From the archive of struggle, no.36: radical America

Last week, I featured the Holt Labor Library. Today, I feature a few different American radical history archives with smaller on-line exhibitions. Other stuff below the fold. Browse the whole series here.

The George Meany Memorial Archives

“The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) established the George Meany Memorial Archives in 1980 to honor the memory of George Meany, its first president, and to provide a program to preserve its historical records and make them available for research. In 1987 the archives moved from the AFL-CIO headquarters to the forty-seven acre campus of the George Meany Center for Labor Studies (now the National Labor College) in Silver Spring, Maryland, an educational institution for labor officers, representatives, and staff of AFL-CIO affiliates.”

On-line exhibit: A. Philip Randolph, 1889-1979.

Illinois Labor History Society

“The Illinois Labor History Society (ILHS) was formed on August 5, 1969 in the office of the late Joseph M. Jacobs, attorney for the Chicago Teachers Union, Meatcutters, and other labor organizations. The mission of the ILHS was set forth: It shall be the Purpose of the Illinois Labor History Society to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois Region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present.”

On-line exhibit: Labor Union Hall of Fame.

Indiana State University Debs Collection

The Debs Collection has an absolutely enormous amount of Eugene Debs material. The photos and videos are of particular interest. This is apparently the only known video of Debs.

Inkworks Press Archive

Inkworks is a leftie print co-op in the Bay area. Their poster archive includes many treasures dating from 1974 onwards. Earlier material includes cool posters for UFW salsa benefits, Chilean folk music gigs, Cinco de Mayo fiestas, Pablo Neruda woodcuts, and lots more. A little bit on a Stalinist/Second Campist/Third Worldist tip, but beautiful.

LARC

The Labor Archives and Research Center in San Francisco: “Few regions can rival the rich, lively labor history of the San Francisco Bay Area. This history is preserved in primary source and vintage history materials at the Labor Archives and Research Center (LARC). Founded in 1985 by trade union leaders, historians, labor activists and university administrators, the Labor Archives is a unit of the J. Paul Leonard Library at San Francisco State University.”

Two on-line exhibitions: Look for the Union Label: A Celebration of Union Logos and Emblems and Cultivating Creativity: The Arts and the Farm Workers’ Movement During the 1960s and 1970s. The first is just lots of labels, badges and such like. The second is awesome, with sections on the Farm Workers Logo, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Theater, Songs and Poems, El Malcriado (the UFW paper), Posters, Drawings and Murals, Photography and Cesar Chavez as Icon.

Brandeis Special Collections

The Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections house the gems of Brandeis University’s library. They have a blog with monthly spotlights on the collection. July featured the Radical Pamphlets collection, but unfortunately it seems totally dominated by the CPUSA and its fronts. June was the Léon Lipschutz collection of Dreyfusiana and French Judaica. The Hall-Hoag Collection of Extremist Literature in the United States includes far right material and also the likes of the Weather Underground. The Sacco and Venzetti collections are a highlight.

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From the archive of struggle, no.35: Holt Labor Library special

In previous editions, I have featured the Labadie Collection and the Greater Manchester Collection. This week, we focus on the Holt Labor Library, with more below the fold. Browse the whole series here.

The Holt Labor Library in San Francisco has a truly exemplary website. Below are some snippets from some of its exhibitions, which are hyperlinked to their source pages.

The Bob Mattingly Button Exhibit.

[1991] Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) was formed in 1976 from a number of reform groups including Teamsters for a Democratic Contract and UPSurge. They were reacting to corruption within the union caused by leadership being too close to businesses, as well as their alleged affiliation with organized crime and the Nixon administration. Professionals Drivers’ Council (PROD) merged with TDU in 1979, bringing their lobbying and legal expertise, and new members from the East Coast and South. As a reform group within the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, TDU believes in a democratic union with control resting in the membership. Their Rank and File Bill of Rights emphasizes election of union leadership, majority approval of contract votes, equality throughout the union, workplace standards and fair salaries. Over the years, several of their goals have been implemented union-wide. In 1988, Majority Rule on Contracts became part of the IBT Constitution. TDU won direct election of officers through a federal RICO lawsuit in 1989. With the election of TDU-backed Ron Carey as Teamsters president in 1991, officers’ pay was slashed and financial waste ended. The TDU was active in the successful 1997 UPS strike. They supported Tyson Foods workers in Pasco, Washington in 1999 who called a strike even without IBT support. Today they continue their reform struggle against current IBT president James Hoffa, Jr., who they blame for new corruption and a loss of union membership.

[1984] United Farm Workers (UFW) leader César Chávez called for a third boycott on California table grapes in 1984. Whereas previous UFW boycotts had been about farm worker conditions, this one called for a ban on five major pesticides used in grape fields. The UFW claimed in their 1989 film, “Wrath of Grapes,” that the chemicals caused cancer and birth defects, and that they were getting into the ground water of surrounding communities. Chávez went on a 36-day hunger strike in 1988 to promote the boycott, receiving support from many politicians and celebrities. Later that year, city leaders in San Francisco, San Jose and Alameda County joined the boycott. UFW continued its boycott after Chávez’s death in 1993, ending it in 2000 when four of the five pesticides in question had been banned and the fifth regulated.

[1996] “The long-running, low key but aggresive campaign to organize a new party anchored firmly inside the American Labor Movement, will culminate next June in Cleveland, Ohio when delegates from across the nation formally launch a grassroots, working class-based political movement.” (Labor Party Advocate, August 1995) According to the organization’s website, the founding conference attracted “1,400 delegates from hundreds of local and international unions as well as individual activists.” They adopted a 16-point program, the “Call for Economic Justice,” that “demands that everyone who wants to work have a right to a decent-paying job. As long as millions of us remain jobless or employed at jobs that pay poverty wages, all of us will suffer.” (Labor Party: FAQs. http://www.thelaborparty.org/a_faqs.html )

Holt Labor Library Audio Collection

A selection of the library’s audio collection is online in mp3 format, hosted by the Marxists Internet Archive. Currently, lectures by George Breitman, James P. Cannon, Farrell Dobbs, Tom Kerry, Ernest Mandel, Robert Langston, Larry Trainor, Evelyn Reed and Harry Ring are available, with more to be added.

There are also special features, each with lots of links, on topics such as the San Francisco General Strike of 1934 (including folk song sheet music), the late Sylvia Weinstein, Sacco and Venzetti, Joe Hill, the Lawrence textiles strike, and the United Farm Workers of America.

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