Auxiliary unions were a separate-but-unequal tactic by the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders and Helpers of America to expand membership to Black workers.
The massive expansion of the industrial workforce during World War II wasn’t the first time the union had to reckon with Black workers at their gates; a proposal for the auxiliary concept had been floated at their 1920 national convention, but failed because of light voter turnout.
The union's Executive Council raised it again at the next convention in 1937, where it passed. By 1942, over 1,500 Black workers were members. After Pearl Harbor the numbers climbed, eventually reaching more than 12,000.
The first Boilermakers auxiliary was established in Memphis, Tenn. on May 11, 1938.
In the regions where Kaiser operated shipyards, Local A-26 (Oakland, Calif) was established on Feb. 2, 1942; Local A-33 (San Francisco, Calif.) on Jan. 22, 1943, and Local A-36 (Richmond, Calif.) on Feb. 4, 1943. The Portland, Oregon area Local A-42 (Vancouver, Wash.) was established on January 2, 1943.
On November 15 and 16, 1943, the President's Committee on Fair Employment Practice held hearings on the discriminatory nature of the Boilermakers union auxiliary system, and outlined 10 separate ways that the system hurt African American workers.
Labor scholar Herbert R. Northrup summarized these findings in 1974:
Source: Rubin, L., Swift, W. S., & Northrop, H. R. (1974). Negro employment in the maritime industries: A study of racial policies in the shipbuilding, longshore, and offshore maritime industries. University of Pennsylvania Press.
The complete list of findings was earlier published in the "Proceedings of the 17th Consolidated Convention of the International Brotherhood of Boiler Makers, Iron Ship Builders and Helpers of America" 1/31/1944-2/9/1944.