How to Organize the Job: A Handbook for Stewards
A pocket-sized 56-page paperback called How to Organize the Job: A Handbook for Stewards (San Francisco: Pile Drivers, Bridge, Wharf and Dock Builders Local Union Number 34, ca. 1943) gives a good picture of the work and union activities of pile drivers in a period of great strength and importance, the "war effort" during World War II.
The attack on Pearl Harbor brought immediate growth in the Pile Drivers Local Union Number 34. As Mike Munoz tells in his book "Pilebutts," Jack Wagner of this Union in four days time gathered a company of 300 dock builders to go to repair damage done in the Japanese attack. Ports in California also needed serious expansion. Over the next few years membership in the Local jumped from 100 to some 10,000 pilebutts. To acquaint "the hundreds of new members" with the "Organization, Policies and Ideals of our Union," Jack Wagner produced this handbook for the shop stewards. To make it more effective he asked the artist Giacomo Patri to create illustrations for it, and Patri supplied designs used for thirteen small line cuts and nine full-page black-and-white designs.
Patri, a gifted Italian immigrant, was born in 1898 and arrived in San Francesco in 1916. From 1925-1929 he studied art at the California School of Fine Arts and at the same time began a career as an illustrator for local newspapers. He became a teacher at the Presidio Hill School, the California Labor School, and later chair of the Department of Art at San Francisco State University. Beginning in 1948 he headed his own art school in San Francisco. He and his wife Stella were active for a number of years with labor issues in California. In addition to creating the strong images used in How to Organize the Job, Patri also illustrated a number of other booklets, such as Victory through Unionism. His major work in this line, however, was White Collar, a novel in pictures (128 linocuts) that he published privately in 1940.
How to Organize the Job grounds workers' rights in their labor agreement (the one under which the Pile Drivers were working in 1943 is printed in the booklet) and founds them on the nation's Bill of Rights. "The Union's system of job stewards," it says, "is a weapon of democracy. That is its fundamental meaning." In its direct, sensible, practical advice to union shop stewards on keeping records, teaching and working with the union rank and file, defending the welfare of union members, investigating grievances and negotiating with foremen, and aiding the war effort, the booklet provides a valuable picture of the working world of the union pilebutts of the World War II era.
Permalink (Permanent link to this page.)