Local 590 Members Built the Ships
That Propelled Nation to Victory
War may be hell for most people, but for San Francisco's shipyard workers
mobilization always meant work -- and lots of it.
With jurisdiction in the shipyards and along the waterfront, Local 590 members
answered the call when the country needed to build ships.
Chartered with the United Association in 1912, Local 590 was actually founded
as Local 46 of the International Association in 1898.
Not surprisingly, it was founded during the Spanish-American War, when San Francisco's
harbor was booming.
In the early days, Local 46 also represented workers at several breweries in San
Francisco, the Fairmont Hotel and at the powder works in Pinole.
From 1915 through 1920 the country once again mobilized, this time for World War
I. Local 590 prospered, gaining members, better wages and benefits, and for the next
decade enjoyed a relatively trouble-free existence.
Still, Local 590 members didn't forget their UA brothers and sisters suffering
at the hands of the American Plan.
They contributed regularly to the strike coffers, and provided support throughout
the 14 months of the bitter struggle.
They also honored the historic picket line in 1934, supporting the seamen and
longshoremen in the strike, which eventually resulted in the San Francisco General
Naturally, the members of Local 590 suffered during the depressions and recessions
shared by all working men and women, as well as under the onslaught of anti-union
The long, dismal years of the Great Depression were disastrous for many 590 members,
as work in the shipyard fell off, and the waterfront was gripped by the longshoremen's
In 1938, Local 590 had about 200 working members, earning $1 an hour for journeyman
scale and $.75 an hour for helpers. But that was hardly a portent of things to come.
In 1940, the Western Pipe and Steel Company began building cargo ships in South
San Francisco, and as the country mobilized for still another war, other companies
quickly followed suit.
At the height of the World War II shipbuilding boom, Local 590 had 18,000 members,
a figure that makes it to this day the largest local ever to hold a charter with
the United Association.
And their contributions to the national effort were remarkable.
Local 590 members, including several hundred woman members, helped to construct
a total of 825 new ships in the Maritime yards, not counting those built in the Naval
The local had offices in Sausalito, Stockton, Richmond and Oakland, as well as
Finally in 1943, after many years in the Labor Temple, Local 590 purchased the
old Moose Lodge at 1621 Market St.
This building became the headquarters of the newly formed Local 38.
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