Category Archives: Labor History

How LGBTQ Union Activists Transformed the Labor Movement

Source: Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue, No Class, June 7, 2019

….In 28 U.S. states, queer and trans workers can still be fired due to their sexual orientation and gender identity, and a strong union contract is often the only legally binding workplace protection available to LGBTQIA workers to fight employment discrimination. This is especially important because of the high unemployment rates for transgender and non-binary people — 16% overall — which can be compounded by other factors like racial discrimination, age discrimination, or national origin discrimination…..

‘We Want Both!’: pressuring Philadelphia unions for inclusion and equity during the long 1970s

Source: Alyssa Ribeiro, Labor History, Latest Articles, June 2, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines local labor insurgency in Philadelphia between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s. Drawing on alternative press sources, it traces the efforts of Black, Puerto Rican, and female workers to reshape their unions as stable employment opportunities declined. Across industries and job sites, workers pressured both their unions and their employers through public criticism, running slates of candidates in union elections, and taking part in picketing and wildcat strikes. Existing scholarship has privileged rank-and-file activism among White men focused on wages and working conditions. Enlarging our view to include a more representative workforce at the local level while following workers’ resistance forward through time recharacterizes the rank-and-file rebellion to include defiant, multiracial coalitions demanding progressive reform. That broader rebellion, in turn, challenges some long-held assumptions about US labor during the 1970s.

Women’s Rights: Primary Sources and Teaching Activities

Source: National Archives, DocsTeach, 2019

Women’s Rights and Roles in American History

When our Constitution was written, it was silent on women. Excluded from most of the rights and privileges of citizenship, women operated in limited and rigid roles while enslaved women were excluded from all. Yet women have actively participated as citizens—organizing, marching, petitioning—since the founding of our country. Sometimes quietly, and sometimes with a roar, women’s roles have been redefined. Use this page to find primary sources and document-based teaching activities related to women’s rights and changing roles in American history. Many of the documents, photographs, and other sources are also featured in the exhibits Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, and One Half of the People: Advancing Equality for Women, traveling the country.

Related:
Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote
Source: Library of Congress, 2019

This exhibition will tell the story of the long campaign for women’s suffrage – considered the largest reform movement in American history – which lasted more than seven decades. The struggle was not for the fainthearted. For years, determined women organized, lobbied, paraded, petitioned, lectured, picketed, and faced imprisonment.

The exhibition draws from the Library’s extensive collection of personal papers of such figures as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Mary Church Terrell, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Carrie Chapman Catt, as well as the organizational records of the National Woman’s Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, among others. Documents, images, video and audio recordings trace the movement leading to the women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, through the contributions of suffragists who worked to persuade women that they deserved the same rights as men, the divergent political strategies and internal divisions they overcame, the push for a federal women’s suffrage amendment and the legacy of this movement.

Related Links

  • Votes for Women: Selected Images from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
  • Web Guide: Nineteenth Amendment, Researcher and Reference Services
  • Digital Collections

  • Susan B. Anthony Papers
  • Carrie Chapman Catt Papers
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers
  • Mary Church Terrell Papers
  • National American Woman Suffrage Association Papers
  • Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party
  • Suffrage Sheet Music
  • For Teachers

  • Primary Source Set: Women’s Suffrage
  • Suffrage Strategies: Voices for Votes
  • Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection 1848-1921
  • Votes for Women: Suffrage Pictures
  • Women Have Had The Right To Vote For 100 Years. Here’s How To Celebrate
    Source: Mikaela Lefrak, WAMU, May 16, 2019

    The history of women’s suffrage and the landscape of Washington, D.C. are inextricably tied. It took decades of women organizing near the Capitol, picketing outside the White House, lobbying Congress and marching on the National Mall to win the right to vote. This June 4 marks the 100-year anniversary of Congress’ passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex. Museums and institutions around the District are marking the centennial with exhibitions on the movement’s history and leaders. Here are five of our top picks for places to learn about key women suffragists, the movement’s strategic wins and moral failings and how the fight for voting rights continues today.

    1. Untold Stories: The National Portrait Gallery …..
    2. Primary Sources: The National Archives …..
    3. The Room Where It Happened: Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument …..
    4. Personal Papers Galore: The Library of Congress …..
    5: Tables And Wagons: The National Museum of American History …..
    …..

    Influence without Bargaining: Unionization at the University of Wisconsin, 1930–1957

    Source: Timothy Reese Cain, Philip J. Wilkinson, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Vol. 16 no. 2, May 2019
    (subscription required)

    From the abstract:
    Through a historical case study of the University of Wisconsin Teachers Union (American Federation of Teachers Local 223) this article considers the roles that early unionized faculty could play in influencing their institution without ever pursuing a contract. It argues that the Wisconsin local effectively used research and political power to improve conditions for instructional workers and to affect funding patterns across the institution. It did so while only ever attracting a minority of faculty to join. In addition to its important salary work, which was often focused on improving the conditions of the instructors and others at the lowest ranks, Local 223 addressed an array of educational and societal issues. As such, it had elements of what in the modern era might be considered social movement unionism, combining both efforts to aid members and activities designed for broader social change.

    The Strike As the Ultimate Structure Test

    Source: Jane McAlevey, Catalyst, Vol. 2 no. 3, Fall 2018

    As the labor movement has begun to show signs of a revitalization, we excavate a volume, long consigned to obscurity, from an earlier era. As Jane McAlevey observes, even though almost a century has passed since its initial publication, Steuben’s book remains astonishingly relevant today — which speaks both to the enduring facts of employment relations in capitalism, as well as to the efficacy of Steuben’s strategic perspective.

    A U.S. Woman Industrial Relations Pioneer and “Mother of Arbitration”: The Life and Times of Jean T. McKelvey

    Source: Dr. Victor G. Devinatz, Labor Law Journal, Vol. 70 Issue No. 1, Spring 2019
    (subscription required)

    Due to the explosive growth in union membership in the United States from 1935 to 1945, industrial relations as a field of academic study emerged in the late 1940s with universities, such as Cornell University, University of Minnesota, University of Wisconsin and University of Illinois, establishing industrial relations institutes and centers which provided both academic degrees and extension programs in the discipline. The union membership spurt from 1935 to 1945 was due to various factors. These elements included the passage of the pro-labor 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the December 1935 organization of the Committee for Industrial Organization, later renamed the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1938, combined with the growth and stabilization of the industrial unions during World War II. These things set the stage for the inauguration of the academic study of U.S. industrial relations. Virtually all interest and labor arbitrators, some of whom became professors in these industrial relations institutes and centers, were men who had been active as third-party neutrals during the golden age of U.S. labor circa 1945 to 1980. These individuals obtained their initial training and experience while serving in government organizations, such as the National War Labor Board (WLB) and other government-related agencies, during the Second World War. While a number of these male industrial relations pioneers, such as Benjamin Aaron, Ted Kheel and Charles Killingsworth, for example, are well known as industrial relations academics and arbitrators, less is known about Jean Trepp McKelvey, a woman industrial relations pioneer and arbitrator who was a contemporary of Aaron, Kheel and Killingsworth.

    Thus, the purpose of this article is to critically analyze the background and career of McKelvey as an industrial relations academic and arbitrator who has been referred to as the “mother of arbitration.” I will argue in this article that McKelvey’s pioneering and innovative work in developing and utilizing fieldwork methodologies in teaching economics and industrial relations classes at Sarah Lawrence College and then in her early years as a Cornell University faculty member is consistent with her use of fieldwork in her early scholarship as well as becoming active in arbitration and third party dispute resolution. Engaging in such activities as a mediator, fact finder and arbitrator can be viewed as constituting “fieldwork experiences for professors” and informed her teaching as an industrial relations professor. McKelvey believed that industrial relations professors should be active in teaching, research and extension work and decried Cornell University’s downgrading of extension work for industrial relations professors by the early 1990s. One of McKelvey’s major research projects, which involved the use of fieldwork, was the practice of union-management cooperation within the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in the 1920s, the subject matter of her undergraduate honors thesis as well as her doctoral dissertation. Nevertheless, throughout her life, McKelvey remained skeptical that the utilization of union-management cooperation, when it became popular once more in the 1980s, could be used as a successful strategy to revitalize unions and help them grow while leading unions to have more collective bargaining power…..

    Rare Recordings of Civil Rights Activists Available Now

    Source: Elizabeth Riordan, University of Iowa Libraries, News, February 12, 2019

    Exciting news from University Archivist, David McCartney, about the incredible recordings found in the Eric Morton Civil Rights Papers.

    In 1963 and 1964, attorney Bob Zellner recorded a series of interviews with civil rights activists in Mississippi and Alabama. Zellner conducted the interviews on behalf of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in an effort to document the activists’ experiences, which were often under challenging and violent circumstances.

    The interviewees participated in the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964, later to be known as Freedom Summer, a drive to register African Americans in the Magnolia State to vote. For decades, attempts by blacks to register at county court houses across the state were met with intimidation, harassment, and even violence. Freedom Summer was an organized response to this situation, with activists from across the U.S. participating, including over 800 college and university students. Among them were about a dozen students from the University of Iowa.

    Why the Seattle General Strike of 1919 should inspire a new generation of labor activists

    Source: Steven C. Beda, The Conversation, February 6, 2019

    It shut down a major U.S. city, inspired a rock opera, led to decades of labor unrest and provoked fears Russian Bolsheviks were trying to overthrow American capitalism. It was the Seattle General Strike of 1919, which began on Feb. 6 and lasted just five days.

    By many measures, the strike was a failure. It didn’t achieve the higher wages that the 35,000 shipyard workers who first walked off their jobs sought – even after 25,000 other union members joined the strike in solidarity. Altogether, striking workers represented about half of the workforce and almost a fifth of Seattle’s 315,000 residents.

    Usually, as a historian of the American labor movement, I have the unfortunate job of telling difficult stories about the decline of unions. However, in my view, the story of this particular strike is surprisingly hopeful for the future of labor.

    And I believe it holds lessons for today’s labor activists – whether they’re striking teachers in West Virginia or Arizona, mental health workers in California or Google activists in offices across the world….