Boot and Shoe Workers' Union

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Union label of the Boot and Shoe Workers' Union.

The Boot and Shoe Workers' Union was a North American trade union of workers in the footwear manufacturing industry which was established in 1895. The union was affiliated with the American Federation of Labor.



In 1889 a dissident faction of shoemakers who were part of National Trade Assembly 216 of the Knights of Labor split off to establish a new organization called the Boot and Shoe Workers International Union.[1] This new union affiliated almost immediately with the American Federation of Labor (AF of L),[1] a federative organization which united many specialized craft unions into a single entity.

In an effort to avoid jurisdictional disputes with another member of the AF of L, the Lasters' Protective Union of America, the two shoe workers' unions joined forces in Boston, Massachusetts in 1895, establishing the Boot and Shoe Workers' Union (BSWU).[1]

The BSWU included members from both the United States of America and Canada, including French-speaking workers from the Canadian shoe producing center of Montréal, Québec.[2] In an effort to retain ties with these workers, the BSWU published a section in each issue of its monthly journal in the French language.[3]

According to the preamble of an early BSWU's constitution, the union was to be organized for the following purposes:

"To thoroughly organize our craft; to regulate wages and conditions of employment; to establish uniform wages for the same class of work, regardless of sex; to control apprentices; to reduce the hours of labor; to abolish convict and contract labor; to abolish child labor, prohibiting the employment of children under the age of 16; to promoted the use of our 'Union Stamp' as the sold and only guarantee of 'Union Made' footwear; to support the Union Labels of all other bona fide trade unions, and to assist them in every other way to the full extent of our power."[4]

The Boot and Shoe Workers' Union was regarded as a "radical" union in its earliest days, with John F. Tobin, the General President of the BSWU from its foundation until his death in 1919, regarded as a socialist and an opponent of conservative AF of L President Samuel Gompers.[5]


In 1925 the 16th convention of the BSWU raised per capita dues from 25 cents to 35 cents per week.[6] The organization also doubled its initiation fee to $2.00 at that time.[6]

Official organ[edit]

The official organ of the Boot and Shoe Workers' Union was a monthly magazine called The Shoe Workers' Journal.[7] The periodical was launched in Boston on January 15, 1900 as the Union Boot and Shoe Worker, changing its name to the more familiar Shoe Workers' Journal effective with the July 1902 issue.[7]

The magazine was irregularly produced, twice suspending publication for protracted periods during the Great Depression — from the start of 1934 through March 1935 and again from July 1937 through the end of 1940.[7] The publication continued into the decade of the 1970s.


  1. ^ a b c Stuart R. Kaufman, Peter J. Albert, and Grace Palladino (eds.), The Samuel Gompers Papers: Volume 4, A National Labor Movement Takes Shape, 1895-98. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1991; pp. 540-541.
  2. ^ Bryan D. Palmer, "Boot and Shoe Workers Union," The Canadian Encyclopedia, Historica Foundation of Canada, 2012.
  3. ^ See, for example: Shoe Workers Journal, Vol. 7 (1906), passim.
  4. ^ Constitution of the Boot and Shoe Workers' Union, as Revised at Sixth convention Held in Cincinnati Ohio, Jan. 11 to 20, 1904. Lynn, MA: J.F. McCarty & Co., 1904.; pg. 4.
  5. ^ Kaufman, Albert, and Palladino, ''The Samuel Gompers Papers: Volume 4, pp. 99, 555.
  6. ^ a b "Boot and Shoe Workers' Union," in Solon DeLeon and Nathan Fine (eds.), The American Labor Year Book, 1926. New York: Rand School of Social Science, 1926; pg. 147.
  7. ^ a b c "Boot and Shoe Workers' Union," in Bernard G. Naas and Carmelita S. Sakr, American Labor Union Periodicals: A Guide to Their Location. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1956; pg. 107.