Iron Workers Local 27 History

On February 4, 1896 the International Association of Bridge and Structural Ironworkers was established in Pittsburg when 13 independent locals from various major cities met.  Since the 1880’s steel began replacing wood in bridges and on buildings as the major structural member.  Salt Lake City in the 1890’s was no longer just a religious theocracy that maintained itself on the barter system it was now a growing commercial center in the West. The Need for steel and ironworkers to build the early skyscrapers of the city was critical as Salt Lake headed towards the 20th Century.  The independent and self-reliant men who hung iron in 1890’s Utah did not organize into a union until 1901but the dangerous life style for minimal pay, when men had a life expectancy of only seven years once they began the trade, made many realize the need for unity and representation.

On the 27th day or August 1901, Local 27 of the International Association of Bridge and Structural Ironworkers was chartered.  They joined with other trades in the Utah Federation of Labor which was started in 1896.

Local 27 grew and struggled with the new labor movement.  In the 1920’s a rash of anti-union legislation like the American Plan, a law designed to keep wages as low as possible and profits as high as possible, came to the region and slowed work to a dribble. Local 27 stayed barley alive having only seven paid members in 1926 which was the minimum required to hold on to the local’s charter.  This was a major reduction from 1920 when Local 27 had an average of 168 men on the rolls.
The poor economy in the 1920’s and 1930’s especially with many of the workforce from the copper companies out of work made working conditions hard for everyone.  Some of the copper workers would take a job at any wage just to feed their families.  With so little work jurisdictional problems arose between Local 27 and other Building Trades and also between Ironworkers Locals with bordering regions.  The Western District Council of Ironworkers, which broke away from the International and to which Local 27 was affiliated for a short time, was one of the competitors for work in the area.  

The Second World War revitalized the economy and Local 27 by creating work on vital projects for those Ironworkers that did not go the serve the country overseas.
Local 27 continued to grow through the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Some major work came to Local 27 during the 1960’s.  A number of real skyscrapers; including the LDS Church Office Building which was written up in the Ironworkers Magazine as the tallest building in the area.  Other jobs included the Kennecott Building, the Metropolitan Hall of Justice and the National Lead Plant near the Great Salt Lake.  There were numerous projects for Kennecott Copper from 1964 to 1968.  Local 27 had the difficult task of erecting the Salt Palace in 1969 which involved some complicated erection work on the large drum arena.
One of the booms of steel erection took place between 1973 and 1978 fueled by major work at the Kennecott Smelter which involved building a 1200 foot stack.  Other major projects included the University of Utah Hospital, as well as the ZCMI and Crossroads Malls.

The Intermountain Power Plant was the major project of the 1980’s keeping Local 27 busy from 1982 through 1986.  There was some work at Kennecott and the power plants in Emery and Vernal.  In the 1990’s work at Kennecott building the new smelter and precious metals buildings as well as work in Carlin, NV at Newmont Gold kept the Ironworkers busy.  In Salt Lake City, The One Utah Center and the Well Fargo high rises and the LDS Conference Center were being built.

The twenty first century began with work on the infrastructure for the 2002 Olympics and the rebuilding of the I-15 corridor in Salt Lake City.  Later I-80 was redone due to deteriorating conditions.  The Intermountain Healthcare Hospital was completed in Murray, Utah and the City Creek project and 222 South Main high rise were completed in downtown Salt Lake City.

On December 1, 2005 the International merged Local 454, Casper, Wyoming, with Local 27.  This increased Local 27’s jurisdiction to include all of Utah, Elko, White Pine and Eureka counties in Nevada, most of Wyoming and the western portions of South Dakota and Nebraska; an area of approximately 238, 500 square miles.  This merger brought the current membership to 583 and created jobs for Local 27 in powerhouses, mines, industrial plants and commercial projects throughout the new jurisdiction.