The Equal Rights Amendment: Labor’s Fight for True Gender Equality

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”!

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Nancy Wohlforth: Uniting the Labor and LGBT Movements

“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

Pride in the Labor Movement

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Pride at Work national convention poster by Ricardo Lewis Morales, Northland Poster Collective, San Diego, 2006. Pride at Work Records.

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.

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3rd Annual Labor History Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon

2017 edit a thon flyerBring 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!

Date: Friday, May 5th
Time: 12:00-3:00pm
Location: AFL-CIO Headquarters, Washington, DC
Can’t make it?  Consider editing any time during the month of May with these resources!

Is History on Repeat? More Cartoons from John Stampone

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.

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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.

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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.

Organizing for Power and Workers’ Rights in the Twenty-First Century Symposium

On April 14, 2016, University Libraries’ Special Collections in Labor History & Workplace Studies will co-sponsor a symposium exploring workers and organizing in the twenty-first century. This event is open and free to the public. All are welcome to attend!

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Attacks on the freedom to organize in the last several decades have created new challenges for working people. New creative approaches have consequently emerged in sectors across the economy such as in domestic care, fast food, big box merchandising, etc. This symposium seeks to examine all those areas while also placing them within the context of a rapidly globalizing environment.

Elizabeth Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, will present the keynote address. Panelists include Eileen Boris, Teresa Casertano, Lane Windham, Elly Kugler, Nelson Lichtenstein, and Fekkak Mamdouh.

Afterwards, all are invited to join a reception in Hornbake Library, where attendees can enjoy light hors d’oeuvres and view items from UMD’s labor history collections as well as from the Gordon W. Prange Collection of Occupation-era Japanese print publications.

See a full schedule and more information, and join us on April 14th!

New Exhibit: The AFL-CIO Merger

The AFL-CIO, America’s largest federation of trade unions, represents over 12.5 million workers. Before 1955, the AFL (American Federation of Labor) and the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) were separate, competing organizations. The two organizations chose to merge in 1955 in order to strengthen the labor movement and eliminate competition between different unions and workers. This mini-exhibit, on display in the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library, tells the story from the formation of the joint Unity Committee to the December 5, 1955 merger in commemoration of AFL-CIO’s 60th anniversary.

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Archiving AFL-CIO

Spotlight on Paul Barton:

AFL-CIO European Representative, 1968-1994

Creating a plan

As a part of my Master of Library Science degree, I worked at the AFL-CIO Archives for my field study course and worked on a semester-long project with the institution.  The collection I worked on was the unprocessed records of Paul Barton, the European Representative of the International Affairs Department of the AFL-CIO, to make them accessible to the public.  This collection is twelve linear feet of records created and accumulated by Barton between 1945 and 1992.  To make these records accessible we conducted a survey of the records, created a processing plan, and wrote the finding aid.

Understanding the subject

Barton/Veltrusky working in his Paris apartment, circa 1970s.

Barton/Veltrusky working in his Paris apartment, circa 1970s.

As a part of this process we conducted some research on Paul Barton to provide context for the records.  Paul Barton, whose real name was Jiri Veltrusky, was a Czech from Czechoslovakia born on June 5, 1919.  Barton who, as an intellectual in Prague received his PhD in the philosophy of aesthetics of semiotics with a special interest in theater, was a member of the Prague Circle, a group of intellectuals, as well as an advocate for free trade unions and democracy.  When the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia successfully launched a coup and took over the government in 1948, Barton, like other pro-democracy advocates, was forced to flee the country or face persecution, ultimately fleeing to Paris where he would live the remainder of his life.  In the early years of his exile Barton used several pseudonyms before settling on Paul Barton.  While in Paris he spent time writing articles and supporting the labor union movement, becoming a representative of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions before joining the AFL-CIO around 1968.  Upon joining the AFL-CIO he served as the European Representative of the AFL-CIO International Affairs department, serving in the Paris office until his death on May 31, 1994.

Contextualizing the collection

Books authored by Barton

Books authored by Barton

Barton’s papers reflect the many communities the AFL-CIO worked with as the records are found in six languages, English, French, German, Russian, Czech and Spanish.   The topics in the records also demonstrate concerns held by Barton and the AFL-CIO, with topics ranging from trade unions in the USSR and developing countries and forced labor in the USSR.  The records also reflect the views of labor unions concerning such historical events like the Prague Spring in 1968 and the 1970 Polish Protests.

These records complement currently available collections in the AFL-CIO Archives, including the records of Jay Lovestone (2014-001-RG18-003), Irving Brown (2014-001-RG18-004), and the Country Files from the International Affairs Department (2014-001-RG18-001 and 2014-001-RG18-010).  The Thomas Kahn papers are also related, however they are not open to the public yet.  Note: Records dating after 1965 may be restricted.

Contact us if you have any questions or are interested in researching these collections.

Explore UMD’s labor collections, including the AFL-CIO archive.


By Chris Carter
University of Maryland iSchool graduate, May 2015

Labor History Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

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Hornbake Library

Friday, May 1, 1:30 – 4:30 pm

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 recently acquired AFL-CIO Archives. No editing or technical experience necessary. All participants will receive complimentary issues of Labor’s Heritage journal. As part of a nationwide effort, other libraries with significant labor collections will also participate.

Event details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Meetup/DC/UMDLabor

This event is followed by:

AFL-CIO Archive Reception & Tour, 4:30 – 6:00 pm

George Meany

George Meany

Join us for a unique opportunity to view the George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archive, a prestigious archive originally at the National Labor College. These rich archives provide a unique history of the labor struggle in the United States and internationally. See behind the scenes in the archives stacks: labor cartoons, buttons, pins, and memorabilia.  Civil Rights and Labor items will be on display in the Maryland Room. In addition, view labor-related materials, including photographs, censored newspaper articles, posters,  and magazines, from the Gordon W. Prange Collection, the largest archive in the world of Japanese print publications from the early years of the Allied Occupation of Japan, 1945-1949.

https://hornbakelibrary.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/civil-rights-and-labor-in-the-united-states-in-poland-and-in-south-africa/

https://prangecollection.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/labor-studies-related-materials/

Symposium: Organizing for Power and Workers’ Rights in the 21st Century

We are pleased to announce a symposium and introduction to our very special labor archives. See specific information about the symposium below:

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On March 5, 2015, the Center for the History of the New America at the University of Maryland will host a symposium exploring workers and organizing in the twenty-first century.  The symposium will be coordinated with the annual meeting of the Southern Labor Studies Association in Washington, D.C. on March 6-8, 2015.  In addition to the symposium, participants will be invited to view the George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archive, a prestigious archive recently added to Special Collections in Labor History & Workplace studies at the University of Maryland Libraries, and unique labor materials from the Gordon W. Prange Collection.  For more information about speakers and topics visit: http://newamerica.umd.edu/conferences/spring2015.php

Organizing for Power and Workers’ Rights Flyer March 2015