3M & Labor
Working for Job Betterment
The majority of employees in the Saint Paul Plant worked in the factories and received hourly pay. The company sought to offer competitive wages and working conditions comparable to other companies and factories in the area.
Before the hourly employees were unionized, the company worked with the 3M Employees’ Association on “employment and working conditions, wages and cost of living, safety and prevention of accidents, health and plant sanitation, hours of labor, recreation and athletics, and other matters of mutual interest and benefit.” The association was founded in 1933, two years before Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act.
The Congress of Industrial Organizations (C.I.O.), an umbrella union organization, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board about the legality of the 3M Employees’ Association. As a result, the association was dissolved at the end of 1943. The hourly employees joined Local 75 of the Gas and Coke Workers Union, C.I.O. in 1944. By that time, the standard work week was 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, with time and a half pay for overtime.
One of the chief union organizers was Joseph E. Karth, who joined 3M in 1941. After serving in the military, he returned to 3M. He was elected president of Local 75 in 1948, serving until 1958. He was also a member of the Minnesota State House of Representatives between 1950 and 1958. He was then elected to the U.S. Congress representing the 4th District in 1958. He served until 1977.
3M was proud of its good management-employee relationships. In 1946, President William L. McKnight noted that there had never been a work stoppage at the Saint Paul Plant. That record was halted by a bitter two-month strike in the fall of 1967.
Since 1999, unionized employees have been represented by the United Steelworkers.