Dated January 11, 1899
At the eighteenth
annual convention of the American Federation of Labor,
which was held in Kansas City, Missouri in 1898, five
delegates got together to discuss mutual interests. At
that time, December 18, 1898, the International
Brotherhood of Stationary Firemen was born.
The official charter from the AFof L was issued January
11, 1899. Wages averaging seventeen cents an hour, a
twelve-hour day, six-day work week and exhausting
physical labor characterized the working conditions when
the new national organization came into existence.
The original charter from the AFof L limited the trade
jurisdiction to stationary firemen, but in 1919 the
charter was expanded to include oilers and helpers in
the boiler rooms, and reflecting this expanded
jurisdiction, the union was renamed the International
Brotherhood of Stationary Firemen and Oilers. As a
result of a decision of the Railroad Labor Board during
the 1920's, our jurisdiction was further expanded to
include roundhouse and railroad shop laborers.
new trade jurisdiction, the AF of L, on June 24,1931, issued a
new charter including jurisdiction over "boiler firemen, water
tenders, boiler washers, boiler washers helpers, oilers, ash
handlers, coal passers, stoker firemen, stoker helpers,
roundhouse and railroad shop laborers, utility men and
maintenance laborers when employed in and around the boiler and
In order to reflect these changes, the name of the organization
was again changed to International Brotherhood of Firemen,
Oilers, Helpers, Roundhouse and Railway Shop Laborers.
We rarely had to resort to strikes to win concessions from
employers, but the 1922 railroad shopmen’s strike, in which we
participated, was disastrous to our organization. When the
strike as officially over, we had lost nearly three-quarters of
our membership. The nation was plagued with a severe economic
depression, but with an expanded jurisdiction, plus favorable
labor legislation during the New Deal years, together with
dogged determination on the part of the International officers
and members, the direction of our organization was reversed and
membership began to rise and by 1950 was at a peak following
World War II.
As a result of technological changes which began to occur at
that time, membership began a slow decline. One of the chief
factors was the introduction of the diesel-electric locomotive
to replace steam locomotives. This, together with increased
substitution of oil and gas for coal in the power plants and the
trend toward automation, was the cause of the decline in
Our union, however, intensified its efforts to organize the
unorganized. Because of the "no raiding" provisions in the
AFL-CIO Constitution, we were obliged to focus on unorganized
workers in our craft and class. Concentrating on schools,
hospitals and public employees, as well as the commercial field,
we were quite successful. We now represent employees in the
private and public sector including breweries, hospitals, candy,
canning, department stores, hotels, boiler rooms, chemicals,
plastics, power companies, cold storage, school boards, paper
industry, distilleries, gas industry, tobacco industry,
government service shipyards, sanitary districts, transit
companies, housing, school employees such as skilled and
semiskilled trades workers.
At the 1956 International Convention, action was taken to change
the name of the organization officially to what was being used
by custom and practice and we then became the International
Brotherhood of Firemen and Oilers.
SPECIAL CONVENTION ON SEIU AFFILIATION
Our Union has represented its
members ably. We valued our freedom to control the decisions that affect our
members locally and we wanted to continue to do so. Therefore, with the guidance
of our International Executive Board, our leadership believed our Union would
benefit from the service, security and solidarity which would be derived from
affiliation with a larger union and the union considered to best fit our needs
was the Service Employees International Union, better known as SEIU. Thus, we
became the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, SEIU.
This affiliation agreement made by the Service Employees International Union and
the International Brotherhood of Firemen and Oilers sets forth the purpose of
joining these two labor organizations and was the result of a special convention
held on November 20, 1994 in Washington, D.C. The affiliation agreement became
effective February 1, 1995.
The benefits of affiliation are many. For example, SEIU maintains a large and
skilled staff and has developed relationships with many types of consultants to
provide services to the locals of SEIU which SEIU makes available to NCFO. These
services include education and training, legal services, research, help with
local union administration, support in developing bargaining campaigns, work
site safety and health concerns, public relations, information and printed
materials, help in developing political programs, membership benefits programs,
help with health insurance and staff assistance to help out during extraordinary
times when unexpected problems or opportunities arise.
Effective July 1, 2008, a new era began for NCFO: the
conference itself becoming a district of a large, fast-growing, innovative and
multi-state affiliate of SEIU, Local 32BJ. At the same time, some public sector
NCFO locals merged directly into larger SEIU public sector locals in order to
strengthen representation and the political clout public workers need.
Remaining NCFO locals became chapters of the new NCFO District, Local 32BJ, SEIU,
led by President George Francisco and Secretary-Treasurer John Thacker.
The new streamlined structure immediately served to
involve NCFO in exciting new organizing efforts, provided expanded resources for
training and allowed even sharper focus on the core mission of providing the
best possible representation for NCFO members.
A stationary fireman at work