It all started in early 1954. The abandoned Spartan School of Aeronautics, used to train WWII pilots, was about to be put back to work.
First National Bank proudly proclaimed the new industry and provider of jobs in a large News-Record advert.
In March, 1955, employees voted to go union, with the United Steel Workers. The plant immediately closed until further notice. President L.K. Newell claimed that the plant had been operating at a loss since its opening, and that it couldn’t afford to pay a unionized staff.
But, it wasn’t long until workers were called back. The company received a spanking from the National Labor Board for firing eleven workers involved in organizing the union in the fall of 1954. The workers were hired back with back pay the next year.
Things settled down after that, and the company expanded into production of “blitz cans,” large containers used as motorboat gas containers and also as receptacles for drinking water. Then, on July 1, 1960, a startling announcement was made:
Crane immediately increased the facilities’ size and set up new equipment.
All went well for six years. The plant and the workforce prospered. Then in January 1966, a decision was made by the workers with profound effects.
On April 6, 1966, the Teamster-led workers went on strike. The strike drug on, and things got ugly at the picket line. As the negotiations continued to fizzle, a September meeting was held by the NLRB to determine if the plant was treating the striking workers unfairly. The decision was rendered in favor of Crane. Crane strikers were restrained by the National labor Board the next month over threats of violence.
Crane began moving equipment out of the plant, and on December 28, announced that the Miami location would be closed permanently.
Thus ends the twelve-year saga of the manufacturing facility on SE 22nd. Who knows what might have happened had the workers stayed with the more docile United Steelworkers? But they were clearly unhappy with wages, so they acted, as they had the right to do.
Today, the location is inhabited by Westco Home Furnishings Home Office and Distribution Center, a much-appreciated business and employer in a town that’s endured some tough times.