CONSTRUCTION & GENERAL
LABORERS’ LOCAL UNION # 264
June 20, 1907 – June 20, 2007
100 YEAR ANNIVERSARY
On June 20, 1907 Construction and General Laborers’ Local Union 264 received its original charter under the following Officers: Barney Yuelkezbeck-President, Anton Weber-Vice President, R. E. Troutman-Recording Secretary, John C. Barnes-Financial Secretary, John Schaumaier-Secretary/Treasurer, Louis Griendl-Sergeant at Arms, and Mike Schoeberl-Guard. We can only surmise the reasons these men banded together to form what was in its infancy this union. History tells us that before Laborers International Union of North America was born in 1903 then known to all as The International Hod Carriers and Building Laborers’ Union, men worked sixty to seventy hour weeks for one dollar or less per day. The work was dangerous and strenuous, although it is the same today we have measures in place to protect the laborer, then over one hundred years ago there were none. We also know that the machines and tools used in this trade today were just an unrealized vision of many men. All work was performed by hand and every muscle in the bodies of these brave hardworking men was put to the test. Digging graves, burrowing tunnels, carrying hod on shoulders, going down in holes 30 feet in depth without shored up walls, scaling buildings without the security of safety harnesses, pouring and mixing concrete and paving materials with just the strength of their bodies. These men worked from before sunrise to long after sunset just to provide for their families, so many of them losing their lives and so many families losing the only income source they had without insurance, retirement or death benefits. To many the laborer was considered unskilled, uneducated and believe it or not unnecessary, this was the man who without a project could not begin or end. As we see the landscape of this city and the surrounding area grow and change let us reflect that it would not have been accomplished without the Laborer, this highly underpaid and under appreciated individual.
The home of Local Union 264, just like the landscape of Kansas City has changed over this last 100 years. In 1907 this local was housed at 14th & Woodland and it remained our home until 1945. During this time the members of this union were witness to World Wars I and II, many of them leaving their families to serve their country to secure the freedoms we have. Lake City Ammunitions Plant in Independence Missouri was built and renovated by members of Local 264 to produce military supplies and small ammunition for the American soldiers of World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The Bendix Plant in southern Kansas City Missouri built and established in the 1940’s was yet another plant the Laborers of Local Union No. 264 took pride in building and renovating for the security of our country.
Local Union No. 264 and her membership survived the Great Depression of 1929, during which previously negotiated wages were either frozen or reduced to maintain the gains organized labor had achieved for thousands of working men. Laborers as much as most of Americans came back fighting and building after the depression and begin to see gains such as a wage scale of $ .85 per hour in the year 1942. During this era in history Kansas City became home to the Jackson County Courthouse built in July of 1933, its stone structure tended by the members of International Hod Carriers and Building Common Laborers’ Local Union 264. Among a few of the other projects manned by the Laborers of Local 264 during her 100 year history were the Power and Light Building, Municipal Auditorium, the concrete paving of Brush Creek, Kansas City, City Hall, Bellerive Hotel, Richard Gebaurs Air Force Base, Bartle Hall, KCI International Airport, Crown Center, The Nelson Art Gallery, Hyatt Regency Crown Center, AT & T Town Pavilion, One Kansas City Place, St. Luke’s Hospital, Truman Medical East, University of Missouri Kansas City, Union Station, Sibley and Hawthorne Power Plants, Ford Claycomo Plant and many others. Residential construction was also a large portion of the work performed by Laborers of Local Union 264 with housing projects such as Sheraton Estates and Vineyard Gardens. Let us just say it is a fair assumption that the building of Kansas City over the last 100 years is synonymous with the Laborers of Local Union 264.
As the city continued to grow and expand in all directions, the membership of our great Local Union also began to grow. A larger facility was required to carry on the daily business of running a thriving union and serve the needs of its growing membership. The purchase of the building at 3 East Armour Boulevard Kansas City Missouri in the year 1945 would now become home to the Laborers of Local Union 264. During this period of history many of the previously mentioned projects were either started or completed. It was not in the least surprising to see forty to eighty or more laborers on one project. Projects such as Standard Oil in Sugar Creek-Independence Missouri could boast employing fifty laborers just to dig ditches for piping so the oil this country had begun to depend on could be refined for transport. This was during a period in time when gas was twenty five cents a gallon and union dues were three dollars a quarter.
Wars and the depression have come and gone and the Laborers' International Union of North America, AFL-CIO and its subordinate Local Unions along with the rest of the Building Trades world must now become subject to the ever changing laws of our Federal Government and their Union overseers the U. S. Department of Labor, Division of Office and Labor Management Standards, with the LMRDA of 1959. Union Officials and members having fought long and hard for the rights, privileges and benefits, would now become subject to Government watch dogs whose jobs was to keep Union Officials in tow and insure accountability. Mind you this was and still is a great institution for the Union member to insure accountability of the Union Officials and to assist newly appointed or elected Officials in proper union representation, but just as anything an entity involves itself in without proper knowledge it has the tendency to cause its own share of problems. This newly formed system of accountability also ushered in laws which restrict methods of organizing and fair representation.
Laborers' International Union of North America and especially Laborers’ Local Union 264 having always been racially diverse in its members would now in the 1960’s with the rise and apex of the civil rights movement become even more racially diverse. This would usher in times of African Americans in leadership positions within the Union, even in unions where African Americans were in the minority, such as Local Union 264. Brother Fred Reagan became the first African American Secretary/Treasurer for Laborers’ Local Union 264 and in the Western Missouri and Kansas Laborers’ District Council then subsequently becoming the first African American Business Manager for the Local and also in the W.M.K.L.D.C.
We suffered through the strikes in the 1970’s while fighting for increased wages and better benefits for ourselves and our families. We sustained the recession of the 1980’s where jobs in Kansas City and the surrounding area were scarce to none. Watching our membership drop to low seven hundreds from over fifteen hundred Brothers and Sisters to freezing wages to maintain the little work we had and hold fast to health benefits and pensions. Yes, as we take this trip down 100 years of memory lane we can say we have seen it all at one time or another. The Good, the Bad and the down harsh times life has to offer.
With ever changing technology came the need for the Laborers industry to keep pace with the rest of the world. In 1976 leaders in the Western Missouri & Kansas Laborers’ District Council implemented a Training program. With the start of this program the diversity continued and Local Union 264 has boasted a female membership of over 200 women in the past 30 years. As our membership increased in size and knowledge and wage rates the need for a lower scale Laborer on projects was required for our signatory contractors to maintain competitiveness and insure continued work for our membership. The Apprenticeship program was established in 1987. The Business Managers of the Western Missouri & Kansas Laborers District Council and management came together and the “Construction Craft Laborer” was born, an apprentice to the Journeyperson Laborer. With a state of the art training facility located in Kansas City Kansas training for the work jurisdiction of the laborer is taught daily to apprentices and journeypersons alike.
By the 1990’s and the ushering in of the 21st century Local Union 264 began to rebound, work picked up tremendously and ole Kansas City was in a rebuilding phase, a phase that is still strong now in 2007. Once again the home of the Laborers had become to small to accommodate it’s growing membership and increased responsibility to the members. So in 1995 a serious search was started to move Local Union 264 to bigger and better places. Our new home was found on the property of the old Lakeside Hospital campus by Les Williams and Lonnie Livingston, Secretary/Treasurer of Local 264 at that time. Then the two of them together with Charlie Jones, Business Manager of Local 264 at time presented this opportunity to the membership. There on that property at 1101 East 87th Street Kansas City Missouri, Local Union 264 purchased and renovated the building to serve as home for the Union. In January of 1997 the move was underway and within less than one year the officers and staff had settled in and the job of representing the members continued without a hitch. Under the current leadership of Les Williams, President-Business Manager and the second African American to hold this position in Local Union 264 history, we now are enjoying the fruits of multi-hundred million dollars projects such as the New IRS Building, Sprint Arena, KCPL Light District, the new Federal Reserve, St. Luke’s Hospital renovations, Ford Claycomo Plant renovations and upgrades, Iatan Power Plant, ongoing work at Hawthorne Power Plant, Sibley Power Plant, hotels, restaurants, fire stations, schools, universities and much more.
As we look back over the last 100 years of history, we do so with pride. Pride in our accomplishments, pride in those who worked hard to pave the way for the fruits of labor we enjoy today, pride in a Local Union 100 years young and still growing strong.
Thanks to all the men and women who have worked so diligently to make Construction and General Laborers’ Local Union No. 264 the grand Union it is today. Thanks to all of them who understood the “U” in Union is you. Also to quote Brother Earl Parish “A good Laborer is worth more than any skilled craft, because a skilled craftsman only knows one thing, the Laborer has to know it all”.