Tag Archive for: UAW Archivist

In the latest episode of From the Archives, UAW Archivist Gavin Strassel – with some help from fellow archivist Mary Wallace – gives us a tour of the cold storage film fault at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University.

In the video, Strassel asks Wallace why the films are kept in a cold storage freezer. “Most of these films are cellulose acetate base,” she says. “At room temperature, they start to degrade, and we get that smell of vinegar, which is called vinegar’s syndrome. So, we have to keep them nice and cold so that they don’t degrade.”

Wallace estimates that there are over 1,000 films in storage at the library. Most of the films were made by the UAW, but there are some from the AFL-CIO, and others as well.

“There’s a ton of hidden gems in here,” Wallace says. “Just recently, we were able to digitize one film, and it was so appropriate for the recent UAW negotiations. It was Walter Reuther talking tough about the 1961 GM strike, and it was just so appropriate for what was going on. Those are the kinds of things that are hidden within these little film canisters…”

In this edition of From the Archives, Gavin Strassel shares some of the most rare and valuable items at the Walter P. Reuther Library: letters between Walter Reuther and some of the most significant and influential figures of the 20th century.

Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Albert Einstein are just some of the icons who corresponded with Reuther during his time at the helm of the UAW.

“It really shows just how vital the UAW was to politics, economics, and even the science community,” Strassel says in the video.

In the latest installment of From the Archives, Gavin Strassel, UAW Archivist at the Walter P. Reuther Library, unboxes a toy train set made by UAW workers in Mount Clemons, Michigan.

“The UAW Express was built by Lionel, whose employees in Michigan were represented by the UAW,” Strassel explains in the video. “UAW members at Lionel factories at their peak were making 250,000 train sets a year. If you lined those train sets up, front to back, they would nearly stretch across the entire state of Michigan.”

Various iterations of the Lionel brand have been producing toy trains since 1900.

In a new video, Gavin Strassel, UAW Archivist at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University, shares historical items that belonged to UAW President, Leonard Woodcock.

Woodcock served as president from 1970 to 1977. He was elected by the International Executive Board after the untimely death of Walter Reuther in a plane crash on May 9, 1970. Only a few months after he assumed office, Woodcock led 400,000 autoworkers on a 67-day strike against General Motors. It was the first time the union had taken on GM in a quarter century. By the end of the strike, the UAW had won significant wage increases, better healthcare, an end to caps on cost-of-living allowances and the ability for workers to retire with a full pension after thirty years of service, regardless of their age.

After retiring from the UAW in 1977, Woodcock was appointed head of the United States Liaison Office in Bejing by US President Jimmy Carter.

“Leonard Woodcock was such a skilled negotiator as UAW president, U.S. President Carter made him the top diplomat for the United States and China,” Strassel says. “He was able to use his skills and work with Deng Xiaoping (China’s deputy prime minister) to bring the two countries together and normalize relations, in what was known as one of the biggest diplomatic feats of the 1970s.”

In the video, Strassel showcases a porcelain seal that hung above the front entrance of the US Liaison’s office in Bejing during Woodcock’s time there, as well as a US flag that flew outside the office until it closed.

“These items are important reminders of the global impact of the UAW,” Strassel says.