Monday, October 11, 2010

Louisiana Research Collection opens major labor collection

The Louisiana Research Collection at Tulane University is pleased to announce the opening of the New Orleans Street Railway Union records. This collection contains the records of Union Division No. 194 of the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees of America, established in 1892. Collection 26 traces the evolution of New Orleans Local No. 194 from 1902 – 1948. A large portion of the collection consists of correspondence, labor protests, worker contentions regarding pay, hours, administration, and strike relief, and administrative changes to the management of streetcars and streetcar lines.

The main focus of this collection, however, relates to the strikes enacted by Local No. 194. Strikes occurred in the years 1920, 1926, and 1929. The strike of 1929 had the longest duration, held the greatest impact, and was the result of contentions with the New Orleans Public Service Company and the Progressive Benevolent Association - a dual organization that Division No. 194 deemed an attempt to undermine the labor union. The strike began with the removal of Local President Ben Commons for his involvement in the P.B.A. and ended in arbitration initiated by the American Federation of Labor President William Green and Ben Commons' reinstatement. The strike lasted for several years, stopped the distribution of funeral and old age benefits, drained union funds, left hundreds unemployed, and affected the entire city's system of public transportation. Following the strike's end, the union saw a period of recuperation - recovering losses from extensive lawsuits and the draining distribution of strike benefits. The union records then reveal a shift toward politics and elections. The election of Huey P. Long and his reign of corruption are common topics addressed later in the collection.

The A.A. of S.E.R.E. of A. Division No. 194 records also effectively trace the progression of the labor movement in the U.S. with references to "one man car" opposition, yellow dog contracts, the American Federation of Labor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the W.P.A., segregation, the employment of women, and legislation dictating work day length and working conditions. Of the labor related legislation passed between 1902 - 1948, Local Division No. 194 supported bills and acts such as the Hawes-Cooper Convict Bill, the bill for women's 8 hour work day, the Caper-Robison Bill, the Johnson Immigration Bill, the Volstead Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Wagner Bill.

The finding aid for the New Orleans Street Railway Union records can be accessed online.

Posted by Eira Tansey.

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