1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Inventory

5.   Subjects

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    R.I.H.S. Library page

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 Records of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers' Union, Local No. 31

 Trade union, Providence, R.I.

 Records, 1910-1957

 Size: 0.5 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 1048

 Processed by: Rick Stattler, April 2000

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Local 31 of the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers' Union was chartered in Providence in 1910. Their members handled all sorts of insulation work, but especially the insulation of pipes, which was done by sewing a canvas wrapping over the insulating material.

            All nine of the names on Local 31's original charters were apparently Swedish-Americans: Adolph Anderson, Alfred Anderson, John E. Olsen, John Swedberg, Gust Anderson, Ben Anderson, Charles Johnson, Oscar Anderson, and Al Johnson. According to tradition, many of these Swedes had previously worked as sailmakers, and were thus skilled at sewing canvas. Members of other ethnic groups soon joined, but a large Swedish contingent remained through at least 1955.

            As insulation became necessary for a wider variety of industrial uses, the Local grew to over a hundred members by the 1950s, and its members took on increasingly specialized work such as the insulation of industrial smokestacks. The members were known informally on the job site as "pipe wrappers" by other union workers in the building trades. The lives of many members were shortened by respiratory problems due to asbestos exposure.

            Asbestos was declared a hazardous substance in 1971, and was regulated under the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants in 1973. After this point, asbestos was no longer used for insulation, and was removed under carefully controlled conditions during many building demolitions and renovations. IAHFIAW members took on this dangerous work of asbestos removal, but it was handled by a regional council of IAHFIAW, and few Local 31 members ever specialized in that area. The Local 31 members continued to specialize in heavy industrial work, using other insulating materials. By 1999, non-union contractors had taken over much of the membership's less sophisticated residential pipe insulation jobs, and Local 31's membership had been reduced to sixty-four. Local 31 was merged into the Boston-based Local 6 of the IAHFIAW effective January 1, 2000.


Interview with Americo Romano, last business manager of Local 31, April 11 2000

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Scope and content:

            This collection includes the earliest dues and treasurer's books of Local 31, as well as a later minute book.

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            These records were donated in 2000 by Rico Romano in his capacity as Business Agent of Local 6. Mr. Romano served as Business Manager of Local 31 from 1994 until its merger in 1999.

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Folder 1. Minute book, 1943-1954. Dues payments 1954-1955 in back of book.

Folder 2. Dues book, 1910-1922

Folder 3. Treasurer's book, 1910-1920

Folder 4. Printed material from the International:

            "Agreements...Between the IAHFIAW and Other International Unions," 1957

            "Code of Workmanship of the IAHFIAW," 1957

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Asbestos industry - Employees

Building trades - Employees

x Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers' Union

Insulating materials industry - Rhode Island

Swedish-Americans - Rhode Island - Providence

Trade unions - Asbestos industry employees - Rhode Island

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