Exploring Labor’s History Through the AFL-CIO Poster Collection: A Blog Series (Part 4)

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One of the more unexpected items in the collection are two objects from student protests in Paris. 1968 was a tumultuous year in France which saw radical student demonstrations erupt in Paris. Most notably, students held demonstrations and occupied their universities in opposition to Charles de Gaulle. The first item depicts de Gaulle with the now iconic phrase “Le Chienlit C’est Lui!” (one translation: “He is the chaos”.) The phrase appropriates a pun de Gaulle made in a speech.  The second, larger item was created by a student group at the Sorbonne, a Parisian university, la Coordination des Comités d’Action. The poster criticizes de Gaulle along with Georges Pompidou, the president, and Christian Fouchet, the interior minister, claiming “Les provocateurs ce son eux!” (They are the agents of violence)

Contact us at askhornbake@umd.edu for more information about our Labor Collections.


Benjamin Bradley is a second year MLIS student in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. He works in the Labor Collections at UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives. You can also find him over in McKeldin Library where he is the GA for Electronic Resources.

Exploring Labor’s History Through the AFL-CIO Poster Collection: A Blog Series (Part 1)

The American Federation of Labor was founded just about 150 years ago in 1886. Continuing today, the AFL-CIO and its member unions and organizations have traveled together through a tumultuous history of social challenges and changes: worker’s rights, child labor, segregation, World War II, Apartheid, the 40 hour work week, communism, LGBT rights, and so much more. During the past year, I have been inventorying the AFL-CIO poster collection here at the University of Maryland’s Special Collections and University Archives’ Labor Collections. This inventory will enable researchers and staff to find and access these posters and facilitate future digitization projects. As I finish up inventorying the collection, I thought I would share my experience with the collection.

This AFL-CIO Posters collection contains over 900 items ranging from broadsides, circulars, posters, and clipsheets. It spans the early days of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) up to the present-day AFL-CIO. It contains items from a variety of unions and organizations, international and American, and in a variety of languages including: French, Spanish, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Polish, Chinese, Korean, Icelandic, Hebrew, and Arabic. My time with this collection truly has been a journey through time and place. From late 19th century shipyards to contemporary, global struggles for human rights.

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Frontlash: Mobilizing the Youth Vote, 1968-1997

200wAre you ready to vote on November 8th? Voting is your opportunity to make your voice heard in this year’s presidential election. For the month of November, the Labor Collections staff at University of Maryland are highlighting an organization that encouraged the youth and minority vote: Frontlash.

Visit the temporary exhibit in the Maryland Room for a sampling of the posters and canvassing materials Frontlash used to mobilize and educate the youth and minority vote during presidential election seasons. Perhaps they will inspire you to vote!

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Poster sponsored by Frontlash displayed at a booth or college campus

In 1968, the non-profit organization Frontlash was founded with the mission to help minority groups and young people register to vote. Frontlash stepped up their voter education efforts for young people when the 26th Amendment was passed, in 1971. The 26th Amendment changed the voting age from 21 to 18 years old. At the time, many young voters were not aware of the registration process. Frontlash worked towards promoting voter education by going door-to-door, putting up poster displays, and setting up public stands on sidewalks and college campuses to assist young voters with the registering process. Continue reading

130 Years of Progress: The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, 1886-2016

Anniversaries are often a time to look back and reflect on past triumphs (and tribulations) for individuals, couples, and organizations. 2016 marks the 130th anniversary of the founding of the Journeymen Bakers National Union of the United States in 1886, which after multiple mergers and the inclusion of Canadian members is now known as the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union. The University of Maryland’s Special Collections and University Archives are the repository for the Bakers Union’s records, with some of the items dating back to the union’s earliest days. The collection includes a diverse range of materials that includes—beyond the standard office files—photographs, publications, posters, flags, charters, and scrapbooks. A look back at the union’s history reveals a complex story with periods of prosperity and hardship, of successes leavened by struggles, and stretches of political influence coupled with periods of internal dissension.

The early history of the union is one of inspired effort by a handful of individuals in the face of truly horrific working conditions. It is also one that, at least initially, took place largely among German immigrants in New York City, who almost exclusively formed the work force in bakeries during the late 1800s. Continue reading

AFL-CIO Artifact Project: Summer 2016

By Margot Willis, Labor Collections Volunteer

In 2013, the American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) donated the entire holdings of the George Meany Memorial Archives to the Special Collections and University Archives Department of University of Maryland Libraries. This collection contains the most important documentation of the history of America’s largest federation of labor unions, founded in 1955. Comprising over 20,000 linear shelf feet of a wide variety material, including documents, photographs, audiovisual materials and artifacts, it represents the single largest donation of archival material to the University to date.

Until this summer, the artifacts portion of the AFL-CIO collection had gone almost entirely untouched by university archival staff due to other higher priorities.  Packed away in the same bubble wrap and cardboard boxes in which they were transferred to the University three years ago, the AFL-CIO artifacts sat in out-of-the-way corners of Hornbake Library.

Back in April, when I first spoke with University of Maryland Labor Archivists Jen Eidson and Ben Blake about a possible volunteer project over the summer, I mentioned that I have an interest in museum studies, and would like to learn more about the care and organization of artifacts in an archive. Because they needed immediate help in verifying identifications and locations of AFL-CIO artifacts in anticipation of an upcoming exhibit and due to the fact I was willing to work for free, they granted my wish and set me to work.

I worked wherever there were boxes, which happened to be in the very bottom and the very top floors of Hornbake library. Oftentimes, the spaces I worked in were very small, and the boxes very large.

Originally, the plan was for me to go through the boxes, locate each object in the original Meany Archives inventory of over 2500 records and enter the object’s new location in Hornbake. However, after about five minutes on the job, it became clear that the project would be a bit more complicated than that. There were items in the boxes that were not on the spreadsheet. There were items whose accession numbers appeared on the spreadsheet but whose descriptions did not match the items. There were boxes of dozens of items inside other boxes that had not been recorded as being there. The original inventory indicated that some boxes contained certain items, which, upon further examination, were not there at all. In other cases, boxes should have had only one object, but ended up containing six.

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LGBT Advocacy and the AFL-CIO

This June, city streets in America will bloom with colorful celebrations. Pride, this year, marks the 47th anniversary of Stonewall, and the first year since Obergefell v. Hodges. While most of those celebrating are no stranger to the struggle for equality, it can be easy to forget the struggle of the past and the struggles still needed today. Pride at Work, the AFL-CIO LGBT constituency group, and its members have been fighting for LGBT equality since before the organization was founded in 1994. Today, Pride at Work, along with the labor movement, continues the fight for LGBT rights and equality for all workers.

Pride at work is also celebrating its 22nd anniversary this month. On June 24th, 1994, LGBT union activists gathered in New York City to remember the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. In New York, this network of activists held “The Founding Conference of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender People in the Labor Movement” creating the organization known today as Pride at Work. Three years later, in 1997, it became one of the seven official constituency groups of the AFL-CIO.

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Join us for a Labor History Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon in Hornbake Library

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Join a community interested in promoting labor history by editing the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Part celebration and part workshop, Edit-a-Thons are organized around a single topic as a means to build awareness and community. We’ll draw content from labor-related collections at the University of Maryland, including the AFL-CIO Archives. No editing experience necessary, however participants should have basic computer skills. All participants will receive complimentary issues of Labor’s Heritage journal.