Examining the damage of the hurricane which interrupted the 24th International Convention in 1950 in Miami.
1950-1960 Winds of Change
Hurricane-force winds met the delegates to the 24th IBEW International Convention held in Miami in 1950. As the Convention participants looked out their hotel windows at the storm’s brute force, an equally strong wind was bringing change to the Brotherhood, North America and the world.
When the delegates met in Miami, Alaska and Hawaii were still territories, the AFI. and the CIO were separate entities, a ship couldn’t sail from the Atlantic into the Great Lakes, a war was beginning in Korea, both the power of the atom and the speed of the jet engine were reserved for the military, people waited hopefully for free elections in Cuba and Eastern Europe, George VI was king of England, Daniel W. Tracy was International President of the IBEW, and Harry Truman was president of the United States. Ten years later none of that would be true.
The phenomenal growth the IBEW experienced in the 1940s continued at only a slightly slower pace through the ‘50s. The U.S. and Canadian economies were expanding, but in the United States the fear of communism and possible aggression by the Soviet Union and China hung like a dark cloud over the country. Senator Joseph McCarthy’s hearings on un-American activities and the building of backyard bomb shelters kept most Americans worrying their way through much of the 1950s.
The labor movement lost a strong political ally when President Truman left office in 1952. He carried on the philosophy, if not all the programs, of Roosevelt’s New Deal. It would be some time before such a philosophy would return to government.
One way many IBEW locals benefited while Truman was in office was in government construction and renovation projects. For example, Local 26, Washington, D.C., was part of an all-union team which completely renovated the White House in 1951. The First Family moved across Pennsylvania Avenue to Blair House while much of the White House interior was gutted and rebuilt and two wings were added. Some Local 26 electricians may have recognized the old wiring. Local 26 members installed all the wiring during the only previous substantial renovation to the president’s house in 1902.
1952 Seizure of nation's steel mills is ordered by President Truman to avert a strike - ruled illegal by Supreme Court. A peace contract is signed by U.S., Germany, Great Britain and France. Immigration and Naturalization Act passes House. Philip Murray of the CIO and William Green of the AFL die.