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Independent Metal Workers Union Collection

Identifier: RG 0064

Scope and Contents

The materials in this collection describe major events in the history of the Independent Metalworker's Union, a Houston organized labor entity. Specifically, numerous contracts and wage agreements between the Union and Hughes Tool Company, the workers of which the Union represented, give a historical view of the relationship between the Union, its members, and Hughes Tool Co. Additionally, petitions and copies of cases given before the National Labor Relations Board give insight into racial discrimination of the Company, which Black members of the Union successfully fought. Other materials include the constitution of the Union and correspondence from the period of its activity.


  • 1937-1981
  • Majority of material found within 1947-1968


Language of Materials

This collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Independent Metal Workers Union Collection must be obtained from the African American Library at the Gregory School or the appropriate copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

The Independent Metalworker's Union, which represented the employees of Hughes Tool Company, was founded in 1941. It replaced two earlier worker's organizations—the Employee's Welfare Organization for whites and the Colored Club for Blacks—which had been disbanded by the National Labor Relations Board for being company controlled.

The Union was divided into two locals. Local 1 of the IMU was restricted to white workers and Local 2 was composed entirely of Black employees. The division reflected the discriminatory policy of the Hughes Tool Company at that time, which assigned better jobs with higher pay to white workers and dirtier, more menial jobs at lower wages to Black employees. The contract between the company and the union did, however, appear to contain a measure of equality. It stipulated that no new contract would be enforced unless it had the concurrent approval of the company as well as both the Black and white locals of the IMU. In 1961, Local 2 of the Union, representing Black workers, refused to sign a proposed contract because it contained no provisions for beginning to phase out job assignments and wage scales based on race. Notwithstanding the refusal of Black workers to ratify the new contract, it was put in force anyway. Local 2 thereupon appealed to the National Labor Relations Board to void the contract. After several trials spaced over nearly three years, Local 2 of the IMU was successful. Subsequent contracts eliminated racially discriminatory wage rates and job assignments. Shortly thereafter, in the late 1960s, the workers at Hughes Tool Compay voted to dissolve their independent union and join the Steelworker's Union of the AFL-CIO.


.25 Linear Feet (1 box)


This collection is arranged according to document type, and then by year, when applicable.

Custodial History

These records were formerly housed at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library as RG R 0001 Independent Metal Workers Union Collection and were transferred to the African AmericanLibrary at the Gregory School, Houston Public Library in May 2019.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by John Gray III in 1981 and Columbus Henry in 1982.

Processing Information

Processed by Howard Beeth, May 1982; Updated Abra Schnur, 2018; Updated, Sheena Wilson, 2020
RG 0064 Independent Metal Workers Union Collection
An Inventory of Records at the African American Library at the Gregory School, Houston Public Library
Howard Beeth
May 1982
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • August 2018: Collection was rehoused and condensed and finding aid was updated with arrangement and scope and contents notes.
  • March 2020: Collection identifier, custodial history and notes updated

Repository Details

Part of the Gregory School Repository


(832) 393-1662

The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street
Houston, Texas 77019
M Closed | T 10-6 | W 10-6 | Th 12-8 | F 10-5 | Sa 10-5 | Su Closed
Houston Metropolitan Research Center
Houston Public Library
550 McKinney St.
Houston, Texas 77002
M Closed T 10-6 W 10-6 Th 12-8 F 10-5 Sa 10-5 Su Closed