Industrial Carpenters: A Rich History

Industrial Carpenters: A Rich History
Through the organizing efforts of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (UBC), lumber and sawmill workers formed the first local unions to make up the Industrial Council.

Lumber and sawmill organizing began in 1934 on the heels of important legislation such as the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Wagner Act, and the National Labor Relations Act.

This legislation opened the door to industrial organizing in the wood product industries. From 1934—1936, the UBC organized 130,000 woodworkers on the West Coast into the Lumber and Sawmill Workers and the Plywood and Veneer Workers local unions. In spring of 1935, 30,000 timber workers held a historic and massive strike up the West Coast from Canada through California. Workers called for wage increases, shorter workweeks, and a region-wide collective bargaining agreement.

In response to strike efforts, employers hired scab labor to fill jobs left by striking workers, and strike lines turned violent. Local police and the National Guard were brought in to deal with the situation. When it was over, at least three strikers were dead, and dozens more hospitalized. The strike ended that summer with employers agreeing to a modest wage increase and shorter hours. This historic strike paved the way for lumber and sawmill workers to become one of the largest and most active unions in the Northwest.

Over the next few decades, the union continued to fight for gains for its workers and organizing continued. Hundreds of local wood product mills consolidated into dozens of local unions and smaller district councils throughout the Northwest and United States. In 1959, workers successfully formed a multi-employer pension and health and welfare trust now named for Jim Bledsoe; head of the Portland Coast Columbia District Council, who lead the charge. 

Another prominent figure, former UBC Western District Vice President Mike Draper, came from the Western Council of Industrial Workers after being hired on as an organizer in 1973. Brother Draper led several robust West Coast campaigns to organize industrial workers. He took over as Executive Secretary-Treasurer in 1988 and quickly initiated a two-month strike involving 16,000 members who were fighting to gain back concessions and rollbacks from two years prior. The strike was ultimately successful. 

In 2006, the four Regional Industrial Councils merged and the UBC chartered the Carpenters Industrial Council (CIC). This merger united industrial workers across North America. 

Decades of failed NAFTA style trade agreements have taken their toll on manufacturing, mill, and industrial work throughout the United States, leaving many factories boarded up. The Industrial Council has suffered a steady decline in work opportunities, in membership numbers, and funding despite its continued efforts to organize new workers and fight back on the national political stage against free trade agreements. 

In 2019, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters moved affiliation of the Carpenters Industrial Council under UBC Regional Councils. The Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters has welcomed over 4,000 brother and sisters from the industrial sector.

Did you know that industrial carpenters work in a multitude of manufacturing facilities, from plywood to doors and windows?
Most shops are organized completely with the Carpenters Union which allows members to perform a wide variety of work, such as: production and maintenance employees, millwrights, pipe-fitters, mechanics and powerhouse boiler operators, blacksmiths, welders, and machinists.


Ray Calica, LU 1017: Ray began his career at a Weyerhaeuser sawmill plant in Aberdeen, Washington. In 1980 he became the chief steward and eventually the president of his local from the early 1990s–2009. Ray became an industrial representative in 2013 and is the current president of local 1017.

Paul Cloer, LU 1017: Paul has more than 35 years of experience working with unions. He began his career with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) at the age of 20. His first job with a UBC affiliate was with the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers. He has been with the Industrial Carpenters since 2015.

Todd Gorham, LU 2851: Has been an industrial representative for six years. He previously worked for the Boise Cascade Particle Board Plant in La Grande, Oregon from 1986–2013. Todd served in the Oregon Army National Guard from 1985–2012 and was President of local 2851 from 2006–2013. 

Brian Oelberg, LU 2784: Brian worked his way through college doing different jobs–always wondering how to get one of those good union jobs. He went to graduate school and became part of the UAW. He went on to work for UAW Region 9a and continued his career with various unions such as the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute. In 2017, he joined the industrial team as a representative.

Did You Know?

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