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AFL and AFL-CIO Office of the President, George Meany papers

 Collection 0062-LBR-RG1-038

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 comprises the records of the last two decades of George Meany's AFL-CIO presidency. It includes national and international unions correspondence; state and local central bodies correspondence; miscellaneous correspondence and subject files; international affairs files; government agencies correspondence; speeches; copybooks; AFL-CIO committees material; state governments correspondence; organizers correspondence; merger and jurisdictional dispute files; constitutional and trade departments records; ethical practices; committee records; and personal papers.


  • 1940-1980

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 research find sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


198.00 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of the Collection

This collection is comprised of the records of the last two decades of George Meany's AFL-CIO presidency. Documents primarily relating to affiliated unions date from 1940, but the bulk of the collections falls within the years 1961 to 1979. The collection contains correspondence, printed material, clippings, reports, speeches, and writings. Although Meany retired in December 1979, isolated documents dating to 1981 occasionally appear.

Like earlier groups of records from the Office of the President, the arrangement of these records reflects the way the office functioned, documenting activities such as relations with affiliates, negotiations with the international labor movement, research into various subjects, communications with staff departments and with a wide variety of individuals and groups outside the house of labor. George Meany's miscellaneous correspondence contains the most disparate materials, but that series can often yield documents of great value.

Biographical / Historical

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.

Organization of the Collection

This collection is organized into fifteen series:

Series 1
National and International Union Correspondence
Series 2
State and Local Central Bodies Correspondence
Series 3
Miscellaneous Correspondence and Subject Files
Series 4
International Affairs
Series 5
Government Agencies Correspondence
Series 6
Series 7
Series 8
AFL-CIO Committees
Series 9
State Government Correspondence
Series 10
Organizers' Correspondence
Series 11
Merger and Jurisdictional Dispute Files
Series 12
Constitutional and Trade Departments
Series 13
Ethical Practices Committee
Series 14
Personal Papers
Series 15

Custodial History

The AFL-CIO Office of the President, the Metal Trades Department, and the AFL-CIO Office of the Secretary-Treasurer transferred these records to the George Meany Memorial Archives in 1979, 1982, and 1983. 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

Related collections at the University of Maryland include:

RG1-020, Office of the President, William Green, 1932-1967;

AFL-CIO Office of the President, President's Files, George Meany, 1944- 1960. This collection coordinates with RG1-038 with some overlap in dates.

Related collections also can be found at the Southern Labor Archives, Georgia State University; the Historical Collections and Labor Archives, Penn State University; The University of Iowa Libraries (in particular the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO Papers, 1937; Robert F. Wagner Archives; Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research; Western Virginia Labor Federation records and other collections at the West Virginia and Regional History Collection, West Virginia University; and the Historical Society of Wisconsin.

Processing Information

Bill Hartley, Mark Wilkens, Daniel Lewis, Juliette Arai, Julia Lehnert, Kate Snodgrass, and M. Lee Sayrs at the George Meany Memorial Archives initially processed these records in 1999. 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 AFL and AFL-CIO Office of the President, George Meany Files
This collection was processed by Bill Hartley, Mark Wilkens, Daniel Lewis, Juliette Arai, Julia Lehnert, Kate Snodgrass, and M. Lee Sayrs 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