In 1939 Local 46 was the host to Lathers International Convention.
Walter Matthews, Business Manager at the time even rented out the #7 train
and took all the Delegates and their families to the World’s Fair.
The following History was presented to all the attendees.

History of Local 46

The early origin and history of the first existence of Local 46 has its greatest assets the high caliber and character of its early members. This has probably been the paramount factor in its struggle from a small and obscure beginning to its present strength and importance in the labor world.

Prior to the 1st meeting in 1896 from which later developed the Metallic Lathers’ Union, the original members worked in New York City in different labor associations and societies. There were the wood lathers, structural ironworkers with the title of bridge-man and house-smith and others who were members of employers’ associations or their own small labor or benevolent societies, independent shops, such as Roeblings shop or as independent mechanics.

The instigator of the first meeting was John Brown, who at the time, worked as a metal lather for his brother who was a contractor. Brown combed New York City and distributed pamphlets to all of the men working at the trade of metal furring and lathering, expanded metal floor arches and other reinforced steel work, which was just coming into building construction work in those days. The meeting at which about 75 attended, was held on a Sunday afternoon early in the year of 1896 at 110 Third Avenue, New York City.

Due credit must be given to John Brown who was really the originator of the idea of organizing a genuine union. Some of the old timers, many of whom are gone to the Great Beyond, as remembered by Leonard Klink or John Schenk, Hen Hannagan, Joe Farral, Mike Noonan, Mike McBride, Ben Burns, John Nagegast, the Gunshine Bros. Joe Steffani, George Kruegar, Relyea Bros., Pat Powers, Jimmy O’Neil, Frank Ford, Jack Perry sr., Terry Bros., Bill Ness, Frank Day, Hen Pafu, Harry S. Nedicker, Pete McGowan, Owen Bros., John Bell, Harry Brandt, George Kenagee, Charlie Scammel, Jim Devlin, Stanley Woods, Terry Ford, Jack Taggart and Mike Harrington.

There were a host of others whose names have faded in the dime and distant past, most of those mentioned were wood lathers and all were good union men, such as present Joe Steffani, Jimmie Gunshine, Terry Ford and the famous Jack Taggart himself. There was a society of metal lathers at the meeting who had been unable to secure admission to the wood lathers’ union because they were not wood lathers. The first president was George Kruger and the first Business Agent was Shorty Morseman. The Knights of Labor granted the first charter to the union, which was before the days of the A.F. of L. This charter was held for a year or so, when the structural ironworkers, known as the Bridge-men and House-smiths, who were a powerful organization in those days, struck every job the new union were working on and put the original union out of existence. The members were compelled to join the ironworkers and pay an entrance fee of ten dollars. But the boys of the defunct lathers made it so hot on the floor of the ironworkers’ meetings, that they finally told the lathers to get the hell out and reorganize their own union as a branch of the ironworkers, which happened and the lathers were a branch of the ironworkers from the Fall of 1897 until about 1905. During which the brave, fearless and honest Jack Taggart was elected Delegate, and as we all know, served the Union faithfully till his death in 1924.

There was a lockout of Metal Lathers in 1901 or 1902 by the Roebling Construction Co. The lathers were beginning to show their strength about the time and were looking for money and better conditions. After a fight of about 5 months the union won. Although during the strike period some sheet metal workers scabbed on the union and some of our own scabby members backslid and worked with the sheet metal workers educating them on how to do furring and metal lathing.

Everything was peaceful and quiet until April 1903 when all of the building trades were locked out for refusing to sign a bill of arbitration, which took the right to strike away from the trade unionists. Fro 52 weeks the stalwart members of the union movement tightened their belts and walked the streets rather than yield to this rank injustice. Local 46 was fortunate in having Jack Taggart to represent them, although they lost and were compelled to join what they called at that time the Little Blades of Grass, a scab union organization, they got rid of their delegate, who by the way was Red Daniels, famous strikebreaker of the day. The executive board was put out of business and Eddie Murphy was elected business agent for a short time, when the boys put Jack Taggart back on the road and secured a charter from the newly formed Wood, Wire and Metal Lathers International Union, with which Local 46 worked harmoniously with the exception of a dispute in 1916, when 46 dropped out for a year and went back.

During the early period, steel reinforcing of concrete was developing and expanding and as Roebling and others shops of the day were using expanded metal and various types of reinforcing for floor arches, the membership of Local 46 developed and grew with this type of construction.

Before the present age for specialization, all types of material used in connection with this work was assembled of made on the site of the work, such as clips, spirals, floor mesh or the equivalent of roll out wire, the pre-fabrication of material being entirely unknown. In fact, lathers did all the work; even form work and supervision of concrete.

All through the years Local 46 has been outstanding in its help to the labor movement and has always aided and endeavored to help others secure their own rights.

(The above was taken from the journal of the 18th International Convention of the Wood, Wire, and Metal Lathers’ International Union of the U.S. and Canada -- September 1939)

Kindly submitted by William Hohlfeld