civil Rights Committee, 1972-1973, 1976
4-6. Minutes--Coast Guard, 9th District, April 7 and May 11, 1966
7-8. Minutes--Executive Board, August 1972, April-June 1974, August 1975
9. Minutes--Interim Executive Committee, 1972-1973
10. Minutes--Membership Meeting, February 13, 1978
11. Minutes--Monthly Meetings, August-September 1978
12. Minutes--Mutual Study Committee, 1976-1978
13. Minutes--Step III Meetings with Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, August 7 and December 16, 1977
14-16. Minutes--Winter Meetings, 1969, 1971, 1975-1976
17. Minutes--Canadian Maritime Union 3rd Biennial Convention, February 1967
18-19. Minutes--Columbia Transportation Company Joint Meeting of Masters and Chief Engineers, March 24-25, 1975
20. Membership--Certificate of Affiliation for Local 5000 from the AFL-CIO, January 1, 1960
21-41. Membership--Correspondence, 1962-1963

Box 2: Folders 1-44--Subject Correspondence, A-Cl, 1952-1979

Box 3: Folders 1-51--Subject Correspondence, Co-G, 1952-1980

Box 4: Folders 1-49--Subject Correspondence, H-L, 1946-1979

Box 5: Folders 1-60--Subject Correspondence, M-Newsletter, 1952-1981

Box 6: Folders 1-43--Subject Correspondence, Newspaper-Sa, 1952-1979

Box 7: Folders 1-66--Subject Correspondence, Sc-W, 1952-1981

Box 8


1-11. National Labor Relations Board, 1955-1967
12-16. Vessel Location, April-May 1969
17-18. Activities Log of Union Lodge Secretary, January-September 1973
19-38. Other Reports, B-W, 1945-1985

Box 9:

Folders 1-40--Contracts and Agreements, A-International Harvester to 1964, 1937-1980

Box 10:

Folders 1-32--Contracts and Agreements, International Harvester 1965-Wilson Marine Transit Company, 1954-1980

Box 11


1-7. Record of Initiation Fees, Dues, and Assessments for Local 5000, 1953-1962
8-10. Treasurer's Cash Book for Local 5000, 1953-1962
11. Local 5000 Financial Report, 1968
12-13. Columbia Transportation Company Operations Expense Reports, 1974-1977
14-16. Newsclippings, 1965-1981

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