History of Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union 359
In 1937 with an estimated population in Phoenix, Arizona of 56,000 and rising, the need for quality craftsmen and women was in demand. In the midst of the Great Depression, the story of organized labor everywhere includes chapters of early trial and error and, on occasion, failure. In Phoenix, at least, two sheet metal locals were formed before our present organization began. Earl Cook, International Representative, saw his hopes for a Phoenix local rise and fall repeatedly.
On July 22, 1937, a charter group of 13 members put together a local with lasting strength. Meeting rugged opposition and disappointment with perseverance, they contributed a stabilizing influence and a high level of craftsmanship to the sheet metal industry in the Valley. Our modern local of 1,400 brothers and sisters has grown from that small early group.
Our handsomely framed charter bears the names of the original thirteen of Local #359. L.Preston Armer, William H Goettl, Paul Armer, Homer Dukes, E.H. Felix, Roy Hawkins, W.A. Houser, Bill Kleinman, George H Milner, Louis J. Oliger, Roy R. Smith, Vincent Smith and G.L. Tennyson.
In 1937 and after the International Association recognized Local Union #359 Louis J Oliger was elected as our first President. It wasn’t until 1941 that members of Local #359 elected it’s first Business Manager William H Goettl.
In 1962 the membership voted to purchase a building of our own and in November 1962 purchased the title to St. Mark’s Catholic Parish and moved in shortly thereafter. Just three and a half years later on July 1st 1965 Local #359 initiated the Local Pension for the #359 membership.
The membership kept moving forward and after 28 years in charter the membership voted in 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 and in February 1978 Local #426 was merged with Local #359 and created one building trade’s local union for the state of Arizona. Soon to follow two production local unions were to merge into Local Union #359 and by 1990, all sheet metal locals would fly one banner under Local Union #359.
With membership growing and the need to train on site, members and local contractors invested in our own training facility and on January 1982 dedicated a 9,800 square foot facility known as the Homer D. Dukes Training Center. Ever more fitting given the fact Homer D. Dukes was an original charter member and instructor for over 30 years teaching his knowledge of the craft to future generations.
After 50 years in the charter, and longing to be involved retired members of Local Union #359 decided to charter a retirees club and on May 6, 1987, created such an organization. These dedicated members remain active and are an inspiration to all.
A need to expand in our training center was in order and on October 23, 1999, a new training facility was dedicated and rightfully named Robert H. Walker training center. Robert Walker is a longtime Apprenticeship coordinator and member of Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union #359.
On July 22, 2012, Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union #359 will be celebrating its 75th year. Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union #359 is and will remain steadfast in the development and training of sheet metal workers providing skilled qualified craftsmen for many generations to come.