Founded on April 1, 1890.
The history of men throughout the ages who chose the painting trades as a means of providing the livelihood for themselves and families is also the history of local #147 of Chicago, Illinois.
In the early 1880s, a group of men formed the Master Painters Association, which was a national organization. During this same time, Journeyman Painters throughout the country felt the need for closer cooperation among one another, and therefore formed clubs, guilds, lodges and small unions. Some of these groups were granted charters by the Knights of Labor, a national organization.
John T. Elliot of Baltimore, Maryland outlined a plan which proved to be very successful. He applied for and was granted a charter under the laws of Maryland and organized the Painters and Decorators of America in 1887, which headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland. The first gathering under the charter included 15 different cities in the United States and Canada was held March 15 and 16, 1887. That day, officers were elected and a constitution was adopted.
The group also designated a death and disability benefit policy for its members. In the policy, members were given $50 with six months membership or $100 with 12 or more months. It also included a wives’ funeral expense of $25 for six months membership and $100 for 12 months membership.
Early in 1890 a group of painters brought together here in Chicago, IL applied for a charter to the Painters and Decorators of America in Baltimore, Maryland, to form a local union. The request for the charter was granted April 1, 1890 and the number was #147. Charles Hanson was the first Financial Secretary and Mahlon Johnson the first Recording Secretary. At that time, painters’ wages were $0.25 per hour. During the first meeting after receiving their charter, a solution was adopted which declared wages be increased to $0.30 per hour and a work day would consist of 8 hours.
In the later part of 1891, Alex Hunter came in from Pittsburgh and was appointed the first Business Agent the following year. The World’s Fair construction work was going on at the time, and it attracted painters from many parts of the country. Some came with clearance cards from other locals, and others paid the initiation fee which was $10. Bright and sometimes rabid agitators were appearing on the floor of the local’s meetings and many controversial questions were debated. This set the course for the local’s long history of innovation and radicalism that carries on even today.
In 1891, different philosophies caused trouble to brew between James McKinney, a member of local 147, and John T. Elliot, the founder of the brotherhood. The rift came to a head at the brotherhood convention on August 1, 1892 in St. Louis. James McKinney of local 147 of Chicago was elected President of the brotherhood and a resolution was passed that headquarters would be established in Lafayette, Indiana. John T. Elliot objected to the resolution and claimed it was out of order, but the convention allowed the resolution to stand. Then the brotherhood had two headquarters, one in Baltimore, Maryland, and the other in Lafayette, Indiana. The fight for control of the brotherhood went on for eight years, finally ending in peace in the year 1900. The painters wage scale was wisely adjusted over the years after the turmoil, sometimes going up and sometimes being lowered as exigencies arose.
During the first World War, the building of homes topped, but in the 20s it became very active. At this time, the wages of our trade rose to the highest in the nation. Local #147 continued to be the largest and best known local in the brotherhood. During most of the 30s, the nation experienced a severe depression. The World’s Fair of 1933 and 1934 did a great deal to help with the employment situation. Later, the government did much to spark the economy, and in 1941, the Second World War took up the slack. During the 50s and 60s, organizing was on the increase. Although there were times of turmoil in the local, things for the painters were looking up. There was now what many considered good wages and a health care fund was even established. In 1958, a pension fund was started, although many of the members were opposed, causing much debate. Now, the painters’ pension is amongst the best in the building trades.
In the late 1970s, the membership became discontent with their leadership at the District Council #14 level. Wages were no longer keeping up with the other building trades. Leo Tock, Business Representative for Local #147, had proven himself as a formable leader and took on the leadership of Painters District Council #14 and later won the elected position of Secretary Treasurer of District Council #14. His leadership brought the painters’ wages back into parity with the other building trades and served notice that the painters were an organization to be respected. Robert Scholl, the elected Business Representative, stepped down from his position and James Coughlin became the Business Representative for Local #147 after Leo Tock took the Secretary Treasurer position at the District Council.
Leo Tock passed away in 1984, leaving a void in the Local and District Council. John Pulaski of Local #147 stepped up to fill the vacancy as Secretary Treasurer. For the next eight years, turmoil engulfed the Local with many opposing factions trying to get their foot hold in the local. In 1984, Rich Tamborski became the appointed Business Representative to assist in the day to day operations of the union. James Coughlin was appointed the General Representative for the brotherhood for the first district at the end of the 1980s. The advancement of Coughlin to the brotherhood created a vacancy once again for Business Representative. Turmoil at the local level dictated an election and John Spiros, Jr. was elected to the position in 1990.
Over the years, many good men have served the local in many elected capacities.
Business representative: Alex Hunter, George Henshaw, Charles Cameron, Edward Flynn, James Woods, Frank Curran, Harry Luebe, Joseph Meader, Owen McDonnell, Charles YoungBlood, James Winnermark, George Scholl, Leo Tock, Bob Scholl, James Coughlin, Richard Tamborski, John Spiros, Jr., and Dennis Roach
Local Presidents: George Henshaw, Jack Perrin, Ed Hammond, James Root, Stewart McLean, Dave Kelly, Jack Glancey, Patrick Casey, James Witherspoon, Ed Kaldschmidt, John Spiros, Jr., Kenneth Schmidt, Richard Tamborski and Dennis Roach
Recording Secretaries: Mahlon Johnson, Dave Walgren, William Bennett, William Kolp, Harry Murry, John Bannon, Stanley Matyja, Joseph Lipetzky, William Paulson, Chris Cannon, Michael Coughlin and Michael Krawiec
Financial Secretaries: Chas Hanson, William Sweeney, Evar Anderson, Harry Murry, Stewart McLean, Frank Sullivan, Ed Kaldschmidt, Bruce Kuhn, Michael Coughlin and John Chudina
Over the last 100 plus years, Painters Local #147 has been one of the most aggressive locals in the brotherhood. We have gone through two World Wars and have sent many capable men to central bodies in the labor movement. All this is done with one thing in mind – reach for a better tomorrow for our members and fight like hell when you know it is right!