The history of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association is that of a strong and dynamic union that has been on the leading edge of developments in organizing, representation and bargaining.

Early Years of the SMWIA
Below are just some of the milestones in our history:

January 25, 1888 – Representatives from Peoria, IL; Kansas City; Omaha, NE; Memphis, TN; Dayton, and Youngstown meet in Toledo, OH to form the Tin, Sheet Iron and Cornice Workers’ International Association. The President was Archibald Barns, Secretary was A. W. Chatfield, and Robert Kellerstrass was named Treasurer.

1896 – First Canadian local chartered in Toronto, Ontario.

1897 – Tin, Sheet Iron and Cornice Workers’ International Association changed to the Amalgamated Sheet Metal Workers International Association

1899 – First charter granted to the Union by the American Federation of Labor.

1901 – Union membership reported at 5,581 with 108 Local Unions.

1903 – Name changed to the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Alliance. Headquarters established in Kansas City, MO.

1907 – National Building Trades Department established under the American Federation of Labor. The International becomes a charter member.

1922 – The first air conditioning system for human comfort was used in a motion picture theater.

1925 – Pacific Coast Conference of Sheet Metal Workers agrees to affiliate with the Sheet Metal Workers’ Alliance. Membership grows to about 24,000 with 441 Local Unions.

1924 – Name changed to Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association.

1927 – Sheet Metal Workers from Local 206 in San Diego, CA build a major portion of what became the “Spirit of St. Louis.” This is the plane Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic in May 1927.

1942 – During WWII, a number of Sheet Metal Workers were engaged in “secret work” constructing an atomic bomb.

1949 – First National Apprenticeship Contest held in Washington, DC at SMACNA Convention.

1952 – First pension checks issued by Local 28 in New York City, NY. This program is a first of its kind in the building trades.

1955 – National Joint Adjustment Board is created by the SMWIA and Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) to serve as an arbitration board to resolve grievance disputes after they have been processed through the local level.

1957 – International begins tracking industry products manufactured under collective bargaining agreements.

1962 – SMWIA becomes first union to offer its members accident insurance – protecting members at work and at home in cases of accidental death.

1966 – National Pension Fund established for SMWIA members in construction and production occupations.

1971 – National Training Fund established.

1971 – National Maintenance Policy Agreement established to promote labor-management cooperation in the construction trades.

1973 – SMWIA establishes SASMI Program to help underemployed workers affected by the recession.

1981 – National Energy Management Institute created in partnership with the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SMACNA).

1983 – International Job Bank created to offer SMWIA members employment opportunities outside of their local area.

1988 – Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association celebrate 100 year anniversary.

1996 – Department of Education established to provide a specialized training curriculum for future union leaders.

2003 – SMWIA joins the Industrial Union Council (IUC). The Industrial Union Council consists of 14 unions with members represented in manufacturing industries across the United States.

2004 – SMWIA Local 41, the first SMWIA local union outside of the United States and Canada is established in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Since its founding, the SMWIA has continued its growth during times of war, peace, depression and prosperity. We now represent 150,000 workers in areas such as shipbuilding, HVAC installation, fabrication, repair, and service; architectural sheet metal; manufacturing, metal roofing and a range of other industries and occupations.