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United Food and Commercial Workers Union retired leaders oral history project interviews

Repository: Wisconsin Historical Society. Library-Archives

Collection Description (Extant): Tape-recorded interviews conducted by James A. Cavanaugh of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin staff with six former leaders of the various unions which merged in 1979 to form the United Food and Commercial Workers; pertaining to the unions' philosophies, policies, methods, industrial changes, integration and civil rights activities, opinions on the Vietnam War, and other topics. [. . . ]Financed by a grant from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, this project consists of interviews conducted by James A. Cavanaugh of the Historical Society staff with six retired leaders of the various unions which merged in 1979 to form the UFCW. Those unions were the Retail Clerks International Union (RCIU), which had previously merged with the Boot and Shoe Workers, and the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America (AMC&BW), which had merged with the United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) in 1968, the Fur and Leather Workers in 1955, and several smaller groups in the 1940s-1960s. Since its creation in 1979, the UFCW has also taken in the Barbers and Beauticians Union. [. . .] The leaders interviewed were Patrick E. Gorman, James A. Suffridge, Jesse Prosten, Samuel J. Meyers, Leon B. Schachter, and Abe Feinglass. The interviews total approximately 40 hours and include new information in several areas of labor history. The Gorman and Meyers interviews contain many anecdotes illustrating the history of the Meat Cutters and the Retail Clerks. The Suffridge interview provides details on the post-World War II years of the Retail Clerks and other topics. The Prosten interview is particularly strong on interpretation, analyzing how the left wing philosophy of the leaders of the Packinghouse Workers, combined with a knowledge of the long history of failed unionism in the packing industry, shaped the structure, policies, and methods of the UPWA. This interview is also informative on UPWA integration and civil rights activities. The Schachter interview is strong in many areas--the Butchers-Teamsters Joint Organizing Committee in the mid-1950s which he chaired, the mergers, his stay in Turkey, and changes in the meat industry, for example. The interview's greatest value, however, may well be in the way it contrasts with the Prosten interview. If Prosten and UPWA typified left wing unionism and the CIO's top-down approach to unionism, Schachter and the AMC&BW typified a more conservative unionism with a strong local autonomy philosophy. And finally, the Feinglass interview provides insights into the International Fur Workers Union and an additional interpretation of the Meat Cutters' last quarter century.

Date(s): 1980-1981

Digital Status: No

Existing IDs: Call numbers: Mss 56; Tape 847A; Tape 863A; Tape 879A; Tape 880A; Tape 904A; Tape 921A

Extent: 0.4 c.f. (1 archives box); 43 tape recordings

Finding Aid URL: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-whs-mss00056 External Link

Language: English

Interviewees: Patrick E. Gorman, James A. Suffridge, Jesse Prosten, Samuel J. Meyers, Leon B. Schachter, Abe Feinglass

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights

Subjects:

African Americans--Employment
Discrimination in employment
Labor leaders
Labor movement
Labor unions

Genres:

Interviews
Sound recordings

 

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   March 5, 2012
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