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The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

United Packinghouse Workers of America oral history project interviews

Repository: Wisconsin Historical Society. Library-Archives

Collection Description (Extant): Interviews conducted by Rick Halpern and Roger Horowitz with 128 interviewees, primarily members and former members of local unions of the United Packinghouse Workers of America (CIO). The interviews concern the interviewees' personal backgrounds, experiences during the Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee era, the formation of the UPWA and the growth of government regulation in the 1940s, internal dissension, the aggressive national union civil rights policy and its implementation on the local level, the role of women in the UPWA, union organization and operation within the plants, various job actions and strikes, and plant closings and the decline of the union in the 1960s. [. . .] The United Packinghouse Workers of America Oral History Project, funded by an $84,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, supplements the State Historical Society of Wisconsin's holdings on labor organizations in the meat packing industry. Through interviews with former active union members, local officials, and international union staff, the project fills gaps of information in the UPWA records held by the Society. Moreover, because a major concern of the project was the union's involvement in civil rights and other social reform movements, it provides a link between the Society's labor holdings and its Social Action Collection. [. . .] In the course of the eighteen-month project, interviewers Rick Halpern and Roger Horowitz conducted interviews with 117 former members of the UPWA and 11 other individuals who had contact with the union. 85 of these interviewees were white, 42 were black, and one was a female Mexican-American. There were 67 men and 18 women among the whites, and 28 men and 14 women among the blacks. [. . .] Among the richest areas explored in the oral history interviews are those pertaining to race relations in the packing industry in general and the civil rights activities of the UPWA in particular. All interviewees, both black and white, were asked about racial discrimination in hiring, job placement, and promotion before and after the establishment of the union. Likewise, segregation inside the plants and in the larger community forms an important concern in the interviews. The building of interracial solidarity during the PWOC era is explored in considerable detail in many of the oral histories, as is the early anti-discrimination efforts of the union. The changing racial composition of the packinghouse workforce during World War II and afterwards is an important topic which receives much attention.

Anti-discrimination activity varied greatly by both geographic locale and by local union. Information about "A-D" activity initiated by local unions in the plant and in the community was solicited wherever possible. Similarly, the implementation of the international union's civil rights program, especially in the period following the 1948 strike, formed a key area of inquiry in interviews with both union officials and local level activists. The UPWA sought to cultivate ties with other civil rights groups throughout its existence. Interviewees often offered valuable recollections about their union's relationship with local NAACP branches and chapters of the Urban League. Since aggressive civil rights activities often clashed with the sensibilities of white unionists, interviewers sought information on the opinion of the union's "A-D" program held by white workers. Especially interesting are the dramatic divergences between black and white views of the same phenomenon.

Date(s): 1985-1986

Digital Status: No

Existing IDs: Call numbers: Mss 698; Tape 1106A

Extent: 0.2 c.f. (1 archives box); 300 tape recordings

Finding Aid URL: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/wiarchives.uw-whs-mss00698 External Link

Language: English

Related Archival Items: See the United Packinghouse Workers of America and other labor-related collections at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Interviewees: Herbert March, Harold Nielsen, Joe Becker, Ervin Thoenes, Robert Schultz, Herbert Hill, Richard Saunders, Annie J. Collins, Eunetta Pierce, Rosalie Taylor, Ercell Allen, Milton Norman, Jes Samuel, Todd Tate, Norman Dolnick, Eugene Cotton, Sam Parks, Jesse Vaughn, Leona Tarnowski, Ervin Thoenes, John Winkels, Casper Winkels, James MacAnally, Rollo Sissel, Lyman Halligan, Marie Casey, Jesse Prosten, Charles Fischer, Harry Alston, Addie Wyatt, Henry Giannini, Don Winters, Harry DeBoer, William Nolan, Douglas Hall, Chris Wicke, Jake Cooper, Frank Wallace, Eddie Humphrey, L. C. Williams, Mary Salinas, Hattie Jones, Charles B. McCafferty, Kenneth Niedholdt, Paul Losey, Richard Shatek, Dave Taylor, Bob Johnson, Stella Melsha, Jack Melsha, Don Blumenshine, Ray Lange, Lester Rowena, Frank Hlavacek, Louis Tickal, Helen Zarudsky, Louise Townsend, Jeanette Hammond, Earl Carr, Lloyd Achenbach, Magnolia Fields, Tony Fetter, Lucille Bremmer, Everett Dietz, Vernon Dietz, Viola Jones, Robert Burt, Velma Otterman Schrader, Lyle Taylor, James Porter, Anna Mae Weems, Charles Mueller, Goldie Lamb, Viola Gibson, Svend Godfredsen, Charles Hayes, Vic Myers, Emerson Dappen, Jeannette Dappen, Homer Early, Nels Peterson, Steve Balters, Betty Watson, Herb Cassano, James C. Harris, Rowena Moore, Darryl Poe, Walt Mason, Max Graham, Fred Romano, George Fletemeyer, Francis Fletemeyer, James Hilsinger, Clyde Wensel, Loren Callender, Alvin Edwards, Mary Edwards, Sam Davis, Bruce Nolan, Grant Holbrook, Jenny Shuck, William Nash, Blackie Randall, William Davenroy, Clyde Peoples, Curtis Miller, John Madakitis, John Condellone, Charles Pearson, Ada Treadwell, Vicky Starr, Hy Lefkowitz, Clyde Chambers, Eugene Crowley, Marjorie Carter, William Webster, Finis Block, William Raspberry, Marian Simmons, Nevada Isom, Charles R. Fischer, A. J. Pittman, Buford Thompson, Walter Bailey, Thomas Krasick, Ann Krasick, Virginia Houston, Paul Rasmussen, Philip Weightman

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

Subjects:

African Americans--Employment
Discrimination in employment
Labor movement
Labor unions
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Urban League
Race relations
United Packinghouse Workers of America

Genres:

Interviews
Sound recordings

 

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   May 15, 2015
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