For the past year I have helped co-curate the Labor History Collections exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America.” It has been an exciting and rewarding experience that has taught me so much about the vast history of the labor movement. One of the displays that I designed and installed was “Labor, Recreation, and Rest: The Movement for the Eight-Hour Day”. While looking through the vast Labor History Collections here at University of Maryland, Special Collections and University Archives, I came upon a very odd and fragile document. At first I did not know the significance, only that it was House Resolution 8357 and was approved by President Harrison on August 1, 1892.
Asking an archivist to pick their favorite item in their exhibit may be the most challenging question you could ever ask them. After spending the past year assisting in all aspects of the exhibit For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America, I noticed that one of the most popular items I selected for the exhibit was the United Farm Workers flag. The flag, signed by famous figures Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, commemorates the historic Delano grape strike. The five-year strike started on September 8, 1965 and changed the face of the American labor movement and its attitude towards immigrant workers.
We are celebrating American Business Women’s Day! In the spirit of this holiday, we will be highlighting an item from the Labor History Collections’ exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America.”
Starting in the 1930s and 1940s, women entered the workforce en masse due to war time economic demands. Once the war was over and the men returned home, many women wanted to stay in the workforce because it gave them a newfound independence. With more women working, the labor movement had to make sure that their rights as workers were protected, as well as the already established rights centered on male workers.
The photos above are examples of the various jobs that women were employed in during the time war efforts. Still Images, Photographic Prints.
Today is Labor Day, and political, religious, and community leaders will give speeches to commemorate the day. For labor leaders, it’s an opportunity to appeal to the working class. Every working person is affected in some way by state and federal labor laws, and bargaining agreements that set wages and benefits at their place of employment. Striving to establish workers’ rights and to improve them has been a common cause of the labor movement since the late 19th century, marked by the formation of the American Federation of Labor in 1886 and by federal approval of Labor Day as a national holiday in 1894. Continue reading
Today we are celebrating National Women’s Equality Day! Gender equality in the workplace is a social justice issue that the labor movement has always been involved in. In the spirit of this holiday, we will be highlighting some of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) items that will be featured in the Labor History Collections’ exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America”!
“Since 1979, when the Gay and Lesbian Labor Alliance was formed, Nancy Wohlforth has been working to bring gay issues into the labor movement. Now the organization is called Pride At Work and is a full-fledged constituency group in the AFL-CIO. National cochair Wohlforth and the newly hired executive director, Kipukai Kuali’i, will fight for domestic-partner pension benefits, greater employment protection, and transgender inclusion. They also want gays and lesbians to understand the power and benefit of unions. ‘Frankly, a lot of people still see the union as a bunch of old white boys who want nothing to do with their interests,’ Wohlforth says, ‘clearly that’s not the case.’
-The Advocate on Nancy Wohlforth in the Best and Brightest Activists collection, August 17, 1999. Continue reading
In honor of Pride Month, we are featuring items from the Labor Collections at Special Collections and University Archives that highlight the role of the LGBTQ+ community in the labor movement. This particular item will be on display in the upcoming exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” opening October 2017. LGBTQ+ people of all types are involved in every aspect of labor, although labor unions ignored or excluded them until recent decades. The Pride at Work poster calls attention to the role the diverse LGBTQ+ community played in American history and American labor history and demonstrates a reversal of labor union policy towards LGBTQ+ people.
National dialogue has radically changed over the first half of 2017. Phrases like “alternative facts” and concern over “fake news” has been the subject of presidential tweets and investigative reporting. While issues over reputable and authoritative news and information are critical discussions, concerns over the media are not only a thread throughout American history. It was an issue within the labor movement as well. Continue reading
Bring your laptop and join a community interested in promoting labor history by editing entries in the popular online encyclopedia. WikimediaDC will be on hand to give a short presentation on how to edit in Wikipedia, and be available with expert help during the editing time. We’ll focus on developing entries related to the Labor History Collections at the University of Maryland, including the AFL-CIO Archives. Participants will receive complimentary issues of Labor’s Heritage journal. No editing experience necessary – Basic computer skills needed – Virtual editors welcome!
The idea that history repeats itself is a popular concept. Whether expressed as “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” or “there’s nothing new under the sun,” this concept has found countless different expressions for itself. While it may be a cliche, it is a very real part of working in an archive. The collection could be from 10, 50, or 100 years ago, and I still find myself surprised by how resonant the materials can be with the present. The cartoons of John Stampone is one such case.
Stampone, a Maryland native having lived in Baltimore, Silver Spring, and Olney, drew cartoons that explored foundational concepts of America and the American labor movement (as has been previously discussed with regards to his Thanksgiving cartoons) as well as exploring the critical issues of his day. While looking through his work, I was struck by how some of the images and critiques he makes seem more relevant than ever in 2017.
One such image is a cartoon for the AFL-CIO News celebrating Labor Day in 1978. The cartoon depicts, in the foreground, a hand engraved with the words “U.S. Labor Day.” The hand is holding a radiant gemstone with the words “Human rights” emanating from it. This hand is juxtaposed against an image of the Kremlin the background out of which a hand rises clutching a ball and chain inscribed with “oppression” on it. The stark binary between the darkened Kremlin and the brilliant gem of human rights really speaks to the growing tensions from the 2016 Presidential Election.
The second cartoon that stood out for me is from 1975, also from the AFL-CIO News. It depicts a man, labeled “deepening recession,” hiding around a corner with a club labeled “social, racial tensions” as a pain of men one labeled “human rights” and the other “human relations” begin to turn the corner. The cartoon argues that human rights and relations are threatened by a recession that creates conflicts between classes and races. Coming out of our most recent recession and the political events that have followed, perhaps reaching its climax with the 2016 election, this cartoon remains relevant speaking to our current economic, social, and racial conflicts, almost 50 years later.
The AFL-CIO News is fully digitized online – check it out!
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.