Resources in the Archives about Connecticut Labor History, post World War II to the 1970s

 

Many imagine the years after World War II as a period of warm relations between labor and management in the United States. Building on the victories of the New Deal and adjusting to the demands of the Cold War, workers and their bosses, so the story goes, reached a steady accord across a range of industries. But labor-management relations in the United States have waxed and waned since the late nineteenth century, and the decades after 1945 were no different.

Archives & Special Collections holds a range of materials that shed light on this important topic through the history of trade unionism in Connecticut. Among our relevant collections are:

  • The Henry Stieg Collection of the Pratt & Whitney Company. The collection comprises material gathered by Henry L. Stieg, a master gauge inspector at the Pratt & Whitney Division of the Niles-Bement-Pond Company from 1940 to 1973 and shop steward in the Unity Lodge Local 251 of the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America. Chief among the collection is a wealth of materials chronicling a strike by Pratt & Whitney workers in 1946, including flyers, newsletters, fact sheets, and company correspondence. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860129469
  • Diocesan Labor Institute Records. The collection comprises material from the Diocesan Labor Institute, an organization founded in 1942 by Father Joseph Francis Donnelly to help educate Connecticut workers on the social teachings of the Catholic Church. Especially useful for researchers is a series of interviews with workers across the state conducted by members of the institute. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133880
  • The University of Connecticut, Labor Education Center Records. The collection comprises material from a program founded at the University of Connecticut in 1946 to educate Connecticut’s unionized workforce and promote greater understanding about trade unionism among business leaders, government officials, and the general public. Useful materials included educational materials, workshop materials, and reports on labor issues in Connecticut. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860134460
  • The Nicholas J. Tomassetti Papers. The collection comprises the personal papers of Nicholas J. Tomassetti, a labor organizer and leader associated with the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers Union, as well as a Democratic representative to the Connecticut General Assembly. Tomassetti’s papers span a wide range of labor history (1916-1978) and contain a wealth of materials, including correspondence, reports, administrative and legal records, strike and negotiation materials, minutes, publications, and newspaper clippings. The finding aid can be found at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860133876
  • Additional materials on trade unionism in Connecticut held by Archives & Special Collections include the records of many Connecticut labor unions, like the AFSCME, Council 4 Records, the state’s largest AFL-CIO union, as well as many publications on labor and labor issues contain in our extensive Alternative Press Collection.

We invite you to view these collections in the reading room at Archives & Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

“Our Community at Winchester” — an exhibit that evokes an era of union and community solidarity

 

“Our Community at Winchester: an Elm City Story,” is an exhibit, created by the Greater New Haven Labor History Association (GNHLHA), that reminds us of how communities are formed within and around factories and industrial workshops, as well as the impact and rippling effect that the disintegration of these industries have on the lives of their workers and the greater communities, towns and cities where they are located. The exhibit is currently available for viewing in the Norman Stevens Gallery in Homer Babbidge Library until early June.

As one of New Haven’s most important employers in the latter half of the 20th century, the Olin-Winchester Repeating Arms plant had an enormous impact on the Newhallville community and the city of New Haven, Connecticut. During this time, workers created a variety of social outlets, from the Winchester Club to bowling to musical performances, plays and gatherings of all kinds, creating a community within a community. But the struggle to achieve better, more equitable, working conditions was ongoing and often met with brutal resistance from the company. Later, with the introduction of Science Park, employment at the plant was repeatedly downsized until accessible work opportunities for people in the community no longer existed. The plant closed in 2006, throwing its remaining 198 employees out of work.

The stories of Winchester’s workers and the impact of this important employer throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries are told in this exhibit through the use of oral histories, photographs and documents. The exhibit utilizes materials from the records of the International Association of Machinists Local 609, now held by the GNHLHA, which represented workers at the plant beginning in 1956, as well as articles, donated images and personal recollections from those who were involved with the plant.

The photographs above show some of the panels in the exhibit as well as Greater New Haven Labor History Association director Joan Cavanagh and member Monica McGovern.

Social Justice Panel discussion on November 13, 3:30p.m.

Stephen Thornton at a Ladies Garment Workers Strike, 1992

Join us for a program exploring social activism, service leadership, and community organizing with a panel discussion including Stephen Thornton and Louise Simmons, who have served as community organizers and labor activists.

The discussion begins at 3:30 on November 13 in Konover Auditorium at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, with a reception to follow.

Sponsored by Archives & Special Collections of the UConn Libraries, the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, and UConn’s Community Outreach.

Click here for more information.