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Alan Kistler papers

 Collection 0086-LBR-RG95-009
Alan Kistler was director of the Department of Organization and Field Services of the AFL-CIO from 1974 to 1986. His early career consisted of membership and leadership in union locals in Pittsburgh before becoming an organizer for the CIO and then the AFL-CIO. His papers document his official activities in organizing disputes during the years 1987 to 1992, and extensive correspondence from his time as department director. Other material types include research files, articles, memos, clippings, and union cards.


  • 1954-2000

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


25.50 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of the Collection

This collection comprises the papers of Alan Kistler, director of the Department of Organization and Field Services of the AFL-CIO from 1974 to 1986. It is especially rich in documenting his official activities as chief umpire in organizing disputes during the years 1987 to 1992. Also included is extensive correspondence to and from Kistler during the period from 1978 to 1985 while he served as director of the department, as well as departmental bulletins and memos from 1958 to 1970. There are a lot of research materials and files from initiatives and projects that Kistler worked on while employed at the AFL-CIO, as well as articles and clippings related to these activities and unions in general. Also included are union cards from before and during the time Kistler was employed at the AFL-CIO and small files regarding his work as mayor of Greenbelt, member of the D.C. Neighborhood Planning Council, and Hubert H. Humphrey Chair at the University of Minnesota.

Biographical / Historical

Alan Kistler was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1920. He graduated from high school in Pittsburgh, attended the University of Pittsburgh, and graduated from the University of Chicago with an M.S. degree in 1951. He joined the Hotel and Restaurant Employees' and Bartenders' International Union local in Pittsburgh and was a volunteer organizer in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh before serving as a master sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II from 1942 to 1946. After the war, Kistler worked as a newspaperman, joined the American Newspaper Guild, and became unit chair of the Pittsburgh branch of the guild. He was elected recording secretary and chief steward of Pittsburgh Local Industrial Union 1657, Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), in 1949, and became a member of Local 1147, United Steelworkers of America, CIO, in 1952.

In 1952, Kistler went to Washington, D.C., as an organizer and assistant to CIO executive vice president Allan Haywood. After the CIO merged with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1954, Kistler was assigned to the Department of Organization. There, he served as coordinator of the General Electric cooperative organizing program and coordinated organizing campaigns conducted by the brewery workers and school administrators. He was appointed assistant director of the AFL-CIO Department of Organization in 1962; after the department was reorganized and renamed the Department of Organization and Field Services in 1973, Kistler was named director in 1974. In 1975, he was elected president of the Human Resources Development Institute (HRDI).

Kistler retired in 1986, but continued to be active in the labor movement. Throughout his career, Kistler was involved in community affairs and local government. He was a member of the Greenbelt, Maryland, city council from 1955 to 1959 and served as mayor of Greenbelt from 1959 to 1961. Kistler and his wife, Marie Frances Connolly, had three children. Alan Kistler died in 2008 at his home in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into thirteen series:
Series 1
Series 2
Series 3
AFL-CIO Administrative Materials
Series 4
Department Campaigns/Initiatives/Projects
Series 5
National Labor Relations Board
Series 6
Meetings and Conferences
Series 7
Series 8
Religion and Labor
Series 9
Dispute Case Files
Series 10
Personal Records
Series 11
Series 12
AFL-CIO Publications
Series 13
Outside Publications and Research

Custodial History

The George Meany Memorial Archives acquired this collection in two separate accessions. The first donation was made by Alan Kistler in 1996. In November 2008, his son, Kevin Kistler, donated the second part of what would become this collection. Additionally, three files created by Kistler that were transferred to the archives in 1986 and 1987 and were housed in RG98-003 (Miscellaneous Items) have been integrated into this collection.

The George Meany Memorial Archives transferred these records as part of a major transfer of their archive and library holdings to the University of Maryland Libraries in 2013.

Related Materials

For an extensive history of the AFL-CIO Department of Organization and Field Services, consult the finding aid for RG28-002: AFL and AFL-CIO Organizing Department records, 1953-1975.

Processing Information

This collection, originally comprising 33 cubic feet, was minimally processed at the George Meany Memorial Archives. The processor removed only visibly rusted staples and paperclips and replaced them with plastic clips. Documents were removed from binders, plastic sleeves, and plastic ring binding. The majority of the newsprint in the collection was either deteriorating or discoloring other materials; it was discarded and no preservation copy was made. Audio/visual materials and books not produced by the AFL-CIO were discarded. In a few instances, photographs were removed from mats and frames. The processor placed all photographs together in a series. Material deemed to hold no evidential or historical value was discarded along with duplicates and carbon copies. The processor maintained the original order of materials within the folders. Records from the different accessions (1986, 1987, 1996 and 2008) were processed together.

Heather Meixler at the George Meany Memorial Archives initially processed these records in 2009. The University of Maryland Libraries received the records and the finding aid in 2013. In 2017, Bria Parker exported and cleaned the finding aid contents from the Eloquent Systems database using OpenRefine, and finally transformed the finding aids into Encoded Archival Description (EAD) using a series of programmatic scripts. The finding aid was ingested into ArchivesSpace in 2018, at which point Rebecca Thayer updated the descriptive content for accuracy. Revisions include changes to biographical/historical notes, scope and content notes, and the creation of new collection numbers. Rebecca Thayer also enhanced custodial histories and re-wrote collection titles to better conform to archival standards.
Guide to the Alan Kistler papers
Heather Meixler processed this collection at the George Meany Memorial Archive.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742