Early life and union work
McBride was born in Farmington, Missouri, in 1916. His father was a painter at a St. Louis steel fabricating mill. When he was 14 years old, he quit school to support his family at a 25-cents-an-hour job in the same plant.
In 1936, he became a member of Steel Workers Organizing Committee Local 1295. The local struck in 1937. McBride organized a sitdown strike which was broken by police after only seven days. The broader strike continued for seven more weeks, and the workers were successful in winning a contract on their terms. McBride was elected president of his local by acclamation afterward.
McBride married Delores Neihaus in 1937. They had a son and a daughter.
McBride was elected president of the St. Louis Industrial Union Council in 1940, and president of the CIO Council for Missouri in 1942.
McBride served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1945.
After World War II, McBride returned to Missouri and his union position. In 1958, the Steelworkers hired him to be director of the USW Sub-District based in Granite City, Illinois. In 1965, he was elected director of District 34.
McBride became a protégé of I.W. Abel, the Steelworker president.
In 1977, Abel retired and McBride ran for the union presidency. McBride's opponent was Edward Sadlowski, the young president of USW District 31. Sadlowski contended that McBride was too close to employers and not in touch with steelworkers. The campaign was a bitter one. McBride received the support of Abel and AFL-CIO president George Meany, while Sadlowski won the backing of Ralph Nader, Victor Reuther, John Kenneth Galbraith and General Motors heir Stewart Rawlings Mott. McBride filed a lawsuit alleging that Sadlowski had received illegal campaign contributions, and Sadlowski filed a libel suit against McBride. McBride went so far as to imply that Sadlowski was a communist: "I don't really know whether he is or isn't a Communist. But I do know he's in bed with left-wingers," McBride told supporters.
In the end, McBride defeated Sadlowski 3-to-2 (328,000 to 249,000).
McBride strongly supported the Experimental Negotiations Agreement (ENA), a contract negotiated with steelmakers by President Abel which included a provision preventing the union from striking over economic terms—whether the contract was in force or had expired. But high inflation drove wages much higher under the ENA, and steelmakers unilaterally canceled the agreement (as was their right) as the 1980 contract talks approached.
McBride was unable to negotiate strong national contracts for his members. He had a difficult time convincing steelworkers that the contracts reaches were the best he could achieve, and restive union members twice rejected contracts in 1983. Under McBride, the union agreed to cut wages and benefits for the first time since 1936. The average wage of $14.33 an hour was cut 8.7 percent in the first year, although a provision in the 1983 contract would restore that cut over the term of the 41-month agreement. He did not participate in the negotiations for either the 1980 or 1983 contract renewals.
McBride also presided over the union at a time of greatly diminishing membership. During his presidency, the Steelworkers lost nearly half its 1.4 million members due to offshoring and plant closings. McBride was a moderate who successfully resisted members' calls for militancy in the face of widespread steel industry unemployment and sharply increased pressure on wages and benefits. He also refused to collude with employers and implement a "business unionism" policy in order to secure high wages and job security for a limited number of members.
McBride had a history of heart disease. He was hospitalized three times from 1980 to 1983 for heart disease. A pacemaker was installed in February 1983. McBride underwent heart bypass surgery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 18, 1983. He was discharged from the hospital on November 1, and died in his sleep in the night of November 5 or early on November 6 at his home in Whitehall, Pennsylvania.
- "U.S.W. Brawls, U.A.W Harmony," Time, January 17, 1977.
- Fowler, Glenn. "Lloyd McBride, Steelworkers' Chief, Dies at 67 After Heart Surgery." New York Times. November 7, 1983.
- Hoerr, John P. And the Wolf Finally Came: The Decline of the American Steel Industry. Pittsburgh, Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988. ISBN 0-8229-3572-4
- Mangum, Garth L. and McNabb, R. Scott. The Rise, Fall, and Replacement of Industrywide Bargaining in the Basic Steel Industry. New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1997. ISBN 1-56324-982-0
- "No Go for Oilcan Eddie." Time. February 21, 1977.
- "U.S.W. Brawls, U.A.W Harmony." Time. January 17, 1977.
|President, United Steelworkers
1977 - 1983
Lynn R. Williams