The Year was 1904. Those members of Sub-Local 1 of Local Union 6 of the I.B.E.W. who were working in Contra Costa County and Alameda County, petitioned Local 6 for their own separate chapter. Those early persevering Union Officers, R.P. Gale and W.J. Parr on behalf of Sub-Local 1 signed the petition. We were delayed in the granting of our petition, as all of the records of Local 6 were destroyed by fire and devastation during the earthquake of 1906.
Sub-Local 1 of Local union 6 was not discouraged and continued to pursue our own Chapter, which was granted on August 26, 1907. Those signing members were Robert P. Gale, C.A. Murphy, O.F. Erickson, M.F. Creps, W.J. Parr, W. D. Bennett, R.H. Conrad, George Manes, Peter A. Anderson, Lewellyn Evans, W.T. Mitich, Frank Lee, Robert R. James, Charles C. Renwich and William McFarlane.
It is interesting to note on our Minutes of 1906, the comments of W.C.Murphy:
"President Murphy called the meeting to order. All formal business was waived due to the great Quake of 1906. List of refugee members, their addressed and expenditures toward their relief efforts to keep jurisdiction, work and conditions as near normal as possible to put tradesmen out of business that overcharge during the emergency.
As you can see, Local 595 had an early understanding of the needs of our fellow workingman. Surely this is why our Charter is a living document today.
Our membership fluctuated in the early years and though we were primarily a construction local representing Inside Journeymen, a large percentage of our members held the title of Fixture Hanger. This is not to be confused to today’s terminology, due to the fact that those members not only had to electrically wire the components, they had to assemble the complete fixtures on the job site and in some cases do the designing. If you have as opportunity to visit the Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland, and in the near future, the Fox Theatre, you will have an opportunity to appreciate the talents of a Fixture Hanger.
At the turn of the century the efforts to organize labor was conducted in an atmosphere of resistance and paranoia. This cast a cloud over those American Labor Organizations who were trying to improve wages, terms and conditions for their members. A good example of overreacting to these concepts is from our March 20, 1912 meeting minutes. The following Resolution was adopted by the Local:
We the members of Local 595, I.B.E.W., assembled and in regular session, do hereby adopt the following Resolution: whereas, the Police authorities of the City of Oakland have executed their authority in depriving citizens and taxpayers of the City of their right of due assembly, according the Constitution of the United States, by entering their hall and in a boisterous manner, without due process of the law, proceeding in an unheard of manner to expel some citizens and taxpayers of said hall (for which they had paid rent and were in peaceful possession and in quiet session) by brutally clubbing men, women and children, some of them so severely they had to be taken to the receiving hospital for treatment. Therefore, be it resolved, that we condemn the action of said Police Department and advocate the recall of the City Officials responsible for the above described abominable and dastardly action taken on Sunday evening, March 3, 1912, and Be it Further Resolved, that a copy will be given to the press for publication.
In spite of the harassment, the membership moved steadily forward until the interruption of World Was I in 1917. Some of our members were called to serve in the Military service of their country, while others remained at home in support. Fortunately, it was not a long conflict and laboring members returned to start the building of the City of Oakland and the surrounding areas.
There was a short boom in work after World War I and then a minor economic slump. It was during these years that we were able to continue to organize the Electric Shops in our jurisdiction in a cooperative effort of our membership. This was achieved by those who worked supporting the unemployed and who picketed or organized the open shops.
1929 brought the stock market crash. Work became very scarce across the country, causing unemployment and dwindling membership. However, Oakland and California in particular, did not feel the impact until approximately 1931. From 1931 until 1938, W.P.A. projects created a casim between maintenance of union labor and the need to alleviate unemployment.
In the late 1930’s Butcher Electric of San Jose contracted the electric work for the Alameda County Courthouse. This was a turning point for job opportunity in Alameda County. During these years, the manpower required on these jobs was much greater. There were few power tools and no pipe bending machines as we know today. A project the size of the County Courthouse could employ as many as 50 electricians. In 1941 we were involved in another World War. Because of the war effort, the membership of Local 595 flourished to 6,000 members. These were mostly Marine Electricians. Consequently, the monies collected gave us the opportunity to find our permanent home at 1918 Grove Street in Oakland California. Upon return of the veterans, Alameda County began its biggest boom. This boom expanded our Motor Unit, Sign Unit and Maintenance group. Through the effort of this Local Union and particularly Fred Eggers, Sr., we were able to start our Apprenticeship Program. The Apprenticeship Program is one of the key reasons we have been able to enjoy a high standard of professionalism as members.
A major earthquake devastated the Bay Area In October of 1989. The Local 595 Union Hall sustained substantial damage. The members, having recognized the cost to retrofit the structure and meet the required building regulations which were set forth by the City of Oakland, plus the rumor of an upcoming merger with Local 591 in Stockton, California, decided it was best to relocate the Union Hall. In May 1996, a purchase was made for our new Union Hall in Dublin, Ca.
In April of 1994, International President J.J. Barry mandated the amalgamation of Local Union 591 in Stockton, California into Local Union 595 Oakland, California. At the time, Local Union 591 was faced with a declining membership, a downsizing economy and a major threat of a growing nonunion electrical element. Many of the members of Local 591 were being forced into traveling in hopes of finding work. President Barry’s judgment to amalgamate Local Union 591 with Local Union 595 proved to be a wise decision. The loss of any Local is a very difficult step for its members after having a long history. Local Union 591 was chartered in 1906 and its members took a great deal of pride in their Local. This feeling made it extremely difficult for the members to accept the loss of their chapter due to the merger. The members of Local 595 also had their reservations concerning the merger, not knowing the impact it would have on them in the future. Time has proved the positive aspects of combining the two territories. We are stronger because of the merge. Our membership has grown to approximately 2,000. The valley area has experienced much growth in recent years, which means more job opportunities for all of us.
Currently, the Union is enjoying economical growth, State and Federal government legislatures that are more sensitive to working men and women and an increase of Union electrical contractors, while there is a decline of non-union workers and contractors throughout Alameda, San Joaquin and Calaveras counties. The aggressive approach of the organizing program and a spirit of labor and management working together has given us the recognition of being one of the strongest Locals in the IBEW. There are many people in our industry who look up to us in Local Union 595 for leadership and direction. This success and strength lies with its members who are progressive and willing in their actions and thoughts.
The fluctuations of our local economy are sometimes dependent on factors that we have little control over. We are always in the grasp of time, which becomes our history as soon as yesterday. We all need to remember the very hard work that was done on our behalf so that we can have the opportunities to prosper as a union. There is never a moment to think that what we have as a union is a “done deal”. There are always elements that are working at undoing what others have worked so hard for. How we value the ideals of unionism now will be our mark for future generations.