Leaving the UWUA and joining IBEW Local 1324 was like stepping off a cliff. PG&E workers in the Bay Area were already paying dues to the UWUA and were represented by a UWUA contract. IBEW 1324 had no contract. The only thing Ron Weakley and his followers could offer was a dream of future unity, which they captured in the slogan “one union on the system.”
In San Mateo County, Mert Walters and Manny Ferreira took a three-day leave from PG&E to promote the new union. “We went out and pulled the guys off the poles and out of the ditches and signed them up in the IBEW,” Walters recalled. “We signed up everybody but one individual.”
Because IBEW 1324 supporters were still required to pay dues to the UWUA, they were entitled to attend UWUA meetings. “We’d go to the meetings and debate and harangue about getting one union on the system,” Weakley recalled. Don Hardie, Gene Hastings, Big Ed White and dozens of others stumped for the IBEW all across the Bay Area.
UWUA began to bleed members. Some UWUA local treasurers, loyal to Weakley, hid their dues money from UWUA national officers and later used it to buy block memberships in IBEW Local 1324.
In March of 1949 a superior court judge ruled that PG&E workers who had switched to the IBEW should not be required to continue paying dues to the UWUA. The tide was shifting.
But PG&E wasn’t ready to let the IBEW get “one union on the system.” Not without a fight.