In 1937, Phoenix, Arizona’s population was 56,000 and rising. With a growing, thriving community came the necessity for quality craftsmen and women to build it up. Thus, demand for a skilled workforce skyrocketed. The country was also in the midst of the Great Depression: the state of national organized labor was erratic at best, with many early chapters experiencing trial, error, and failure. In Phoenix, two sheet metal locals were formed before our present organization began. Earl Cook, the International Representative at the time, had seen his hopes for a Phoenix local filled and dashed repeatedly.
On July 22, 1937, a charter group of 13 members formed a local with lasting strength. The group met rugged opposition and disappointment, but persevered and became a stabilizing force in the Valley’s sheet metal industry with its high level of craftsmanship. Our local has since modernized and grown to 1,400 brothers and sisters from just 13.
Our handsomely framed charter bears the names of the original thirteen of Local #359:
After the International Association recognized Local Union #359 in 1937, Louis J Oliger was elected as our first President. It wasn’t until 1941 that members of Local #359 elected their first Business Manager, William H Goettl.
Nearly 30 years later, the membership voted to purchase its own building. The chapter bought the title to St. Mark’s Catholic Parish in November of 1962 and moved in shortly thereafter.
Just three and a half years later on July 1, 1965, Local #359 initiated the Local Pension for the #359 membership. The membership kept moving forward. Finally, 28 years after formally organizing, the membership voted and created the Arizona Local Union Pension in July 1965.
For many years, there was a separate local union in the city of Tucson, Local #426. In February 1978, Local #426 merged with Local #359, thus creating one building trades local union for the state of Arizona.
By the 1990’s, members of Local #359 recognized a need to expand the training center. On October 23, 1999, a new training facility was built and rightfully dedicated as the Robert H. Walker Training Center. Robert Walker was a longtime apprenticeship coordinator and member of Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union #359.
On July 22, 2012, Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union #359 celebrated its 75th anniversary. Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union #359 remains steadfast in the development and training of sheet metal workers to provide skilled, qualified craftsmen for the generations to come.
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