Los Angeles' reputation as an open shop city is hard to dispel, partially because it stands in such sharp contrast to its labor and union friendly neighbor to the north. Additionally, the open shop drive was dramatically exposed to the public eye with the 1910 bombing of the Los Angeles Times, a staunch opponent of labor. Despite this characterization of Los Angeles, there is a history of organizing among the building and printing trades, dating back to the late 19th century, though there is little documentation of the daily lives of these workers.
Although the most vigorous organizing took place following the passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NRA) in 1933, the Wagner Act (National Labor Relations Act) in 1935, and the founding of the CIO in 1933, many workers did organize in the first two decades of the century. These included the workers in both the garment and oil industries, who had AFL union charters issued in the 1910s and 1920s respectively.
The four series in this collection focus on the lives and activities of workers in five industries, and cover the period from the 1920s and 1930s to the 1960s: petroleum extraction and refining; men's and women's clothing; furniture; and aircraft and shipbuilding. The series on the latter two industries focus on the efforts to end discriminatory exclusion and segregation in the unions that represented the workers in these two industries. None of the series is intended as a comprehensive history of the workers lives and activities nor a history of the Los Angeles labor movement. Rather, to varying degrees they do represent a snapshot of the life experiences of workers and their relationship to each other and their unions.
In addition to the series focused on four specific industries in Los Angeles, interviews with four others are incorporated into a separate series of oral histories of individual activists. Both Elinor Glenn's and Stan Weir's activism played out in Los Angeles, in the SEIU and ILWU respectively, but their interviews do not neatly fit into the Los Angeles series. On the other hand, Genora Johnson Dollinger's and Mary Oneal Thomas' stories play out in Michigan and Colorado, in the Flint strike and the Ludlow massacre, respectively. All four of these oral histories add greatly to our more general knowledge of labor history. Search Labor History in Google