Kheel Wins Federal Grant

Workplace agreements spanning 100 years will be preserved
Wednesday, December 18, 2013

An $83,801 federal grant for digitization of more than 1,500 labor-management agreements from the 1880s to the 1980s has been awarded to the Kheel Center for Labor Management Documentation and Archives.

"Cornerstones in American Middle Class: Historical Collective Bargaining Agreements Project" will digitize 84,000 pages of historic collective bargaining contracts generated in the educational and retail industries.

The project will result in "unprecedented access and opportunity for historians, social scientists and the general public to analyze the terms at the center of historic and ongoing debates about the role of organized labor in America," according to Kheel Director Cheryl Beredo.

The Kheel Center is the designated labor history repository of collective bargaining agreements for the U.S. Department of Labor, she said.

The Kheel collection being preserved through the grant covers workplaces in every region of the United States, according to Beredo, who leads the Cornerstones project.

It includes agreements between groups such as the Meijer supermarket and workers in Grand Rapids, Mich.; schools and teachers in Rochester, N.Y., and clothing merchants and retail clerks in Oakland, Cal.

The first step in the two-year project will be moving records from ILR's Catherwood Library archives to the Cornell University Library's Digital Consulting and Production Services.

In batches, the papers will be digitized and posted periodically on DigitalCommons@ILR, Beredo said. The work will be completed in 2016.

The project team includes Jim Del Rosso, digital projects coordinator of Cornell's Hospitality, Labor, and Management Library; Steve Gollnick, digital resources specialist of the Hospitality, Labor, and Management Library, Barb Morley, digital archivist, Kheel Center, and staff from the university library Digital Consulting and Production Services.

The National Archives grant program is administered through the National Historical Publications & Records Commission, an independent federal agency that preserves and shares with the public records that trace the story of America.

The Kheel project is one of seven in the past month to receive grants totaling more than $500,000.

The other projects will digitize:

  • World War II oral history files
  • the papers of nuclear physicist Leo Szilard
  • the papers of Civil War General Oliver Otis Howard, who was also commissioner of the Freedman's Bureau and the third president of Howard University
  • the Center for Jewish History's American Soviet Jewry Movement collections
  • early Connecticut manuscripts
  • 19th century trademark files in the California Archives, including the original trademarks and specimens from Levi Strauss & Co. jeans, 19th century medicines and tonics and the original trademark registered to Anheuser Busch for its Budweiser lager.