Thursday, March 11, 2010

Roosevelt University library receives John Sessions Memorial Award

Roosevelt University library receives John Sessions Memorial Award.
The Murray-Green Library at Roosevelt University, Chicago, is the recipient of the 2010 John Sessions Memorial Award, an honor presented by the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) and named for John Sessions, former American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) co-chair of the AFL-CIO/ALA Joint Committee on Library Service to Labor Groups.

This annual award recognizes a library or library system that has made a significant effort to work with the labor community and has consequently brought recognition of the history and contribution of the labor movement to the development of the United States. Through its development of resources such as the “Oral History Project in Labor History,” the Murray-Green Library has made an ongoing commitment to preserve and increase the public’s accessibility to labor history. In particular, the “Oral History Project” contains a multitude of interviews and transcripts with Chicago-area labor movement participants conducted by Elizabeth Balanoff in the 1970s. The interview transcripts were recently digitized by Roosevelt University Librarians Michael Gabriel and David Green thanks to a grant from the Illinois State Library. William Green, former leader of the American Federation of Labor (ALF), and Philip Murray, leader of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, are both namesakes of the library and served on the university’s original Board of Advisers.

The award plaque will be presented at the RUSA Awards Ceremony and Reception, scheduled for 3:30-5:30 p.m., Monday, June 28, as a part of ALA’s Annual Conference events. The exact location of this event will be announced on the RUSA website and at the RUSA Blog in late spring. A complete listing of RUSA events at this summer’s Annual Conference can be found at the RUSA website.

[Roosevelt University named its library after two men who began their working lives as coal miners before becoming rival presidents of the most powerful labor federations in America. William Green led the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and Philip Murray headed the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to the peak of their respective power. Both men died within weeks of each other in November 1952, three years before their organizations merged in 1955 to form the AFL-CIO. William Green, the older of the two, was born in 1870 in the mining community of Coshocton, Ohio (about 60 miles northeast of Columbus), to British immigrant parents, neither of whom could read nor write. After completing the 8th Grade, Green followed his father into the coal mines and joined the Progressive Miners’ Union. His fellow workers elected him to a series of local union offices because of his energy, dedication, and education. According to his biographer, Green was one of the few men in his union “who was able to record minutes of a meeting, compose a formal letter, or frame a resolution for [union] conventions.” He dug coal for 19 years before becoming president of the Ohio District of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) in 1906. As a popular union official, he was elected to two terms in the Ohio State Senate, where he drafted and helped pass a series of Progressive Era legislation, including a Workers’ Compensation law in 1913 that became a model for other states.
In 1913 the UMWA recognized Green for his leadership by naming him national secretary-treasurer and appointing him to represent the miners on the Executive Council of the AFL. Initially, he was the Council’s strongest advocate of “industrial unionism” and advocated legislation (like minimum wage laws) that would benefit all workers, not just union members. Both of these positions reflected the UMWA’s approach to unionism, but represented minority views among “craft unionists” in the AFL. In 1924 Green was elected AFL president, a position he would hold for nearly three decades. During the New Deal years of the 1930s, Green broke with the miners and with his friend Philip Murray when the AFL refused to allow industrial unionism in the mass production industries (steel, auto, and others) and by opposing initial New Deal labor legislation like the Social Security Act. Philip Murray was born in Scotland in 1886 of Irish immigrant parents and began mining at the age of ten. At sixteen, Murray migrated with his father to Western Pennsylvania, where the two of them earned enough money working in the local coal mines to bring his stepmother and twelve siblings to the U.S. Murray’s father had been a union activist in Scotland, and Philip became involved in union activities from age seven; his UMWA local in Horning, Pennsylvania elected him president as a teenager. The United Mine Workers grew dramatically during the first two decades of the 20th Century, and Phil Murray helped make this growth possible by serving on the union’s national Executive Board beginning in 1912. As a 33-year-old in 1920, Murray became the second-ranking officer in the largest union in North America. The top officer, John L. Lewis, considered Murray his “right-hand man” for the next twenty years.]

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