March 1, 2008
Draper Strike, 1976
Hopedale in February
Do you know any of these Rainbow Girls?
Draper Workers Go On Picket Lines
Firm Threatens to Leave
Hopedale After Majority
Of Union Votes To Strike
More than 300 workers milled around the Draper Division plant of Rockwell International in Hopedale today, to begin a strike that could shut down the textile manufacturing plant for good.
The members of Local 6830, United Steelworkers of America, representing production workers, totaling 550, at the plant voted overwhelmingly last night to reject a company proposal asking workers to take a 9.1 percent pay cut
The vote was so lopsided union officials said, that no count was taken.
The vote was recorded at a dramatic 2 ½ hour meeting of the Steelworkers Union held in Davoren Auditorium at Milford High School.
Workers were told by Paul Pagucci, Jr., president of the local Steelworkers Union, that if they voted to strike, the Hopedale plant would be permanently shut down
He said he was told of this action by James A. Chandler, Jr. of Hopedale, manager of labor and community relations for Draper Division of Rockwell.
Chandler has reportedly resigned his position with Draper and expects to leave the plant next month.
According to Pagucci, the same warning also came from Louis Putze, vice president of the textile weaving machinery division based in Pittsburgh.
Putze said the plant would close permanently in three to six months if the workers turned down the contract.
The final vote came at 8 last night, two hours after the production workers assembled. It was pointed out that the company plan would have cut about 50 cents an hour from workers' paychecks, amounting to about $20 a week for the average worker.
The firm proposed to return to the workers next year 22 cents an hour, and in the second year the remainder of the 9.1 percent wage loss would have been, in a lump sum.
Pagucci urged them to accept the contract, but the workers were not convinced.
It was also learned that the company wants the cost-of-living clause stricken from a new contract.
Earlier in the day on Sunday, maintenance workers Local 6686, covering 94 carpenters, plumbers, electricians and custodians, voted to go along with the company request of a pay cut. The vote among those present was nearly unanimous, it was reported, although no actual count was made.
After the night vote by the larger local, the 550 production workers, the maintenance workers apparently joined forces and were on the picket lines today.
The only personnel in the plant today were "a few foremen," according to a union spokesman.
Contract negotiations were carried out for the production workers by Pagucci and Robert Dole, a state representative of the Steelworkers Union, and for the maintenance workers by Charles Saleski of Medway, president of the local.
The general feeling at the Draper plat this morning was the strike was called because Rockwell officials would not indicate to the union that the company would remain in operation in the immediate future, even if workers approved their pay cut. Milford Daily News, September 20, 1976.
A few months later, the Milford News included the following as part of a story on the decline of business at Drapers:
But last September closing became a real possibility. In a much publicized contract settlement the 550-member Steelworkers Local 6830 accepted a deferred pay plan that effectively cut hourly pay by 50 cents and returned to work after a two day strike.
Local union officials are reluctant to talk on the record, but one said that there was not much of a choice. Union bargainers were offered the contract for deferred pay or a plant shutdown contract, spelling out the severance pay for most of the plant employees, he said.
Over the next several years, business continued to decline. The Draper plant in Hopedale was finally closed in 1980.
The End is Near - Two Milford News article printed in 1978.
It's All Over - Milford News article on the closing of Draper, 1980.
The Decline of a Technological Leader - A study of shuttleless weaving and the last years of the Draper Corporation.
James S. Midgley, 69, February 9 2008, Germantown, Maryland, HHS 1955.
Maureen S. Young, 60, February 10, 2008, Brookline, Massachusetts.
Joseph E. McGrath, 36, February 18, 2008, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Old Orchard Beach, Maine, HHS 1989.
Norma L. Stewart, 87, February 23, 2008, HHS 1938.
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