From Protectionism to Inclusion: Unions and Immigrant Labor

The rights of immigrant workers in the United States is not a new debate. For labor unions, immigrant labor was not always viewed as a positive contribution to the fabric of American society. Long before the formation of the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) in 1955, major national unions adopted protectionist and often-racist stances against Chinese labor reminiscent of current rhetoric surrounding Mexican immigrant labor in the United States. Examining the correspondence of two national labor union leaders at the beginning of the 20th century provides context for the debate about immigrant labor in the United States.

On February 1, 1905, Samuel Gompers, the President of the AFL (American Federation of Labor) wrote to Frank Duffy, the Secretary of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBCJA), expressing his concerns that local UBCJA unions in Honolulu might support Chinese immigrant labor. He claims,

“My information is that several local unions in Honolulu … are endangering the policy of protection of the American workmen and Caucasian race, by allowing them to be induced … to favor modification of the Chinese Exclusion law.”  (emphasis added)

Gompers was referring to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (renewed in 1892, made permanent in 1902, and repealed in 1943). The law prohibited the immigration of all Chinese laborers for 10 years and was the first law intended to prevent a specific ethnic group from immigrating to, or becoming naturalized citizens of, the United States. Gompers saw the exclusion of Chinese labor from the U.S. Territory of Hawaii, which was not yet a state, as a cause for the labor movement, and even went so far as to describe Japanese labor as “evil.”

The above images are available in Digital Collections: Gompers and Duffy.

 

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Continuing The Dream: Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

Coretta Scott King founded The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Social Change in 1968, the year of Dr. King’s assassination.  The organization worked toward establishing a living memorial to Dr. King for decades.  One major accomplishment was passing legislation to honor and remember Dr. King’s birthday and legacy as a federal holiday. The King Federal Holiday Commission began its work in 1984 to formalize and organize the efforts of many local and state observances of the holiday, finally bringing it all to fruition when President Clinton signed the King Holiday and Service Act of 1994 on August 23rd of that year.

Check out the online exhibit “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” to find a film clip of MLK speaking!

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An Archive of International Gifts:  Objects from the Spiro T. Agnew Papers (A Blog Series: Part 3)

As stated in an earlier blog post, members of the Maryland and Historical Collections unit at the University of Maryland libraries have been inventorying physical objects within the Spiro T. Agnew papers.  One of the interesting aspects about processing a presidential or vice presidential collection is its inclusion of gifts from foreign leaders. The Spiro T. Agnew papers, for example, includes numerous  gifts to the Vice President of the United States from Mohammad Rezā Pahlavi, who was the last Shah (or king) of Iran between 1941 and 1979.  It is difficult to say whether this relationship extended beyond what was typical of two government officials during the Cold War, but it is clear that Agnew received gifts and commemorative literature from Pahlavi on several occasions. Increased American involvement in Iran dated to at least the early 1940s, Continue reading

One Small step for Archival Processing, One Giant Leap for the Baltimore News American Collection

For the past year and a half, student employees and volunteers in Special Collections at the University of Maryland’s Hornbake Library have been working to provide researchers with better access to the staggering amount of information contained in the Baltimore News American collection.  After the University of Maryland’s Special Collections and University Archives acquired this collection of subject and biographical photographs, newspaper articles, and microfilm approximately 30 years ago, the daunting task of preserving and processing its 1545 linear feet of materials was issued to several decades of graduate assistants and volunteers.

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Student Jobs in Special Collections & University Archives at UMD!

Do you want pursue a career as a librarian or archivist? Do you love libraries and “old stuff”? Are you detail-oriented and organized? Are you looking for a job on campus with great colleagues? Good news,  Special Collections and University Archives is hiring student assistants!

IMG_0790Student assistants in Special Collections and University Archives at UMD experience a wide variety of public and behind-the-scenes elements of the special collection library/archival field.  They work closely with curators and library staff to make accessible some of the University’s most valuable research collections. And working in Special Collections and University Archives is also a lot of fun!

Our collections cover a wide variety of subjects/formats, including literary manuscripts and rare books, UMD history, labor history, the state of Maryland and other historical collections, mass media and culture, and women’s history. Student assistants get hands on experience working with unique materials like photographs from the Baltimore News American and the Diamondback, audio-visual materials from NPR, paper records of the AFL-CIO, 17th and 18th century French pamphlets, and much more!

Student assistant responsibilities may include the following:

  • Retrieving and shelving special collection materials and providing assistance to researchers in the Maryland Room, the reading room for Special Collections and University Archives.
  • Staffing the Hornbake welcome desk.
  • Processing Special Collections materials, including book, archival, and/or digital collections.
  • Contributing to special projects, social media, events, and exhibits.

We are looking for reliable and enthusiastic students who have an ability to learn quickly, with excellent written and verbal communication skills, a passion for history and cultural heritage, and a willingness to work both independently and collaboratively with students and staff, with minimal supervision. Efficiency in computer programs such as Word or Excel are required. Students must also be able to lift archival boxes and books for retrievals. Experience in an archives/special collection library or doing historical research is helpful but not essential.

We hire student assistants throughout the year, both graduate and undergraduate students are encouraged to apply.  Applicants must be able to maintain a consistent schedule of at least 15 hours per week. Shifts are available from 9:00am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday, with extended hours available during the Fall and Spring semesters on Wednesday nights and Sundays 1pm-6pm.

These are hourly positions only; not graduate assistantships. The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

To inquire about open student positions in Special Collections and University Archives, contact Amber Kohl at amberk@umd.edu.

Letters to Mother: A Brother’s Reunion

Originally called Armistice Day, November 11, 1919, was reserved as a day of remembrance for the one-year anniversary of the end of the Great War.  Observed since 1926 and celebrated as a national holiday since 1938, now known as Veterans Day, honors all military personnel who have served the United States.  This year, America celebrated the 99th anniversary of the day that ended the “War to End All Wars.”  Accessible at the University of Maryland Special Collections, the Milton Reckord papers – which includes letters, photographs, newspaper clippings, awards, and memorabilia – affords an opportunity to compare the correspondence of two of Harford County’s very own “doughboys” from Maryland, General Milton Atchinson Reckord, and his younger brother, Colonel Leland Tell Reckord.

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The Labor Movement and Film, Part 2: “For the Union Makes Us Strong”

Let’s continue on the journey of exploring the Labor History Collections films that are featured in the “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” exhibit! In part 1 of this blog series, we looked at Leading the Way: Black Trade Unions in South Africa, Pay Equality, To Dream, and Solidarity Day. All four of these films explored various events from history that correlate to the social justice topics that are discussed in the displays. Though the topics may be different, the films help viewers understand how social justice issues and the labor movement are intertwined and how historical events resonate today.

The film Toxic Earth explores the alliance between the labor and environmental justice movements. Today, environmental topics are always in the news and are being discussed in political debates. The ability to watch this discussion transform within the context of the labor movement can help us see how we have gotten to the point of the conversation we are in today.

“Today’s environment is the one we will earn and choose by organizing and working on the issues of occupational and environmental health. By demanding “Right To Know” laws, controls on acid rain, strict regulations, and enforcement of standards. The alternative is leaving life and death decisions in the hands of polluting corporations, relaying on lax and inadequate government supervision. Our greatest strength is in working together.”

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