History of UFCW Local 648


We are fortunate to have some published history of Local 648. As Claude H. Jinkerson, former Secretary Treasurer of Local 648 wrote in the introduction of our ‘UNION PROFILE, The fifty years of Grocery Clerks Union, Local 648’, “nothing throws the conditions of our jobs today into bold relief so much as this look into the past.”

Local 648 is looking for your help in recording more of our union history. We are looking for any and all information from current or retired members. If you have a story to share or any pictures of earlier times in the bakery, grocery, drug or candy division, please call us at (415) 861-7840.

In the spring of 1907, the San Francisco Labor Council listed one hundred affiliated local unions in its directory.

On May 31, 1907, fifty men were in the hall when a charter, issued by the Retail Clerks International Protective Association, numbered 648 and dated May 20, 1907, was formally installed. The Labor Clarion listed these officers: Frank M. Burke, President; Charles L. Brown, Vice President; Phillip J. Walcott, Recording Secretary; Harry Fredericks, Financial Secretary; George Cheney, Treasurer (in charge of a treasury of $9); and P. J. Donovan, Sentinel.

San Francisco that spring worked with characteristic vitality to pull itself from the ashes and rubble left by the earthquake History and fire of the year before. Although it had made long strides toward recovery, the feeling of unity and cooperation forged in common disaster had begun to wear thin. Workers and employers alike looked at each other with growing suspicion. Reflecting on that year of reconstruction, the Labor Clarion, organ of the city’s unions, complained:

Time has demonstrated the fact that the employers and the capitalists have not played fair. Those classes soon took advantage of the abnormal conditions…and raised prices skyward to such a degree that Labor Unionists were compelled to demand higher wages.

Unions had been part of the San Francisco scene almost from the day the discovery of gold transformed a sleepy village into a teeming city. Their place in the community’s life varied widely down the years, swinging from acceptance and influence to rejection and weakness and back again. Despite its wavering fortunes, however, the union tradition took root. The aftermath of the 1901 strike established the unions as a permanent landmark in the San Francisco landscape and neither fire nor earthquake, reconstruction nor defeat more than momentarily slowed the pace of union organization. Workers continued to form new unions or to push into established ones.

Prof. Ira B. Cross measured the labor movement of the time in these words:

In few cities of the United States is unionism so strongly and so thoroughly organized as it is in San Francisco. This has not come about in a day or because of the labors of any one person. It has come only after years of effort and agitation. The struggle has been long and at times bitter…”

Excerpt from ‘UNION PROFILE, The fifty years of Grocery Clerks Union, Local 648’ by David F. Selvin. (Copyright 1960, By David F. Selvin and Grocery Clerks Union, Local 648)