Newsletter Number 23 - Library Home page
photo: Emmanuel Joseph
LABOR ARCHIVES and
San Francisco State University
Newsletter No. 23 ~ 2009
The Labor Archives’ recently received an exciting
collection of industrial espionage reports from the 1930s.
Most likely from the powerful Industrial Association,
the anonymous reports document the activities of San
Francisco labor unions and “subversive” organizations
such as the ACLU during the tumultuous period
right after the 1934 San Francisco General Strike.
Nancy Arms Simon, LARC’s Registrar and a graduate
student in Museum Studies at San Francisco State, put
together an exhibit for the Drawing & Painting display
cases of the Creative Arts Building on campus. These
cases remain empty from the beginning of the semester
until October, when student work is featured in the space,
and Nancy saw an opporunity to exhibit material that
would inspire students and highlight LARC collections
to a group not usually exposed to labor history. As a
student herself, Nancy gained valuable real world
experience of the full process of putting on an exhibit –
from selecting material, writing didactics, arranging the
display, and tracking items from the collection and back.
Western Workers Labor Heritage
The 2010 Fesitival will feature workshops on labor
women in film, Venezuelan grassroots movements,
lessons from black labor history with the Freedom
School and much more. Featured performers include:
Lichi Fuentes, Blackberry, Seattle Labor Chorus,
Solidarity Notes, Carol Denny, Liliana Herrera,
Date: January 15 - 17, 2010
Location: 1511 Rollins Road, Burlingame
for final details and additional information.
The exhibit generated substantial enthusiasm within the
Art Department, in particular Professor Gail Dawson
used the display in her lessons for Drawing I class.
“You are demanding that this city will respect the
dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and
the significance of those who are not in professional
jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs.
But let me say to you tonight that whenever you are
engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the
building of humanity, it has dignity and it has worth.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
AFSCME Memphis Sanitation Strike, April 3, 1968
Breaking Ground: The History of Operating Engineers Local 3
International Union of Operating Engineers
(IUOE), Local Union No. 3 celebrates
their 70 year anniversary with the release
of the book titled, Breaking Ground:
The History of Operating Engineers
Local 3. It chronicles 70 years of ground
breaking projects that helped build the West.
in both membership and organizational strength.
The decade would end on an exhilarating note as
the first American astronaut walked on the moon
in front of millions of TV viewers. The growth
of technology that enabled this feat would not
have been possible without operating engineers.
Excerpted here, this full-color hardcover book presents a
decade-by-decade look at the extraordinary
journey of the largest construction union
in the United States and includes hundreds
of historic and current photos and
materials submitted by union members.
In October 1961 in Palo Alto, Local 3 began work on
the Stanford “Atom Smasher” project, approved by
the Atomic Energy Commission and estimated to cost
$114 million. The Smasher (Nuclear Accelerator) was
installed underground at a 400-acre site in the Stanford
foothills. Upon its completion in 1967 the Engineers
News described the accelerator as the “longest pea
shooter in the world.” The need for water projects – both
the containment of water and the movement of water
– continued to be a high priority for California and the
nation. When completed, the Oroville Dam, described
as the “key unit of the nation’s first statewide water
project,” would be the highest “embarkment” dam in the
world and highest dam of any kind in the United States.
The 1960s began with Local 3 under IUOE supervision,
but it quickly regained independence under Business
Manager Al Clem. This decade was characterized by a
focus on safety, training, and a number of large projects
that helped union membership grow. The opening of the
Rancho Murieta Training Center (RMTC) in 1969 and the
subsequent building of that local community gave Local
3 hope in continued growth; however, the union was Another large project in the San Francisco Bay Area
unprepared for the coming environmental movement, helping to fuel that growth was the Bay Area Rapid
not to mention continued struggles with union politics. Transit (BART) system. This space-age, high-speed
monorail – that nowadays snakes beneath the surfaces of
In the 1960s, turbulent political and social issues San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, zooms alongside
dominated the mainstream news; however, for cars stuck in gridlock and shoots under the Bay – was
Local 3, this was a decade of unprecedented growth arguably the largest dredging and construction challenge
Local 3 faced in the 1960s. Construction officially
began in 1964 with a test section between Walnut
Creek and Concord dedicated by President Johnson.
For two years, engineers tested the high-speed tracks
and computer programs used to run the system. Finally,
in 1966, work began on the most crucial component
of the system, the Transbay Tube. For months, artist
renderings of the tube posted in the Engineers News
mystifed members – how would this impossible mission
be accomplished? In April 1967, the dredging began.
The men on the trench job were hand-picked deepwater magicians. They were dredger men who would
“have their hands full, fighting choppy water, wind, and
changing tides while trying to control a free-swinging
bucket on a 100-foot boom . . . they can’t see what
they’re digging; they just do it by feel.” The clamshell
dredge they used was affectionately known as “Thelma.”
Breaking Ground sheds light on the past while
strengthening the sense of common purpose in
the present. Throughout its history the labor
movement has learned from its mistakes, and Local
3 is no exception. Along the way, Local 3 would
inevitably ruffle the feathers of big government
and big business, as the local resisted efforts to
bust unions through legislation such as the TaftHartley law and state Right-to-Work initiatives.
All union misdeeds would be scrutinized and
foibles unveiled, but in the end, the ground
had been broken, and Local 3 would survive.
Proceeds from the sale of Breaking Ground
are to be donated to the Local 3 Scholarship
Fund to help educate the future men and women
of the Operating Engineers and their families.
Work on BART was stalled from time to time by
political shenanigans; however, Local 3 kept busy
on several preparatory projects, including the 3.1mile twin tunnels through the Berkeley Hills. This
project was expected to be one of the most hazardous
of the BART projects, but Local 3 completed it
one month ahead of schedule with no loss of life.
BART trains began running officially in mid-1972.~
The title retails for $42.50 and is available
through M.T. Publishing Company, Inc. at
To schedule an interview or for additional
information about the book’s content, contact
Local 3 Communications Director Charlie
Costello at (510)748-7400 or [email protected]
The Labor Archives and Research Center Newsletter is published quarterly, edited by Catherine Powell. Questions and comments can be sent to:
Labor Archives and Research Center, 480 Winston Drive, San Francisco, CA 94132, (415) 564-4010, [email protected]
Labor Archives and Research Center Newsletter
No. 23 ~ 2009
San Francisco State University
Exhibition: Occupation! Economic Justice As A Civil Right In San Francisco, 1963-64
Photographer: Phiz Mezey
1963 saw the beginning of massive civil disobedience actions in San Francisco. Demonstrations
at Mel’s Diner, Lucky Grocery, Sheraton Palace Hotel and Auto Row focused on discriminatory
hiring practices that excluded African-Americans from employment equal to white workers. While
appearing mild in light of later riots and militancy, these actions shook the city’s liberal image at
the time, resulted in the formation of the Human Rights Commission and over 260 employment
agreements for minority workers, and forever changed the way we define “freedom of speech.”
Featuring photographs by Phiz Mezey, this collaborative exhibit presents selections from the archives at the San Francisco
History Center and Labor Archives and Research Center. Curated by Nancy Arms Simon.
Exhibition: January 16 – March 27, 2010, San Francisco Public Library, Main Branch, 100 Larkin, 6th Floor, outside the
San Francisco History Center. Opening reception is January 21st at 6 :00 p.m.
Labor Archives and Research Center
San Francisco State University
480 Winston Drive
San Francisco, CA 94132
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