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AFL and AFL-CIO Organizing Department records

 Collection 0050-LBR-RG28-002

The Organizing Department was created in the 1930s in the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and in the 1940s in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) with similar purposes of fostering cooperation among unions to achieve common goals for workers. The Department was also active in promoting union causes during National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) elections. These records document organizing activities from 1953-1975 (bulk dates) through activity reports, service reports, monthly reports, correspondence, subject files, and photographs.


  • 1949, 1953-1975, 1981
  • Majority of material found within 1953-1975

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.


100.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of the Collection

This collection, consisting of correspondence, reports, minutes, contracts, constitutions, speeches, printed material, and clippings, contains records produced and collected by the AFL-CIO's Department of Organization and its regional offices for the period 1955-1973, although most documents are dated 1963-1973.

The great bulk of these papers, in particular the activity reports, service reports, monthly reports, document the activities of AFL-CIO organizers throughout the country. Additionally, the monthly reports written by regional directors present general analyses of affiliated union organizing and service activities in particular regions. In other documents, the quantitative aspects of these reports are tabulated in number of man-days spent on each activity and with what organization.

This collection contains information and materials that would be valuable to students and researchers interested in the development of the AFL-CIO's Department of Organization and its efforts to develop new organizing approaches and techniques and to increase the growth of unionism among the unorganized, especially white-collar, service, textile, wood and agricultural workers. The records offer extensive information on the Los Angeles-Orange Counties campaign, (1965-1973), the Baltimore-D.C. campaign (1966-1973), and numerous other organizing campaigns that began in the late 1960s.

Biographical / Historical

Information about the history of the Organizing Department is available in the external document below.

Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into nine series:

Series 1
Directors' Files, 1955-1973
Series 2
Regional Correspondence, 1956-1974
Series 3
Organizers' Correspondence, 1956-1961
Series 4
State Labor Councils, 1957
Series 5
Activity Reports, 1956-1975
Series 6
Monthly Service Reports, 1956-1963
Series 7
Monthly Round-up Reports, 1956-1972
Series 8
Subject Files, 1953-1981
Series 9
Photographs, 1956-1967

Custodial History

The AFL-CIO Organization and Field Services Department transferred these records to the George Meany Memorial Archives in 1982, 1983, and 1985. 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

Other collections that relate to these records include charter records for federal local unions, directly affiliated local unions, state and local central bodies, and national and international unions. For almost one hundred years, the Office of the Secretary-Treasurer had overseen the chartering function, but in the early 1980s the paperwork of all previously issued charters was transferred to the Department of Organization and Field Services. These charter files include documents from the early 1890s (some original AFL charter records were destroyed when the AFL moved from Indianapolis to Washington, DC, in July 1894.

Processing Information

Meg Alessi, Bill Hartley, Anders Lewis, Rudolph Lewis, Kate Snodgrass, Mark Wilkens, and Lee Sayrs at the George Meany Memorial Archives initially processed these records in 1997. 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 2017, at which point Jennifer Eidson updated the descriptive content for accuracy. Revisions include changes to biographical/historical notes, scope and content notes, dates, and the creation of new collection numbers. Jennifer Eidson also enhanced custodial histories and re-wrote collection titles to better conform to archival standards.

Guide to the AFL and AFL-CIO Organizing Department records
Processed by Meg Alessi, Bill Hartley, Anders Lewis, Rudolph Lewis, Kate Snodgrass, Mark Wilkens, and Lee Sayrs at the George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archives.
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