Field Investigation on California Shipbuilding Corporation, Western Pipe & Steel Company’s Shipbuilding Division, and Consolidated Steel Corporation’s Shipbuilding Division

To:       Mr. George M. Johnson

            Deputy Chairman

From:   Clarence M. Mitchell

            Associate Director of Field Operations

Re:       California Shipbuilding Corporation, Western Pipe & Steel Company’s Shipbuilding Division, and Consolidated Steel Corporation’s Shipbuilding Division.

            Investigation by: Clarence M. Mitchell

I. Brief Summary of Complaint

The President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practice, during the summer of 

1943, received over four hundred complaints from persons employed in the shipbuilding industry of Los Angeles and vicinity. These complaints came, for the most part, from the Shipyard Committee for Equal Participation. It was charged that Negroes employed in shipbuilding trades coming under the jurisdiction of Boiler Makers’ Local 92 were being forced to join an auxiliary, A-35. Those refusing to join the auxiliary were dismissed from employment by the shipbuilding companies, according to the complaints.

The yards involved were the California Shipbuilding Company at Wilmington, the Consolidated Steel Corporation’s Shipbuilding Division at Wilmington, and the Western Pipe & Steel Corporation’s Shipbuilding Division at San Pedro.

II. Description of Parties Charged

            The California Shipbuilding Company employed 40, 421 persons as of October 8, 1943, according to Mr. Russell A. Bergemann, Manager of Industrial Relations. It builds cargo vessels and tankers.

            The Western Pipe & Steel Company employed a total of 12,285 persons as of October 9, 1943, according to Mr. W. H. Lewis, Administrative Manager. This yard is building coast guard and naval vessels. 

            The Consolidated Steel Corporation’s Shipbuilding Division employs a total of 18,000 persons, according to the latest information from Mr. Clarence R. Johnson, Minorities Consultant of the War Manpower Commission in Region XII. Mr. Johnson stated that the Consolidated Company was not very cooperative and had not supplied information similar to that given by Western Pipe & Steel and the California Shipbuilding Companies.

            The employment figures in these yards as of October 1943, were as follows:            

California Shipbuilding Corporation
Wilmington, California

September, 1942                                       Current Employment
Total                                 37,000                             40,421
Non-White                            469                               3,802

Western Pipe & Steel Company
Shipbuilding Division
San Pedro, California

November, 1942                                         Current Employment

 Total                                  13,500                            12,285
Non-White                                 207                                 783

Consolidated Steel Corporation
Shipbuilding Division
Wilmington, California

August, 1942                                             Current Employment

Total                                     3,500                          18,000
Non-White                                     17                                 1,800

*Figures supplied by Clarence R. Johnson,

War Manpower Commission, Region XII.

Local 92 of the International Brotherhood of Boiler Makers, Iron Ship Builders and Helpers of America has jurisdiction over the following counties in the area:  In California - the counties of Santa Barbara, Kern, Inyo, San Bernadino, Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, and Imperial. In Nevada - the counties of Esmeralda, Nye, Lincoln, and Clark. It is estimated that this local has approximately 40,000 members. Mr. H. G. Coryell is President of the Union and Mr. E. V. Blackwell is the Secretary and Business Agent. This union has set up an auxiliary known as A-35, which has an office in the City of Los Angeles at 4150 South Main Street. At the time I was in the City, Mr. Garner Grayson was serving as acting secretary of the union and Mr. U. S. Griggs was acting assistant secretary. Messrs. Grayson and Griggs estimated that they have approximately 4,000 persons in the auxiliary.

The California Shipbuilding Corporation, the Western Pipe & Steel Company’s Shipbuilding Division, and the Consolidated Steel Corporation’s Shipbuilding Division have closed shop contracts with the Metal Trades Council of the A. F. of L., in accordance with the provisions of the Master Agreement affecting the shipbuilding industries on the West Coast. The principal union in the Metal Trades Council, from the standpoint of membership and prestige, is the International Brotherhood of Boiler Makers, Iron Ship Builders and Helpers of America. The provisions of the contract require that the unions of the Metal Trades Council supply workers to the companies from their membership and, when they are unable to do so, the companies are free to recruit non-union workers. However, all persons recruited must become members of the union and pay dues or their employment must be terminated by the companies.

III.  Prior or Related Cases Involving Parties Charged

            From time to time, the Committee has received complaints from various individuals who charged that they were not given employment at one of these three yards. There are others who charged that they have not been upgraded in accordance with their skills and abilities. These individuals allege that they were being discriminated against solely because of race.

            Mr. George Toll, Local Manager of the U.S.E.S. in Long Beach, California, informed me that he opened the office of the Employment Service at Wilmington, California, on August 1, 1941. This office has been receiving orders from the California Shipbuilding Company, Western Pipe & Steel, and Consolidated Steel from that period up until present. Mr. Toll left Wilmington only recently. It was the function of his office to place the California clearance orders from the three companies. This included approximately eighteen (18) offices in Southern California, with the exception of San Diego. Mr. Toll stated it had been his experience that Consolidated and Western Pipe & Steel were reluctant to hire Negroes as machinists helpers and shipfitters helpers. Recently, they have begun taking Negroes in these occupations, but only because of the manpower shortage, according to Mr. Toll.

IV. Efforts of the War Manpower Commission to Obtain Compliance

            Beginning in 1941, Mr. Clarence R. Johnson, Minorities Consultant for the War Manpower Commission in Region XII, has been at work on the problems of these three yards. Mr. Johnson began his efforts when he was with the Minorities Division of the Office of Production Management and the Negro Employment and Training Branch of the War Production Board. Later, the Negro Employment and Training Branch of WPB was transferred to the War Manpower Commission, and Mr. Johnson continued his work under WMC. On February 24, 1942, Mr. Blackwell wrote the following letter to Mr. Johnson:

“In confirmation of our telephone conversation of February 23, I have instructed our Wilmington office to clear colored applicants when properly referred to that office.”

            Local 92 cleared some Negroes for employment and a few actually became members of this union because their racial identity was not known. On July 7, 1948, the union established Auxiliary A-35 and insisted that all Negroes become members of it or have their employment terminated.

V. Efforts to Obtain Compliances

            When the auxiliary was established in July of 1943, many Negroes employed at the three yards refused to pay their dues. According to Mr. Grayson of the Auxiliary, approximately 500 Negroes were terminated by the companies for this reason.

In addition to your visit to the West Coast for the purpose of holding conferences with the Boiler Makers’ and the shipbuilding interests on this problem, Judge James Wolfe, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Utah, and Mr. Daniel R. Donovan, of the Committee’s staff, went to Los Angeles in an attempt to adjust these problems in a manner which would be in harmony with the requirements of Executive Order 9346. On those occasions, the union representatives did not offer any solution which would adjust the complaints before the Committee.

            In its meeting of August 28, 1943, the Committee voted to have a hearing in the City of Los Angeles on the complaints. I arrived in Los Angeles on Friday, October 22, 1943, and remained until the morning of Thursday, October 28. During that time, I interviewed complainants and the following persons:

  1. Mr. Burt Harnish, Area Director of the War Manpower Commission, and members of his staff.
  2. White members of the Boiler Makers’ Local 92.
  3. Officials of Auxiliary A-35.
    I did not talk with management or Local 92 representatives because you had already discussed the problem with them in your meeting at San Francisco on August 20, 1943.

            The results of these interviews are set forth in the following memoranda:

  1. Employment Reports re California Shipbuilding Corporation, Western Pipe & Steel Company’s Shipbuilding Division, and Consolidated Steel Corporation’s Shipbuilding Division, dated 10-8-43, 10-9-43, and 11-8-43, respectively.[1]
  2. Conference with Officials of Auxiliary A-35, 10-26-43.[2]
  3. Meeting with white members of Boiler Makers’ Local 92, 10-26-43.[3]
  4. Case of Thomas Madison Doram, 717½ E. Vernon Avenue, Los Angeles, California, Telephone: Adams 13649, 10-27-43.
  5. Conference with Mr. George Toll, Local Manager, USES, Long Beach, California, 10-27-43.
  6. California Shipbuilding Company Complainants, 11-1-43.
  7. Western Pipe & Steel Company Complainants, 11-1-43.[4]
  8. Consolidated Steel Corporation Complainants, Shipbuilding Division, 11-1-43.[5]
  9. Statement Signed by Persons Protesting Against A-35.

In summarizing, I believe I should say that there were some persons who charged the companies with discrimination, but the bulk of the charges was against Local 92 for setting up A-35. A number of Negroes who signed pledges that they would not pay dues were dismissed. It appears that some of these found employment in other places. Many of the complainants began paying dues into the auxiliary, but signed statements indicating that they did so under protest.

VI. Recommendations

            In view of the evidence submitted by complainants and other information set forth in my memoranda, it is my recommendation that the Committee proceed with the hearing.

MS: copy, HqR48, Central Files, Reports 1-2.

See head notes for cross references to the other 14 memoranda in this series and for background on the Shipbuilding Industry and Boilermakers Union.

  1. [1] The reports of 10/8, 10/9, and 11/2/7/43 were not found.

  2. [2] The report of 10/26/43 is published herein.

  3. [3] This report is published under the date of 11/27/43.

  4. [4] The two reports of 10/27 and the two of 11/1/43 are published herein.

  5. [5] This report was not found.