IUJAT is one of the fastest growing unions in the nation. It is also one of the nation’s oldest. Established on April 27, 1874 as the International Union of Journeymen Horseshoers, the International Union of Journeymen and Allied Trades pre-dates the American Federation of Labor by 13 years, and is the oldest union retaining its original charter.

During the colonial era, the blacksmith was head of the trades in America. No other work could be accomplished without the tools he provided or the horses and oxen he shod. From the revolution up until the mid nineteenth century, horseshoeing was one of the most lucrative and sought after occupations in early America for both civilian and military operations. The great Westward Movement of the 19th century was primarily accomplished employing the use of horses and oxen. Each company employed blacksmiths for shoeing the animals as well as wagon repair.

During the IUJAT’s early years, it was called the Heavy Horse Union, after the indispensable draft horses that served as the trucks and tractors of their day and with whose power the majority of the nation’s transportation, building, and agriculture were carried out.  Crucial to industry, and even war—during WWI, over a million horses were shipped to Europe for the war effort—these horses required skilled care to maintain their soundness and serviceability.  There is an old saying among horsemen: “No hoof, no horse.”  Horseshoers were, for all intents and purposes, the mechanics of their day; without them, these horses would not have been able to do their vital work, and good horseshoers were essential.

On September 12, 1873, the International Union of Journeymen Horseshoers of the United States and Canada was first organized in Denver, Colorado. The following year, they were formally chartered on April 22, 1874 in Philadelphia PA. By 1892, the union had fifty chartered locals.  On July 1, 1893, the IUJH became affiliated with the American Federation of Labor.  By 1928 there were as many as 310 chartered locals.

During those early years, IUJH members and leadership were very active in the labor movement. A key figure and true founding father of American labor was John Fitzpatrick III of Chicago. Fitzpatrick can be credited with organizing many other unions as well, most notably the United Steelworkers, and was one of the founders of the AFof L. He accomplished all of this while proudly carrying a IUJH Local 11 card.

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In the early 20th century, the IUJH was very closely associated with the Teamsters union, which represented the professional drivers of horse drawn vehicles. The friendship the IUJH enjoyed with the Teamsters was far reaching. So much so that no Teamster would drive any horse that did not bear a IUJH logo on it’s shoe.

Horse numbers gradually declined due to farm and transportation mechanization in the years after WWI, until bottoming out in 1960. During those years, the Teamsters traded their horses for trucks and buses and grew to become one of the largest unions in America.

Though the size of the IUJH decreased considerably over the course of the twentieth century as technology changed and slowly phased out the horse as a means of transport, through the determination of its membership the organization persevered, and its membership has evolved with the changing times as well. Many of the horsehoers of yesterday have traded in their forges, anvils, and hammers for the tools of auto technicians, construction workers, and electricians. Our membership is diverse and it is growing; made up of men and women from all backgrounds who work in a wide range of trades—blue and white collar, private and public sector. But one thing remains the same: Our members are the people who keep this country working, who keep it strong, who keep it moving forward.
Like all labor unions, the IUJH was created to benefit workers. That remains its only focus today, now that the proud International Union of Journeymen Horseshoers has become the International Union of Journeymen and Allied Trades. And though IUJAT remains true to our roots, continuing to train, examine and certify new journeymen horseshoers into this challenging line of work, the IUJAT has also continually evolved with the changing times and grown in recent years.  The IUJAT is has gotten an infusion of lifeblood under the direction of new officers who are revitalizing this proud union.  The IUJAT now represents workers in numerous diverse industries throughout the nation. In November 2003, three national unions—USWU, UPSEU, and NOITU—affiliated with the IUJAT, bringing the our ranks to over 80,000 members. 

In the 21st century, the IUJAT has not only adapted and evolved with the changing workforce and economy, and expanded into a diversity of sectors—including energy, service, construction, automotive, public sector, transportation, construction, manufacturing, and many more—we have also stayed true to our proud roots. Among our ranks are a division of the same Journeymen horseshoers who established the union in 1874, the JHU, Local 947.

With a vision for the future, dynamic leadership, and a philosophy of ultimate freedom and democracy for our affiliates, it becomes clear why the IUJAT is one of the fastest growing, most forward-thinking unions in the nation.