A REPORT FROM THE LABOR ARCHIVES OF WASHINGTON
By Conor Casey, Labor Archivist, Director
2016 MARKS THE SIXTH year of the Labor Archives of Washington and my sixth as Labor Archivist and director. I am pleased to once again report on our many recent accomplishments made possible by our donors and the support of our community!
State Funding Enables Hiring of Assistant Archivist, Expansion of Services
LAW was founded in 2010 and has been sustained by donations from dozens of unions and hundreds of individuals, including major and ongoing funding efforts by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Washington State Labor Council, among others. Members and officers of ILWU and Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific, state and county labor councils, area pensioner groups, and dozens of local unions have been critical in every phase of LAW’s development and have been absolutely indispensable in guiding my work as Labor Archivist.
In 2015, this support took another significant turn for the better when we won funding from the Washington State Legislature, allowing LAW to provide more direct services to the labor and academic communities and the general public. On September 1, Crystal Rodgers joined the Labor Archives’ team as the new Assistant Labor Archivist.
Rodgers will report directly to me, and I will continue to direct, manage, and serve as principle selector and outreach coordinator for LAW. Rodgers' activities will focus on access and preservation: processing records and assisting in supervising processing staff and volunteers. Rodgers will expand upon with recent innovations in access to Labor Archives finding aids by getting them online and bringing them into compliance with archival descriptive standards and assisting with a regional labor records survey and performing on-site surveys of labor union records.
Please join us in welcoming Crystal as great new addition to the LAW team! See Crystal's column below for a message from her and more details!
Online Labor History
The Labor Archives provides remote access to thousands of photographs, documents, and oral history interviews. The latest additions, include digitized sources of oral histories done by Howard Kimeldorf on ILWU and ILA dockworkers, and are now available in their entirety online for the first time, including full transcriptions. As well, we will soon add dozens of oral history interviews with ILWU pensioners that we have created in partnership with historians Ron Magden and Harvey Schwartz as part of the ILWU’s Pacific Coast Pensioners’ Association Oral History Committee. Another major accomplishment for the collection and preservation of labor history is also available via our portal: The SeaTac Seattle Minimum Wage History Project web archives, which includes 52 oral history interviews, documents, flyers, photographs, and other materials recording the historic labor victories in SeaTac and Seattle to win a $15 minimum wage. We also digitized dozens of documents relating to farmworker history that were part of the Rosalinda Guillen and Joseph Moore Farmworkers History Collection.
Supporting Student Learning
Ninety eight students and community members have volunteered and learned from the Labor Archives since 2011. Students and volunteers get a chance to learn the value of the collection by hands-on processing projects. Several of our students have gone on to find jobs in other archives, museums, or labor organizations, many other student researchers have won paper prizes and National History Day competitions by using our collections in their research, and still others have used them in class papers, articles, theses and books.
In the Spring 2017, I will expand upon my outreach to students by teaching a quarter-long freshmen seminar in labor and social justice history employing LAW’s collections called "Lessons in Leadership and Courage: Labor, Social Justice, and Civil Rights Activist History through the Lens of the Collections of the Labor Archives of Washington."
National History Day Students Win 2016 Regional Video Contest Employing Labor Archives of Washington Collections and Staff Interviews
Every year, Special Collections and the Labor Archives of Washington works with National History Day students on their projects. This year, students Ashley Luty, Ananya Jain, and Eileen Zhang placed 1st in Washington State for the Junior Group Documentary category for their film "A Wave of Change: The 1934 West Coast Waterfront Strike." The documentary employed the Labor Archives' collections and included interviews with LAW Labor Archivist Conor Casey.
This wasn't the first award-winning National History Day film to win: in 2013, student Heni Barnes won the National Competition with her film "Striking A Turning Point: The 1917 Pacific Northwest Lumber Strike", which included Labor Archives collections and interviews with LAW staff as well.
Labor Archives TV and Radio
In the Fall, LAW will launch a 10-episode segment on UW360, a University of Washington television program. These stories, which will highlight LAW’s collections and researchers, will air on KOMO, UWTV, and will be available on various online media channels thereafter. Click the image to the right to view the first episode.
In September of 2015, LAW began a regular radio segment on KSVR FM’s We Do the Work radio program called “Learn Yourself,” which examines a labor related event and highlights our collections and other sources to inspire researchers to pursue their own research on the topic. The segment is part of Public Radio Exchange, and the episodes have proven very popular, ranking as the most-listened-to segments on the radio show and gaining it affiliates in new markets, including stations in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oregon, and Washington—and the list keeps growing!
Listen to the Radio Show Here:
Labor Archives Annual Event
In April, the Labor Archives hosted its second annual event: “Preserving Solidarity Forever: Washington State Farmworkers Struggles” the event highlighted our existing collections on the Chateau St. Michel organizing campaign in the 1990s. The event featured speakers Rosalinda Guillen (Community to Community Development, former UFW organizer) Julio Romero (Former President, United Farm Workers of Washington State) Ramon Torres (President, Familias Unidas por la Justicia) and Jeff Johnson (President, Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO). We are continuing to collect records documenting this important history, so if you or your organization want to donate records relating to it, please contact us and we will add them to our collections!
Direct Services to Labor Organizations and Individuals
I provide consultations on record keeping and preservation, often prompting new collections. I will continue to work with labor councils and unions to establish records management policies that make transferring records to the Labor Archives or preserving records in-house easier.
Thank you for your continued support. I welcome you to contact me for research help, to donate a collection, or to speak with your organization about a potential archives project!
A Message from Assistant Labor Archivist Crystal Rodgers
Hi everyone! My name is Crystal Rodgers, and I am so excited to join the Labor Archives of Washington team as the new Assistant Labor Archivist! This past May, I graduated with my MLIS with a concentration in archives from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s distance program. Over the past four years, I have also been working part-time at the City of Portland Archives and Records Center and the Oregon Health & Science University Historical Collections & Archives in Portland, Oregon. I am originally from Atlanta, Georgia and earned my BA in women’s studies at Georgia State University in 2011. GSU is also where I got my start in archives, working first as a Student Assistant, and later as a Processing Assistant for the Southern Labor Archives at the GSU Special Collections & Archives. It was this experience with the Southern Labor Archives that first exposed me to the multitude of ways labor archives can serve the community and inspired me to apply for the position with the LAW.
Although there are many things about working for the Labor Archives of Washington that I am looking forward to, I am especially excited to meet and work with members of the labor community to ensure the vibrant historical legacy of the labor movement is preserved and made more broadly accessible. I want to extend my gratitude to members of the labor community, Governor Jay Inslee, and the Washington State Labor Council for making the LAW a priority and ensuring its continued success, not to mention providing the funding to create the Assistant Labor Archivist position. I am so happy to get started!
LAW Social Media Expansion
The Labor Archives is expanding our social media presence to now include Instagram! Follow us @laborarchiveswa to view featured images, ephemera, documents, and artifacts from UW labor collections. Weekly content includes selections for #workingwednesday as well as other items commemorating major events in Pacific Northwest labor history. We also aim for posts to highlight the contributions of women and people of color to the labor movement. We hope you’ll follow us, like our posts, and tell your friends! And if you aren’t already, be sure to like us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on collections, special events, and other happenings at the Labor Archives!
New Fundraising Initiatives
Announcing the Smith-McWilliams Endowment for Working Women's Archives
The Labor Archives of Washington and the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies are proud to announce the establishment of a new endowment dedicated to funding the collection, preservation and accessibility of working women’s history and the history of women in the labor movement.
The fund is a result of a generous donation on the part of two long-time labor activists, Lila Smith and Brian McWilliams, who wish to increase the recognition of women as members of labor organizations; individual workers and activists; and leaders in the labor movement.
Supporters may make their own financial contributions to the fund by credit card online, or call 1-800-326- 7566.
Motorcycle Enthusiasts, a City Council Member, and Labor Archives of Washington Converge in the Lisa Herbold Labor Ride and Poker Run
This past Labor Day, the unlikely spectacle of motorcyclists fundraising for an archives rolled through Seattle's streets in the inaugural Lisa Herbold Labor Ride and Poker Run. The ride, which netted $660 in donations for the Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections, is the first in a series of planned annual motorcycle runs with the Labor Archives as its beneficiary. In the fore of organizing was Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who began the motorcycle run last year as a campaign fundraiser. Now in office, she sought a new cause to donate and was suggested the Labor Archives of Washington by her partner, Bob Combs, and Deep Sea Fishermen's Union of the Pacific member Tom Sameuelsen, who had been working with LAW on another project. The committee estimates they may be able to raise as much as $20,000 on behalf of the Labor Archives and its collections next Labor Day, and planning for next year's run begins in mid-October.
SUPPORT LAW, STAY CONNECTED: BECOME A FRIEND OF THE LABOR ARCHIVES
Becoming a member in the Friends of the Labor Archives remains the best way to stay connected with the many activities of the Labor Archives of Washington. Members stay connected to the Archives by receiving regular newsletters and special invitations to labor history events. Now, while supplies last, Friends also receive a durable, high-quality, and union-made Labor Archives tote-bag. It has never been a better time to be a Friend of the Labor Archives.
New Labor Collections
The Labor Archives is constantly working to bring in new collections documenting working people and their unions in the Pacific Northwest. Here are a few highlights of our newest collections.
Potenciano Parin Columna was born in the Philippines and came to the United States in 1924, eventually moving to Los Angeles after brief stays in Vancouver, Seattle, and New York. In 1933, Columna became the first Filipino pilot in the United States. During World War II, he served as a technician overseas. He was also a long-term member of the Caballeros de Dimas-Alang, a fraternal organization in the Filipino community and filled many important leadership roles. When Carlos Bulosan, a noted Filipino novelist, poet and labor activist, was ill with tuberculosis and receiving treatment, Columna and the Caballeros raised funds to help cover Bulosan's medical costs and try to send Bulosan back to the Philippines to recover.
Marc Auerbach was a student at the University of Washington between 1985-1989. A student activist while at UW, Auerbach was a participant in labor and community activism during this period and through the 1990s, including organizations like Puget Sound Coalition for Police Accountability, Jobs With Justice (which he co-founded and in which he remained active).
Auerbach later became a King County Metro Transit Operator, 1995-2006, and was an active member of the union, serving on the Executive Board of ATU Local 587. During this period, he was also a delegate to King County Labor Council. Auerbach served as the lead ATU organizer of two campaigns against Tim Eyman-backed anti-transit initiatives in 1999 (I-695) and 2000 (I-745) as well as an ATU campaign against contracting out of proposed monorail system.
The SeaTac Seattle Minimum Wage History Project is a research, archival documentation, and oral history project co-directed by University of Washington political science professor Michael McCann and University of Washington labor archivist Conor Casey.
Beginning in 2015, the project members--McCann, Casey, and graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Washington--collected articles about the SeaTac and Seattle campaigns and then performed dozens oral history interviews. As well, some hard copy archival collections were collected for the Labor Archives of Washington, websites were anarchically captured, and some materials were digitized relating to the campaigns.
The resulting digital web archive documents the stories of those involved in the campaigns, as supporters and opponents, in or affected by the struggles over a $15 minimum wage at SeaTac and in Seattle as well as the broader, ongoing effects and efforts at a national level. Interviews include a broad coalition of labor union officers and members, politicians, nonprofit community partners, and small business owners in support and against the initiatives.
Film and video collection collected by the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington. The Chair and Center honor the legacy of one of the preeminent labor leaders in the U.S., the late Harry Bridges, outstanding founder and leader of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for over 40 years. Supporting research, teaching, and community outreach, The Center focuses on labor's contribution to society.
Harold J. Gibson was an important leader in the history of the International Association of Machinists, and an influential figure in labor politics, both in the Pacific Northwest and nationally. Born in Idaho in 1913, he moved to Washington State as a child, eventually graduating from Lake Washington High School in Kirkland, WA in 1931. After graduation, Gibson joined the Army for a time before beginning work at Boeing in 1936. In 1941, he was elected a Business Representative of his local District Lodge 751, and in 1943, a short two years later, he was elected District President, a position he would hold for the next 13 years. During World War II, Gibson reenlisted, taking a leave of absence from his post to serve as a sergeant in Patton’s Third Army. In his tenure after the war, he led a successful strike in 1948, ended government freezes on aircraft workers’ wages, helped the district win its first all-inclusive health and welfare plan, and significantly increased union membership. In 1956, Gibson was elected to nationwide office as a General Vice President of the International Association of Machinists, and held the position through the mid-1960s. Gibson was influential not only as a labor leader, but as a political figure as well. He was well connected with longtime state Senators Warren Magnuson and Henry "Scoop" Jackson, Governor Al Rosellini, and Bill Boeing. He was an active participant in the Democratic Party, and sat on many committees and commissions. Harold Gibson passed away in 1984 at the age of 71.
Recently Revised or Improved Finding Aids:
Labor Archives in the News
Highlights from more recent news coverage of the Labor Archives and its projects. See a full list here.
The Labor Archives of Washington was founded in 2010 as a collaboration between the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies and the University of Washington's Libraries Special Collections.
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