George Meany began his career as a journeyman plumber in New York City, and soon was elected to be business agent of New York Local 463 in 1922. After serving in the New York City Central Trades and Labor Assembly, and the New York State Federation of Labor, he was elected to be Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL in 1939. Upon the death of AFL President, William Green, George Meany was elected as the next president of the AFL. This collection documents the first eight years of George Meany's 27-year tenure as president of the AFL and the AFL-CIO. It includes national and international unions correspondence; government departments correspondence; state central bodies correspondence; city departments correspondence; state central bodies correspondence; city and county central bodies correspondence; federal labor union strike sanctions; miscellaneous correspondence; condolences, congratulations, invitations, and engagements; disputes, mergers, internal abuses; international affairs files; speeches and statements; and reference files.
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94.50 Linear Feet (63 paige boxes)
This collection documents the first eight years of George Meany's 27-year tenure as president of the AFL and the AFL-CIO, 1952-1960. The collection includes records as early as 1944; the early dates can be accounted for as records that Meany brought from the secretary-treasurer's office after his election as president. The collection includes correspondence with national and international unions, government departments, state central bodies, city and county central bodies, as well as with federal labor unions engaged in strikes. There are also files Meany maintained regarding disputes, mergers, and internal problems. The miscellaneous correspondence includes interaction with church and civic organizations, research institutes, and prominent individuals and covers his interests beyond the labor movement. Meany's interests in foreign policy and labor movement internationally are represented in this collection as well, as are his speeches and statements, and general reference files. Types of materials include: correspondence, telegrams, personal letters and invitations, reports, speeches, statements, memoranda, and printed matter.
Born in New York City on August 16, 1894, George Meany was the son of Michael Joseph and Anne Cullen Meany. In 1910 Meany followed his father into work as a plumber becoming, first, an apprentice plumber and, in 1917, a journeyman plumber. He joined the United Association of Plumbers and Steam Fitters of the United States and Canada (UA) and in 1922 won the position of business agent to New York Local 463. From then he mounted steadily through the ranks of union leadership, serving as a delegate to the New York City Central Trades and Labor Assembly, winning as seat in 1932 as a vice-president of the New York State Federation of Labor, and moving to the presidency of the state body in 1934. During his years at the state federation, Meany focused on lobbying activities before the state legislature, on efforts to initiate federal work relief, and on restoring the membership and finances of the state organization.
Meany's career took a major turn in 1939 when he was elected to the position of secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). He was an active federation officer, particularly after 1948, when he began to take over more of the decision-making from President William Green who had become ill. During his years as secretary-treasurer, Meany served on numerous boards and committees including: National Defense Mediation Board, National War Labor Board, executive board of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, National Advisory Board on Mobilization Policy, and the Contract Compliance Committee.
When William Green died in 1952, the AFL executive council appointed Meany as acting president, and he subsequently won the position which he held until his retirement in December 1979. Along with Walter Reuther of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), Meany spent much of the first years in office working for the merger of the CIO with the AFL. The merged organization, AFL-CIO, elected Meany its first president in 1955. Meany's work as president was marked by fervent anti-communism, avid interest in international affairs, and considerable influence in the councils of the Democratic Party.
George Meany married Eugenie A. McMahon on November 26, 1919. They had three children: Regina Meany Mayer, Genevieve Meany Lutz, and Eileen Meany Lee. Meany died January 10, 1980, within weeks of retiring from the AFL-CIO presidency. He is buried in Gates of Heaven Cemetery in Silver Spring, MD.
This collection is organized into eleven series:
The Office of the President transferred these records to the George Meany Memorial Archives in 1982. 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.
Tom Connors at the George Meany Memorial Archives initially processed these records in 1984. 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.