Thomas Talbot, a machinist in one of Atlanta’s railway yards, gathered 18 of his fellow machinists together in May 1888. Believing that machinists needed a union to cope with problems particular to their craft, they formed the Order of United Machinists and Mechanical Engineers. The Order remained secret for several years since it was formed during a time when employers were often hostile to organized labor. Despite the Order being secret it spread beyond Georgia, partially thanks to the “boomers.” (Boomers were men who traveled the railway lines for work wherever they went. They would establish locals in these areas if there was not one already present.) Within one year, there were 40 lodges; by 1891, there were 189.
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