The INTERNATIONAL ASSN. OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS began in 1888 in Atlanta, GA. The Cleveland IAM was first chartered in Jan. 1890 as Lodge 83, which organized machinists who worked in local shops. Following the lead of the national organization, which affiliated with the American Federation of Labor in 1892, the local lodges affiliated with the Central Labor Union (later the CLEVELAND FEDERATION OF LABOR) and joined with other members in a general strike in 1901 for the 9-hour day. During World War I the group won raises for its members by systematically shifting them from one plant to another. However, following wartime growth in the machinery field, the National Manufacturers Assn. attacked the expanding labor movement by strengthening the blackball system and promoting the open shop. Cleveland locals, organized into District 54 since 1913, fought back in 1919 by consolidating 5 existing IAM lodges into Lodge 439, and chartering auto mechanics Lodge 1363. These 2 stronger bodies supported the district in lean times. When the National Industrial Recovery Act guaranteed workers the right to organize in 1933, District 54 was ready. Nearly a dozen new lodges were chartered from 1933-40. Some were composed entirely of workers at one plant (1108, Chase Brass & Copper, 1253, Warner & Swasey, 1228, Addressograph-Multigraph) while others cut across company lines to unite men employed in a particular industry (metal stamping) or by job classification (tool-and-die makers). However, many new lodges collapsed in the face of employer opposition.
District finances faltered in 1938, when hundreds of machinists were out of work. In Oct. 1938, MATTHEW DEMORE led a reform slate of candidates pledged to streamline district affairs. Through Demore's leadership, membership grew from 4,500 in 1939 to 15,000 by 1941, and the IAM established a closer relationship with the Cleveland Federation of Labor. With the declining fortunes of the machine-tool industry after World War II, and the rising prominence of the aerospace industry, the IAM organized those workers and changed its name after 1966. Local workforce reductions in major corporations such as WARNER & SWASEY, Chase Brass, and Addressograph reduced lodge membership from 19,000 in 1961 to 12,000 in 1986.
The merger of the International Woodworkers of America with the IAM in 1994 helped boost membership, but overall membership declined to about 8,000 by 1995. Later the IAM contemplated other mergers including ones with the UAW and United Steel Workers.
In 1995, Tom Frisbie served as president of IAM District 54. In 2004, T. Dean Wright, Jr. became president of IAM District 54.
In 2010 District Lodge 54's headquarters moved to Columbus, Ohio, which allowed it to better serve members in its region which encompassed all of Ohio and West Virginia. It continued to maintain a satellite office within Local Lodge 439's office off Ridge Road in Cleveland. As of 2013 the District's membership totaled 14,000 active and retired members.
Intl. Assn. of Machinists District 54 Records, WRHS
Finding aid for the International Association of Machinists, District #54 Records. WRHS.