Category Archives: Labor History

This Union Cause: The Queer History of the United Automobile Workers



Wayne State history PhD candidate James McQuaid discusses his research on the gradual cognizance and acceptance of queer autoworkers in the twentieth century, leading toward the UAW’s rapid embrace of LGBTQ-friendly policies and initiatives in the 1990s. He shares compelling stories of several queer auto workers, including: Billie Hill discovering a lesbian enclave in a Highland Park plant in the 1940s; Gary Kapanowski winning a 1973 union election despite being aggressively outed by a rival the day before; Joni Christian, a transgender woman whose union leadership at the GM Lordstown saved her job after returning to work following sexual reassignment surgery in the 1970s; and Ron Woods and Martha Grevatt, who in speaking out about the harassment they faced successfully led the UAW and Chrysler to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. McQuaid received the 2020 Wayne State History Department’s Joe L. Norris Endowed Award for his essay, “The First Ladies of Labor: How Women Challenged Restrictive Gender Conventions and Established Lesbian Identities on the UAW Shop Floor During World War II.” His dissertation is tentatively titled “This Union Cause: The Queer History of the United Automobile Workers.”

Related Resources:
The Kapanowski Challenge: How Rank and File UAW Members Rallied Around Gay Activists to Fight Runaway Shops in 1972 Detroit

Related Collections:
Ed Liska Papers
Olga Madar Papers
UAW Region 1B Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: James McQuaid
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


A group exploring primary source maps in the Reuther Library reading room, September 27, 2017

Creating that “A-Ha!” Moment: Using Archives and Primary Sources to Inspire Active Learning in the Classroom



Outreach archivist Meghan Courtney discusses the Reuther Library’s efforts to extend primary source instruction beyond history classes to inspire active learning in the classroom and empower students to become part of scholarly conversations. Through the Reuther’s innovative Archives and Primary Resource Education Lab (APREL), Wayne State economics students have studied Detroit-area public food programs to understand the intersection of economics and public health. Law students have examined police reports, eye-witness accounts, and contemporary reporting to weigh the evidence and draw their own conclusions about Detroit’s infamous 1969 New Bethel Incident. And K-12 teachers have learned how to integrate primary source instruction into their curricula at all age levels. Courtney also discusses how students and teachers can access digitized archival resources, and offers suggestions and resources for archives and special collections looking to make their archival instruction more robust.

Related Resources
Reuther Library Archives and Primary Resource Education Lab (APREL)
Reuther Library Primary Source Document Sets and Teacher Plans

  • Detroit 1967
  • Judge Damon Keith: A Life of Service and Great Purpose
  • League of Revolutionary Black Workers
  • Radicalism in American Politics
  • What is the Labor Movement

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Meghan Courtney
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


Poorly Described Folders and Human Hair: Processing Report with ALUA Archivist Shae Rafferty



Shae Rafferty, the Reuther Library’s Labor and Urban Affairs Archivist, explains what happens behind the scenes to get donated collections ready for researchers. She discusses how collections are prioritized for processing, or organizing and describing them to make it easier for researchers to find the information they’re looking for. Rafferty describes some of the memorable things she has found in the collections she has processed, both pleasant (scrapbooks made by friends and Detroit theater ushers in the early 1900s) and unpleasant (human hair). She also recalls finding a deeply important but largely forgotten log of 1940s racial incidents in a folder unhelpfully titled, “Barometer Report,” emphasizing how important it is for archivists to re-evaluate and re-describe the contents of collections to make them more findable for researchers.

Related Collections
Detroit Commission on Community Relations (DCCR) / Human Rights Department Records
Lyrick Club Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Shae Rafferty
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


A Double Agent, A Conservative Affirmative Action Advocate, and A Black Nationalist Walk Into an Archive…: Field Report with Archivist Louis Jones



After a brief hiatus we’re back! Reuther Library Field Archivist Louis Jones discusses fascinating collections recently opened at the Reuther Library. William Gernaey was hired by Chrysler and Ford in the 1930s and 1940s to infiltrate the Community Party in Michigan, which in turn hired him to spy on local unions. Ramon S. Scruggs, Sr. became the first African American manager at Michigan Bell Telephone Company in 1939, and later at AT&T, and although a conservative he advocated for affirmative action policies to raise opportunities for all African Americans. In 1965 Edward Vaughn opened the nation’s second black bookstore, Vaughn’s Books in Detroit, later represented his community in the Michigan House of Representative for many years, and has been actively involved in the NAACP in Alabama since his retirement. Together, their archival collections add to the Reuther Library’s extensive resources documenting 20th century politics and civil rights in Michigan. Jones is the field archivist for the Walter P. Reuther Library, and received a Ph.D. in history from Wayne State University.

Related Resources
Collection Spotlight: Ramon S. Scruggs, Sr. Papers

Related Collections
William Gernaey Papers
Ramon S. Scruggs, Sr. Papers
Edward Vaughn Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Louis Jones
Sound: Troy Eller English
Image: William Gernaey, “Communist,” Walter P. Reuther Library, Virtual Motor City Project: vmc26150
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


Hidden in the Fields: Invisible Agricultural Child Labor in the American Southwest and the Limits of Citizenship



Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez explains how labor laws helped define the modern boundaries of childhood and citizenship for both internationally and domestically migrant Latinx children working on American farms. Despite the child labor ban supposedly implemented in 1938 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act and later laws, legal loopholes have allowed migrant Latinx children to continue to work on American farms today and have limited their access to education. Padilla-Rodríguez explains how advocates fought to enact social welfare initiatives for farmworking children along their migratory route, while teachers and women UFW organizers pursued legislative channels to try to get stricter child labor protections, and special educational and childcare programs created for migrant youth. Padilla-Rodríguez is a Ph.D. candidate in the Columbia University Department of History and a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Latinx Research Center.

Related Collections
Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee Records
Dolores Huerta Papers
Michigan Farm Worker Ministry Coalition Records
National Farm Workers Association Records
National Farm Worker Ministry Records
Ronald B. Taylor Papers
UFW Organizing Committee (UFWOC) Records
UFW Office of the President: Cesar Chavez Records
UFW Texas Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


Punishing Promise: School Discipline in the Era of Desegregation



Matt Kautz explains how his observations while teaching in Detroit and Chicago led him to study the rise of suspensions and other disciplinary tactics in urban districts during school desegregation, fueling the school-to-prison pipeline. His research has focused particularly on Boston, Detroit, and Louisville during court-ordered desegregation, for which there is ample documentation of school disciplinary codes, statistics on usage against students, and responses from administrators, teachers, law enforcement, and the community. Kautz is a Ph.D. candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University

Related Collections
AFT Local 231: Detroit Federation of Teachers Records
Detroit Commission on Community Relations (DCCR) / Human Rights Department Records
Detroit Public Schools Community Relations Division Records
Wayne State University College of Education, Dean’s Office: Detroit Public Schools Monitoring Commission on Desegregation Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewees: Matt Kautz
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


(5213) Matilda (Rabinowitz) Robbins, Arrest, 1910s

Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir of Wobbly Organizer Matilda Rabinowitz Robbins (Part 2)



In the second of a two-episode series, artist Robbin Légère Henderson discusses the life of her grandmother, Matilda Rabinowitz Robbins, a Socialist, IWW organizer, feminist, writer, mother, and social worker. Henderson shares stories from Robbins’ autobiography, Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir from the Early Twentieth Century, explaining how the optimism of a 13-year-old immigrant from the Ukraine was soon undone by the realities of working in garment sweatshops on the East Coast, leading to Matilda Robbins’ brief but influential role as labor organizer for the International Workers of the World from 1912 to 1917.

Related Resources
Exhibit Announcement: “Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman”
Blog: Love Letters
Book: Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir from the Early Twentieth Century
robbinhenderson.com

Related Collections
Matilda Robbins Papers
Industrial Workers of the World Records
Ben Légère Papers
John Beffel Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewees: Robbin Légère Henderson
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


Hooked On The Line: Addiction and the North American Workplace, 1965-1995 (Part 2)



This is the second of a two-part interview with Dr. Jeremy Milloy about his forthcoming book, “Hooked On The Line: Addiction and the North American Workplace, 1965-95,” which explores the evolution of alcohol and drug addiction interventions in the workplace in the latter half of the 20th century. In this episode, Milloy considers workplace addiction interventions as a continuation of the encroachment of employers into employees’ private lives. Milloy describes the Reagan administration’s addiction intervention policies in the heavily federally-regulated railroad industry in the 1980s, and across industries the evolution from rehabilitative workplace addiction interventions to more punitive workplace drug testing by the 1990s.

Dr. Milloy is a postdoctoral fellow at the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies at Trent University. His research explores work, violence, addiction, and capitalism in Canada and the United States.

Related Collections
Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Records
UAW Chrysler Department Records
UAW President’s Office: Leonard Woodcock Records
UAW Region 1 Records
UAW Vice President’s Office: Irving Bluestone Records
Walter P. Reuther Library Vertical Files Collection

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewer: Meghan Courtney
Interviewee: Jeremy Milloy
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


Hooked On The Line: Addiction and the North American Workplace, 1965-1995 (Part 1)



This is the first of a two-part interview with Dr. Jeremy Milloy about his forthcoming book, “Hooked On The Line: Addiction and the North American Workplace, 1965-95,” which explores the evolution of alcohol and drug addiction interventions in the workplace in the latter half of the 20th century. In this episode, Milloy explores the early days of addiction intervention in the workplace through programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and then delves into an experimental, grant-funded UAW program in the 1970s called CHIP – Curb Heroin in Plants. An employee-led initiative, CHIP sought to treat heroin dependence in autoworkers through a combination of counseling and methadone maintenance.

Dr. Milloy is a postdoctoral fellow at the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies at Trent University. His work explores work, violence, addiction, and capitalism in Canada and the United States.

Related Collections
UAW Chrysler Department Records
UAW President’s Office: Leonard Woodcock Records
UAW Region 1 Records
UAW Vice President’s Office: Irving Bluestone Records
Walter P. Reuther Library Vertical Files Collection

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewer: Meghan Courtney
Interviewee: Jeremy Milloy
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


The Southern Airways Strike of 1960: ALPA’s Epic Battle Over Fair Pilot Wages



Air Line Pilots Association archivist Bart Bealmear shares the history of ALPA’s shrewd 1960 strike against regional carrier Southern Airways over pilot wages. The strike began on June 5, 1960 and launched a costly two-year legal and tactical battle in which ALPA created its own competitor airline, Southern hired poorly-qualified scab pilots funded partially by the government, and the union strategically appealed a ruling in its own favor to preempt and scuttle Southern’s appeal. The founder and president of Southern Airways, Frank Hulse, finally capitulated in September 1962 when an investor in the airline threatened to sell a controlling stake to ALPA to end the strike. Although the longest and costliest strike in ALPA’s history, the union considers the Southern Airways Strike of 1960 as its magna carta, key to protecting the wages of pilots at smaller airline carriers for decades to come.

Related Collections
ALPA President’s Department Records
George Hopkins Papers
Clarence N. Sayen Papers

More Information
Blog post: The Southern Airways strike of 1960: ALPA’s epic battle over fair wages for pilots

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Bart Bealmear
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink