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The History of the UBC

The United Brotherhood got its start in 1881 when 36 carpenters from 11 cities came together in Chicago to form a national Union. The convention was the brainchild of Peter J. McGuire, a young, 29-year-old carpenter from New York, who was unanimously elected as the first General Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, renamed the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America in 1888.

The UBC has been instrumental in improving the lives of workers for more than 118 years. The UBC's first General President, Gabriel Edmonston, called for a general strike for the 8-hour workday in 1884, and this proposal started one of the key political events of 1886, referred to by historians as "the great uprising of labor." Peter McGuire toured the country promoting this movement that culminated in a 340,000-person strike for the 8-hour workday on May 1, 1886. This strike produced higher carpenter wages and reduced work hours. By 1907, 8 hours was the standard carpenter workday while 10-12 hours was common in other industries. In addition, the UBC introduced a system of death and disability benefits.

The UBC is a democratic organization operated by its members- more than 520,000 throughout the United States and Canada. The UBC operates under a written constitution that was written and approved by convention delegates chosen by the membership. Any changes to the constitution and rules governing the organization must be voted on by UBC members. Holding true to Peter McGuire's motto, "organize, agitate, educate," the UBC continues to help working people win Union representation. The Organizing Resources Department develops training programs for both staff and rank-and-file members to more effectively meet the UBC's goal of achieving higher wages, job security and dignity in the workplace.

Today's UBC retains the vision UBC founder and first General Secretary Peter McGuire held dear: "We should not lose sight of our character as a trade Union, and sink ourselves into a mere benevolent society or insurance company. . . We must elevate the craft, protect its interests, advance wages, reduce the hours of labor, spread correct economic doctrines and cultivate a spirit of fraternity among the working people regardless of creed, color, nationality or politics.".


UBC Emblem

The official emblem of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America was adopted at the 4th General Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, August 1884.

The emblem was originally designed by the old National Union of Carpenters, which was organized in September 1864. The motto inscribed therein, “Labor Omnia Vincit,” translated from Latin means “Labor Conquers All Things.” The other elements of design, such as the rule and compass, have the following meanings:

  • The Rule signifies the desire of the organization to live by the Golden Rule: "To do onto others as we would wish others to do onto us".
  • The Compass indicates that we shall endeavor to surround our members with better conditions, socially, morally, and intellectually.

  • The Jack Plane is a tool emblematic of the trade.

  • The pale blue color signifies ideas as pure, as clean and lofty as the skies; while the dark red denotes that "labor is honorable", and that through honorable labor red blood flows through the veins of those who toil.

  • The Shield or base of the emblem indicates that those legally wearing the emblem are morally bound to safeguard and protect the interests of the organization and it's members.

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