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Southern Labor Archives: W. J. Usery, Jr.: Career Highlights

Career Highlights

International Association of Machinists, 1952 - 1969
  • Participated in the International Association of Machinists from 1952 until 1969
  • Helped open an IAM Lodge at the Armstrong Cork Company in Macon, GA (Lodge 931), appointed president, and shortly thereafter, the lodge was decertified due to strong opposition by management
  • Was made temporary President of the State Council of the IAM, stepped down when made a full union official
  • Sent to Marietta, GA as a union representative to mediate Lockheed disputes
  • Sent down to Cape Canaveral / Cocoa Beach, FL as a Special IAM Representative to work with the developing missiles program in 1954, was only supposed to stay for a few days but ended up staying until 1969, represented employees of Convair, Lockheed, Boeing, Douglas, and McDonnellGrand Lodge Representative for the International Association of Machinists from 1956 until appointed Assistant Secretary of Labor in 1969

 NASA Space Program, 1961-1968

  • Served as Special International Association of Machinists Representative from 1954 to 1956 for Cape Canaveral Air Force Test Facilities
  • Served as International Association of Machinists Grand Lodge Representative from 1956 until appointed Assistant Secretary of Labor in 1969
  • Represented the employees of companies related to NASA and missile testing, including CONVAIR, McDonnell Aircraft, Douglas, Boeing, Lockheed, Aero-Jet General, RCA Service Company, and Air Products; aided in negotiations between the IAM and some of these companies
  • Led and assisted campaigns to increase IAM membership in the Cape area - there were only 17 when he arrived in 1954 and increased to 4,600 members by the time he was appointed Assistant Secretary of Labor in 1969
  • Negotiated 131 new or renewed contracts during his tenure at the Cape - only five of these negotiations resulted in strikes, the rest were peacefully resolved
  • Appointed to the President's Missile Sites Labor Committee in 1961, serving until it disbanded in 1967
    • President's Missile Sites Labor Committee was set up in order to reduce the amount of labor conflicts (i.e. grievances, work stoppages, etc.), resulting in the continuous and peaceful work on projects at missile and space sites throughout the U.S. (taken from The John F. Kennedy Space Center Missile Site Labor Relations Committee; Function, Responsibility, and Procedures. April 12, 1965. W.J. Usery Collection, G.S.U. pp. 1).
  • Helped form and served as first chairman of the Cape Kennedy Labor-Management Relations Council in 1967, successor to the President's Missile Site Labor Committee

    "...the purpose of co-operating together labor and management in the efforts of the space program, to understand one another's problems and to minimize labor disputes and harsh adversarial relationship." ~ W. J. Usery

Department of Labor, 1969 - 1973, 1976 - 1977

Assistant Secretary of Labor:

  • Appointed as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Labor - Management Relations and Administrator, Labor Management Services Administration (took leave of absence from the International Association of Machinists)
    • Duties of Assistant Secretary of Labor for Labor - Management Relations:
      • Labor management and policy development and relations services
      • Welfare and pension agreements within the unions
      • Veterans re-employment rights
  • Participated in numerous railway strikes during his tenure at the Department of Labor; several required the establishment of Presidents Emergency Boards under the Railway Labor Act; groups involved included the UTU, Signalmen, Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, I.B.T. Patrolmen, the Penn Central Railroad, and the Long Island Railroad
  • Helped settle strike between Airline Pilots Association and Piedmont Airlines and United Airways (dispute was over crew size on Boeing 737) in 1969
  •  Mediated negotiations between the U.S. Postal Service and the 7 postal workers unions (agitated by low wages and problems with bureaucracy) in 1971
  • Helped mediate and end 95-day-long strike by employees of Northwest Airlines in 1972 - 1,425 pilots returned to work
  • Helped settle a strike between pilots and TWA
  • Helped settle the 38-day long public school teachers' strike in Philadelphia, PA in February 1973
  • Assisted in other various collective bargaining agreements, including the United Steel Workers, Mine, Sheet Metal Workers, International Longshoreman's Association, and the International Association of Electrical Workers

Secretary of Labor:

  • 1976 - 1977: Served as Secretary of Labor under President Ford
    • Duties of the Secretary of Labor:
      • Serve as member of the President's Cabinet
      • Administer and enforce laws and programs that affect U.S. workers
      • Serve as Special Assistant to the President for Labor Management Negotiations and co-ordinate labor-management and government mediation in the public and private sectors economy
      • Serve on numerous boards and committees relating to labor in the U.S.
  • Helped pass and implement the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which was passed to protect retirement benefits and make sure that those who were supposed to receive benefits received them
  • Aided in creation of a Summer Employment Program that employed 1,300,000 teenagers in 1976
  • Participated in several collective bargaining agreements involving the rubber industry, TWA, the Transport Workers Union, the meat packing industry, and the auto industry

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, 1973 - 1976

  • Directed more than 300 professional mediators located in 79 offices throughout the United States
  • Appointed by President Richard Nixon as Special Assistant to the President for Labor-Management Affairs
  • Appointed by President Gerald Ford as Special Assistant for Labor-Management Negotiations
  • Major Disputes handled by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service from 1973 to 1976:
  1. United Rubber Workers (URW) v. Goodyear
  2. International Association of Machinists (IAM) v. National Airlines
  3. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) v. Western Electric
  4. United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) walkout in Harlan County, Kentucky
  5. Teamsters' strike against United Parcel Service (UPS) in New York City
  6. National Football League (NFL) players' strike, 1974
  7. 121-day Steel Workers' strike v. Dow Chemicals
  8. Philadelphia Teachers' strike, 1973
  9. San Francisco Nurses' strike, 1974

Consulting and Higher Education, 1977 -1995

  • 1977 - 1985: Founded Bill Usery Associates, Inc., a service that performed consultations and training for organizations
  • 1983: Served as mediator between New United Motor Manufacturing, Incorporated and the UAW - NUMMI is a Joint Venture between Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Corp., which has a plant in Freemont, CA
  • 1985: Bill Usery Labor Management Relations Foundation established
  • 1991: Partners in Economic Reform founded. The Partners for Economic Reform works "..with democratic labor and management to promote economic development and free collective bargaining in the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union."
  • 1993 - 1995: Served on the Commission on the Future of Work - Management Relations (CFWMR)

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives
Southern Labor Archives
W. J. Usery, Jr., Papers

Phone: (404) 413-2880
Fax: (404) 413-2881

Mailing Address:
Special Collections & Archives
Georgia State University Library
100 Decatur Street, SE
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3202

In Person:
Library South, 8th floor

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