The Strike of 1969: A Victory for IAM Local Lodge 609

01 Sep 2009 9:26 PM | Posted by GNHLHA

From Newsletter Volume 5, Number 2

By Jim Hoffecker

On the morning of July 16, 1969, the 3,000 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 609 employed at the Olin Mathieson Winchester Firearms plant in New Haven, CT began a strike over a section of the union-company agreement about work quotas. The strike was described by a New Haven Register reporter as “one of the most serious work stoppages in Connecticut.” 

Section 33.8 of the union-company agreement, also referred to as the “Incentive Plan” by union members, was a provision in the agreement requiring the company to negotiate with the union if it wanted to set work quotas or any standards which might be considered an “abnormal” work pace.  The company wanted to remove this hard-fought protection to maintain its market “competitiveness,” but the union was concerned that arbitrarily imposed work quotas would unfairly target disabled or elderly workers.  During the early summer months of 1969 the company and union were engaged in intense negotiations, but no agreement could be reached.

The community response was mixed. The American Independence Movement (AIM) prepared a statement signed by more than 240 clergymen, merchants and other community leaders which condemned the company’s final offer as “inadequate,” but articles in local New Haven newspapers complained that the strike was costly to the city of New Haven and, at the end, claimed that it was “all too clear that nobody won.”

But in 2004, Joan Cavanagh, Greater New Haven Labor History Association archivist, asked Local 609 president John Reynolds the same question that she asks every union officer when she inventories their records: what was the union's greatest success?  In addition, of course, to its hard-won victory in 1956 (hence the name “Victory Lodge”) in organizing workers at this very difficult plant, Reynolds stated that the Local’s best success was the agreement resulting from the long strike of 1969undefineda contract that included language that protected older and disabled workers from speed-ups. 

The archives of Victory Lodge 609 contain a vast amount of information ranging from arbitrations that dealt with strike issues, minutes of union meetings about the strike, to entire during the strike and document how the company attempted to mislead the public in its newspaper ads. They also document the community’s aid to the striking workers, which was greatly needed due to their significant loss of income. 

The Winchester strike of 1969 as documented by the materials in the Local 609 collection was an event not only of significance to the union, but an important part of New Haven history which should be learned, shared and discussed for generations to come.

Article in the New Haven Register dated September 12, 1969 located in Box 25A

Article, “Strike Swallows Government Funds” October 26, 1970, New Haven Register, Box 25A

Greater New Haven Labor History Association  •  267 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06513 • •

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