Local 525 History
Local 525 History
After World War II the U. S. began experimenting with rocketry. The German’s had successfully used the technology during the war and the U.S. needed to catch up. By the early 1950’s, Patrick AFB in Florida had become the center of the U.S. missile program. As the program grew, it was moved to a large track of land approximately ten miles north of Patrick and along the Atlantic coast. This track is Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In 1954 Pan American World Airways received the first government contract for the operation and maintenance of the Cape. The workers soon realized that they needed a Union and began an organizing effort. The TWU was certified and on the twenty-third day of June, 1957 Local 525 received its charter. TWU founder, Michael J. Quill stated that we were pioneers in founding the first Local Union of Guided Missile workers in the United States. We became Guided Missile Local 525 with 1200 members. The Transport Workers Union of America became an integral part of our nation’s space program.
Since those beginnings, every launch from Cape Canaveral or Kennedy Space Center involves members of TWU Local 525. We were there for the early experiments when failures were numerous and often dangerous. In those early years, TWU Local 525 members shared the excitement, the vision and the dream of a future where spaceflight became common.
As the space program moved toward manned flight and space exploration, we were there. TWU members were part of the launch team that sent John Glenn off to become the first American in orbit. When President Kennedy announced his ambitious plan to put a man on the moon, we were there to answer the call. Our numbers grew to over 2200 as we worked day and night to reach the lofty goal that had been set before us.
We were there to celebrate when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and said “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” We were there to mourn when three of America’s finest Astronauts – Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White when they died in a tragic fire aboard Apollo 1 on January 27, 1967. Their bodies were recovered by a TWU rescue team, current President Kevin Smith’s father, Ron Smith was one of rescuers.
The TWU was involved in the development of a new escape system for astronauts…..A system that was used if a shuttle escape was required while still on the Pad. We were there to construct and maintain reporter and camera sites to allow the American people to view launches up close and receive the on-site report of Walter Cronkite.
We were there during the Cuban Missile crisis when the Cape was a target. We were there, working long hours, assisting in the development of submarine launched missiles – a weapon system that played a large part in the fall of the Soviet Union.
TWU Local 525 members are involved in launching satellites that provide everything from TV and GPS Satellites to Military intelligence. Every launch is touched by the TWU. If you hear on the news that a launch is delayed by weather, that weather information came from TWU Local 525 members. If you watch a shuttle launch on TV, the people nearest to the shuttle are a TWU rescue team standing by in case of emergency. If you watch a shuttle landing and see the large fire trucks driving beside the shuttle as it proceeds down the runway, those trucks are manned by TWU Fire Figthers. Local 525 also manned the TAL sites in many foreign countries in case the Shuttle had to make an emergency landing in other parts of the world. We were there to light up the runways that could be visible from Space.
TWU Local 525 has an illustrious history. We have played and continue to play a role in the history of our great nation. In recent years our numbers have dropped as a result of privatization, contracting out and less activity at the Cape. In addition to our space program members, Local 525 has over the years, organized new sections at Andrews Air Force Base, Langley Air Force Base, Fort Bragg, Library of Congress, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Miami’s International Airport, Airbus (Flight Simulations Specialists), Port Canaveral (2nd busiest cruise port on the East Coast) and most recently Citrus Connection which is Lakeland Florida’s Mass Area Transit system. Local 525 second transit property is located in Naples, Florida (Keolis Transit).
We continue to fight the good fight for working people and we are proud to be part of the ATD and the Transport Workers Union of America.