Recent Accession Highlight: The Joe Uehlein Papers

West Virginia steelworkers locked out of their factory.

Famous musicians performing at labor benefit concerts.

The impacts of law reform, globalization, and 9/11 on labor.

As the former secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Department and the former director of the AFL-CIO Center for Strategic Campaigns, Joe Uehlein saw it all. And researchers will soon be able to experience these events from Uehlein’s perspective now that his papers are part of the Labor Collection.

Uehlein’s expertise with strategic campaigns is best demonstrated in the wealth of material on the Ravenswood Aluminum Corporation (RAC). From 1991-1992, workers at the RAC in West Virginia were locked out, but the union employed a comprehensive corporate campaign that reached all the way to Switzerland and then-fugitive billionaire owner Marc Rich. Eventually the company backed down and recognized the union. [1] Uehlein corresponded with the authors of the book on the strike, and used it as a case study to train union leaders in strategic campaign tactics.


From a publication “Proposed Agreement between United Steelworkers of America and Ravenswood Aluminum Corporation,” Joseph Uehlein papers, Box 25 Folder 5 (1991-1992).


From a publication “Proposed Agreement between United Steelworkers of America and Ravenswood Aluminum Corporation,” Joseph Uehlein papers, Box 25 Folder 5 (1991-1992).

A passion for the arts and a belief in their power to change the world is clearly reflected in Uehlein’s papers, with “Art and Activism” a frequent folder title. Uehlein himself is a lifelong musician, both with his band The U-Liners, and as a solo artist. His work and his music are intertwined: protest, labor struggles and hopes, and the importance of the environment are all important themes. Uehlein was also a founding member of the Labor Heritage Foundation, which is dedicated to using the arts as a way to empower unions and the labor movement. [2]


U-Liners [band] official press photo (Uehlein: 2nd from left), Joseph Uehlein papers, Joseph Uehlein papers, Box 22, Folder 1.

Uehlein was also a member of the board of directors of Ceres, the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, a nonprofit sustainability organization. [3] The collection contains especially detailed records on Ceres from 2001-2002, for researchers interested in both the influential group itself or in the sustainability movement as a whole.

We are excited to have such a comprehensive range of materials from Joe Uehlein join the Labor Collection!  Click here to view the collection finding aid or contact Special Collections at for more information.

  1. Bronfenbrenner, Kate and Juravich, Tom. Ravenswood: The Steelworkers’ Victory and the Revival of American Labor. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press/ILR Press, 1999.
  2. “Mission Statement – Labor Heritage Foundation.” 2018. Accessed 2018-02-07.
  3. “About Us | Ceres.” 2016. Accessed 2018-02-07.


Rebecca Thayer is a 2018 graduate of the the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. She worked in the Labor Collections at UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives.

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