History of Iron Workers L.U. 549 (previously L.U. 20)

Man welding

Iron Workers L.U. 549 has evolved greatly over the last century. A complete history of Iron Workers L.U. 20 & L.U. 549 would be very difficult to reconstruct, but the following summary will give you an idea of the great strides that L.U. No. 549 has taken over the years. L.U. Number 549 originated as L.U. No. 20 spanning from 1902-1934. Iron Workers L.U. 20 received its charter in 1902 from the International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers.

L.U. 20, Wheeling, WV, having jurisdiction over union steel erection in the entire state of WV had only one Business Agent. L.U. 20 did not maintain an office in Charleston, WV until the year 1918. In 1919, Charleston, WV received their charter from the International Association of Bridge and Structural Ironworkers, headquartered in St. Louis, MI.

Members of Wheeling, WV traveled to work by horse, horse and wagon, some by railway and some traveled to work on a mule. Many men simply walked to work whether a job was reasonably close to home or miles away. Iron Workers have always been elated to have employment; the hardship of distance has always been secondary.

Members accepted into Wheeling, WV Iron Workers L.U. 20 received a “card” printed on paper, with the International Association’s legend and logo, and the Local Union’s city, state, local number and their name, address and card member’s number and date of membership acceptance. A member’s “card” to say the least, was a source of great pride, however some members lent their cards to a friend, and some lent their card for a price, and eventually counterfeit membership cards appeared in some areas of the nation.

In 1902, Iron Workers worked a 6 day work week at 10 hours per day, $12.00 per week. Over time, the wages slowly increased and the work week changed from 5.5 days per week and finally to 5 days per week. Between 1902 and 1934 L.U. 20 had a maximum of 60-75 members.

L.U. 549 has truly evolved over the years. Currently, L.U. No. 549 has approximately 338 highly skilled active members that work for a very competitive rate. The jurisdictional territory covers the following counties in WV: Hancock, Brooke, Marshall, Wetzel, Tyler, Harrison, Marion, Taylor, Monongalia, Randolph and Preston and the northwest 1/3rd of Barbour County. The Ohio counties include: Monroe, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson and Belmont Counties and the northeast corner of Muskingum. In Pennsylvania, the jurisdiction covers a section of Greene and Washington counties. Through hardship and trials, the one thing that has stood the test of time is the bond of brotherhood and pride that Local 549 Ironworkers embody. These are qualities that have been handed down by many generations and they will carry on for many years to come.