UPTE Los Alamos Reporter

October 2014
Published by University Professional & Technical Employees (UPTE) Local 1663

Labor History at the Los Alamos National Lab

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and American military leaders decided they needed to build a laboratory to create a nuclear weapon. They settled on a secluded school for boys in the desert land of Los Alamos, New Mexico. Robert Oppenheimer led a group of almost 6,000 scientists in what became known as the Manhattan Project.

Along with the growth of the Los Alamos infrastructure, there was also a need for skilled labor. Many local unions  -- mostly headquartered in El Paso Texas, with outposts in Santa Fe and Albuquerque -- dispatched members to Los Alamos. To meet the growing employment needs, on January 10, 1944 a group of construction labor union leaders formed the New Mexico Building and Construction Trades Council. Unions also worked to create a New Mexico Union Charter with many of charter members working at Los Alamos.

From the days of the Manhattan Project through today, members of the building and construction trades unions benefit from having a collective bargaining agreement at LANL. The agreement protects members’ wages, health insurance, pensions, job site safety, and unjust terminations. These collective bargaining agreements are still in place today. Any changes to the members benefits the members are notified in advance and are given an opportunity to express their concerns and vote on the issue. The company cannot make any unilateral changes without the consent of the union and its members.

UPTE at LANL has been very successful protecting workers’ right at LANL, starting with those who formed a group called CLEAR in 1995. CLEAR brought back hundreds of unfairly laid off workers in the 1995 mass layoffs (RIF). CLEAR leaders helped establish UPTE at LANL. UPTE forced LANL to preserve a pension plan (TCP1) for long term employees instead of freezing their pension and forcing them onto a defined contribution plan.

UPTE stewards have represented many employees treated unfairly in raises, evaluations and other issues, and the union has raised health and safety concerns around radiation, beryllium, asbestos and other hazards. To continue to protect workers’ rights we need to grow our union for our future so our members can also benefits from the strength in numbers and eventually the protection of a collective bargaining agreement.

This article started with President Roosevelt so we leave you with this quote from FDR “It is one of the characteristics of a free and democratic nation to have free and independent labor unions.”
To get involved and help grow your union, please contact Richard Espinosa at 505-603-9034 or respinosa@upte-cwa.org

UPTE LANL, 127 Eastgate Drive, Suite 212, Los Alamos, NM 87544

UPTE Local 1663 |  lanl@upte-cwa.org  |  (505) 603-9034
  |  respinosa@upte-cwa.org