Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association History

As a member of the SMWIA, you belong to a strong and dynamic union with a proud history of service to its membership. Below are some of the milestones in our history:

January 25, 1888 Representatives from Peorio, IL; Kansas City; Omaha, NE; Memphis, TN; Dayton, and Youngstown meet in Toledo, OH to form the Tin, Sheet Iron and Cornice Workers’ International Association. The President was Archibald Barnes; Secretary was A. W. Chatfield; and Robert Kellerstrass was named Treasurer.


  • Local 30   is the 1st  Canadian Local   chartered.
  • Tin,   Sheet Iron and Cornice Workers’ International Association changed to the   Amalgamated Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association.
  • First   charter granted to the Union by the American Federation of Labour.
  • Union   membership reported at 5,581 with 108 Local Unions.
  • Name   changed to the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Alliance. Headquarters   established in Kansas City, MO.
  • Local   47 is the 5th Canadian Local chartered.National   Building Trades Department established under the American Federation of   Labor. The International becomes a charter member.
  • The   first air conditioning system for human comfort was used in a motion picture theatre.
  • Name   changed to Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association.
  • Pacific   Coast Conference of Sheet Metal Workers agres to affiliate with the Sheet   Metal Workers Alliance. Membership grows about 24,000 with 441 Local Unions.
  • Sheet   Metal Workers from Local 206 in San Diego, CA build a major portion of what   became the “Spirit of St. Louis.” This is the plane Charles   Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic in May 1927.
  • During   WWII, a number of Sheet Metal Workers were engaged in “secret work”   associated with development of an atomic bomb.
  • First   pension checks issued by Local 28 in New York City, NY. This program is the   first of its kind in the building trades. Local 47 became the first Local in   the SMWIA and Canada to represent Roofers.
  • International   begins tracking industry products manufactured under collective bargaining   agreements.
  • SMWIA   becomes first union to offer its members accident insurance – protecting   members at work and at home in case of accidental death.
  • National   Maintenance Policy Agreement established to promote labour-management   cooperation in he construction trades.
  • National   Energy Management Institute created in partnership with the Sheet Metal and   Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SMACNA).
  • Sheet   Metal Occupational Health Institute established to address asbestos exposure   in Sheet Metal Workers.
  • Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association celebrates 100th anniversary.
  • Department of Education established to provide a specialized training curriculum for the   future union leaders.
  • First Bi-Annual Labour-Management Partnership Conference hosted by SMACNA and   SMWIA.
  • SMWIA joins the Industrial Union Council (IUC). The Industrial Union Council consists of 14 unions with members represented in manufacturing.
  • SMWIA   Local 41, the first SMWIA Local Union outside the U.S. and Canada, is established in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • SMWIA   Members receive degrees from the National Labour College.
  • Continuing   to represent all the SMWIA members.


Since its founding, the SMWIA has continued its growth during times of war, peace, depression and prosperity.

We now represent about 150,000 active and retired workers in areas such as HVAC installation, Fabrication, Repair, and Service; Architectural sheet metal; Roofing, Production Shops, Railroad and Shipyard work and a range of other industries and occupations.