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AFSCME’s Archives: A Treasure Trove of Labor History

AFSCME Archives, Wayne State University, Detroit
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By Stefanie Caloia, AFSCME Archivist Explore the Issues Good and Welfare Labor Movement

Did you know that AFSCME has archives accessible to you?

The archives are the historical records that document AFSCME’s history. The collections contain material from most AFSCME International departments and from individuals associated with AFSCME, dating back to its founding as the Wisconsin State Employees Association in 1932. Thousands of boxes contain correspondence, reports, photographs, audio and video recordings, and many other types of documents.

AFSCME’s past presidents and secretary-treasurers, all the way back to Arnold Zander and Roy Kubista, are represented. The collections document important events, big and small, in AFSCME’s past. The 1936 charter from the AFL-CIO, the 1981 San Jose pay equity strike, affiliations of organizations like the CSEA, NUHHCE, and HGEA, and of course the well-known 1968 Memphis sanitation strike are just a few examples of the topics contained in the archives.

Here are some historical images from the AFSCME Archives at Wayne State University:

The archives are housed at Wayne State University’s Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs in Detroit. While that may seem like a strange place for AFSCME’s records, the Reuther Library is the largest labor history archives in North America. It is also home to the records of the UAW, SEIU, AFT, UFW, and others. Researchers, including labor and social history scholars, students, documentarians, and AFSCME staff and members visit from all over the world to use the collections.

These records are documentary evidence of the past that we can use to interpret and understand history and find our way forward. What did AFSCME do before public employees could collectively bargain? How did AFSCME work toward gaining those and other rights? What workplace issues did AFSCME members face in the past and how did they overcome them? The answers – and lessons we can apply to today’s fights – are in the archives.

Learn More

For information on the AFSCME Archives, visit the Reuther Library’s website or contact AFSCME’s archivist, Stefanie Caloia (SCaloia@wayne.edu).