Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

S. J. Folmsbee

Committee Members

Charles W. Johnson, Charles O. Jackson


This thesis is a study of the contributions of Local 309 United Steelworkers of America, Alcoa, Tennessee, to the labor movement of Tennessee and the South. The Local came into being during the early years of the New Deal and it played a significant role in the struggle between the American Federation of Labor and the newly organized Congress of Industrial Organization during the late 1930's. During this period the C.I.O. local was successful in its campaign against the A.F.L. and the independent Aluminum Employees Association, a company-supported organization, to become exclusive bargaining agent for the Alcoa employees.

In the years immediately following this victory the activities of the Local were influenced by World War II. As did most labor unions, the Alcoa workers cooperated with management and government in the war effort. Therefore, the years between 1942 and 1945 were generally quiet. However, two important events took place as far as the Alcoa employees were concerned. The Alcoa aluminum workers played a significant role in bringing about the merger of the Aluminum Workers of America with the United Steelworkers of America, and the new organization was successful in repelling a challenge by the United Mineworkers to become the bargaining agent for the Alcoa employees.

Shortly after Local 309's victory over the United Mineworkers, World War II came to an end, and between 1945 and 1950 the Alcoa local was involved in numerous strikes in an attempt to achieve a higher standard of living for its members. During the 1950's and 1960's there were few strikes at Alcoa, but the union continued to gain valuable benefits for its members through collective bargaining.

As a result of the successful efforts of Local 309 the industrial labor movement was firmly established in East Tennessee. Prior to its formation most organized labor in the area was for skilled workers only. Local 309's success has not only been an example for others but through its efforts additional industrial unions have been organized, and it has given valuable assistance to several unions on numerous occasions.

In addition to providing leadership for the establishment of industrial unionism, Local 309 has paved the way in the struggle for equal pay for southern workers. By gaining equal pay for its members it destroyed the theory that southern laborers should receive less wages for their work than their northern counterparts.

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