Light of Day: "Truckers, Dockworkers, and Me" by Tim

Submitted by LHRC on Fri, 01/06/2012 - 17:02

Some people spend their summers lounging by the pool. Others spend their days as interns at various government organizations or nonprofits around the city. This summer, I spent my days with truckers, dockworkers, business agents and occasionally, even a few members of management.

Now one might ask, "Why are there truckers at Gelman Special Collections???" As part of continuing efforts to fully archive and make accessible the papers of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), I assisted in the processing of the records of the Joint Western Areas Committee (JWAC). This body, in operation for several decades, was one of four joint committees that oversaw employee-employer relations between Teamsters and management.  These records include transcripts of meetings dealing with a variety of issues, including disputes over practices within the freight industry to appeals by union members who felt they were unfairly fired or suspended from their jobs.

As a history major who  took a class on American Labor History, I thought I was fairly well versed in many aspects of organized labor. However, the records of JWAC exposed me to a side of organized labor that I otherwise would never had known existed. While over a hundred thousand pages of teamster committee transcripts might seem a tad dull at first thought, that was anything but the case. These cases present the unique way in which for over thirty years disputes between labor and management were handled within the Teamsters, with all the colorful language and occasional outburst by an annoyed committee chairman still included in the transcripts (remember, these are Teamsters, not debutantes we're talking about).

As the process of fully archiving the records of the Teamsters continues, I am sure that the transcripts of JWAC will prove an invaluable resource to anyone wishing to conduct research on organized labor or American economic history. More importantly however, I hope that they will enjoy the rich content of these records as much as I did.