Catasauqua Press

Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Photos courtesy of Larry Oberly and Mike BednarCoplay Cement Manufacturing Company hired many union workers. Photos courtesy of Larry Oberly and Mike BednarCoplay Cement Manufacturing Company hired many union workers.
A copy of the union workers contracts dates back to 1961. A copy of the union workers contracts dates back to 1961.
The workers’ union dues were kept track of monthly in a stamp book. The workers’ union dues were kept track of monthly in a stamp book.

Remembering: May 1, 1961 — a visit to the cement union

Wednesday, September 18, 2019 by ED PANY Curator, Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum in Columns

Today, I am a guest of Local No. 14 United Cement, Lime and Gypsum Workers International Union, Coplay. The union is voting to ratify an understanding with Coplay Cement Manufacturing Company.

Our readers may remember some of the former dedicated cement workers. The union leaders were Ralph Talotta, Adolph Wechsler, Edward Klucsarits, Caffiro Bartoni, Joseph Ehrets and Jerry Neuman.

The agreement was for two years: May 1, 1961, to May 1, 1963. The vice presidents of Coplay Cement were Louis Stamburg and Paul Lentz.

Do any of our readers recall the Lentz Chevrolet and Oldsmobile dealership on Main Street in Northampton, which was owned by the Lentz family?

The district union vice president was Victor Thomas, of Nazareth, and the district representative was Paul Balliet.

The schedule of wages pales compared to current wage rates. Here are some examples. Many of these jobs no longer exist in our four local cement company plants. Here are some of the job titles: laborer, $2.17 per hour; truck driver, $2.29 per hour; roof cleaner (men actually removed dust from plant roofs), $2.29 per hour; clinker crusher, $2.36 per hour; quarry pump man, $2.34 per hour; burner, $2.87 per hour; burner helper, $2.43 per hour; repairman, $2.60 per hour; cement silo tapper, $2.67 per hour; electrician, $2.82 per hour; mill wright, $2.95 per hour

Today, most quarry operations are with outside contractors.

The group insurance provided a $5,000 insurance policy; $55 a week for sickness and accident benefits for 26 weeks; and life insurance for retired employees, $2,000. The pension program provided a company contribution for $2.75 for each year of service. A 40-year employee would be entitled to a monthly pension of $110 a month.

Union dues in 1961 were 75 cents a month.

Here’s a list of the 10 senior employees at Coplay in 1961 — some were your friends and neighbors: Alex Kramer, Ed Reinert, John Kish, Charles Deutsch, Frank Hafner, Stephen Soroka, Raynold Ambearle, Jake Ferreira, Daniel Ressler and Joseph Marushak. The employment of union employees was 182. In 1961, there were thousands of employees in area cement plants.

Today, four companies operate five plants in the area. The former Coplay plant is now but a memory of our past.

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In two weeks, we’ll talk with Kathy Unger, former secretary at Penn Dixie Cement Company.