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Inventory of the San Francisco Labor Council Records, 1902-1976 (predominantly 1965-1973)
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • History
  • Scope and Content
  • Newspapers Published by the San Francisco Labor Council

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: San Francisco Labor Council Records,
    Date (inclusive): 1902-1976
    Date (bulk): (predominantly 1965-1973)
    Accession number: 85-3
    Creator: San Francisco Labor Council
    Extent: 56 cubic feet and 77 bound volumes of newspaper
    Repository: San Francisco State University. Labor Archives & Research Center
    San Francisco, California 94132
    Shelf location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Center's online catalog.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Official records of the San Francisco Labor Council have been generated on a continuing basis since its organization in 1892. Early records were lost in the 1906 fires. Most of the records produced since that time until 1964 were placed in the Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkeley in 1969.
    This group of records was placed in the Labor Archives and Research Center at San Francisco State University by the SFLC in 1985. The collection was appraised by LARC director Lynn A. Bonfield who organized the boxing and transferral of its contents during the summer and fall of 1985. Rough processing, arrangement and description of the collection was done by Bill Walker under the supervision of Lynn A. Bonfield and LARC archivist Leon Sompolinsky in the spring of 1987.


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Labor Archives & Research Center. All requests for permission to publish or quote from materials must be submitted in writing to the Director of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Labor Archives & Research Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], San Francisco Labor Council Records, 85-3, Labor Archives & Research Center, San Francisco State University.


    The San Francisco Labor Council was organized in 1892 and received its charter from the American Federation of Labor in May of 1893. In 1958 it merged with the San Francisco Congress of Industrial Organizations' Industrial Union Council, some 3 years after the national AFL-CIO merger.
    The SFLC is the primary voice of organized labor in San Francisco, currently representing (1987) 130 affiliated union locals with close to 80,000 total members. In the late 1960s membership stood at over 200,000 represented by 150 local bodies. The largest locals came from the service and retail trades, the various machinist and building trades and the numerous marine industries.
    The San Francisco Labor Council is one of the major bodies in the California State Federation of Labor and continues to play an active role in the international AFL-CIO.
    The SFLC is governed by its Executive Council, members of which are elected by the general membership. The Council is represented by the elected Secretary/Treasurer, who conducts the daily business of the SFLC. Papers of the two of the Secretary/Treasurers are included in this collection. George W. Johns succeeded John F. Shelley in this office in 1950 when Shelley was elected to the U.S. Congress. Johns served until his retirement in 1972. He was replaced by his assistant secretary John F. Crowley who served until his untimely death in 1985. He is succeeded by Walter Johnson, current Secretary/Treasurer of the SFLC.

    Scope and Content

    The Records in this collection primarily reflect the activities of the SFLC during the 1960s and early 1970s. A number of individual items and files, two of the record series, and most of the long newspaper runs document earlier history of the SFLC and it's affiliates.
    The bulk of the collection is comprised of the office files of the SFLC and the personal activities files of two of it's chief officers, George W. Johns and John F. Crowley, from the early 1960s to 1974. This was a period of great social change in America and in San Francisco, and this is reflected in the record of the Labor Council and it's spokesmen. Both Johns and Crowley served on a wide variety of civic and social action boards and commissions, representing not only their personal views but, at least symbolically, that of organized labor. Their papers, and the official files of the SFLC, are filled with material relating to these activities, taken as a whole, these papers document significant facts of the complex social history of San Francisco during this period. Materials are held which relate to civil rights, housing and urban development, poverty, education, the criminal justice system, and changes in the economic base and government of the city.
    In addition to this wide range of outside activities, these files also reflect the daily business of the SFLC itself and it's relationship to the many affiliate locals as well as current labor actions, sanctions and boycotts. In addition, records of the Law and Legislative Committee and the Committee on Political Education (COPE) document labor's efforts to represent it's constituency and influence change in local and state legislation and elections.
    Among the documents in the collection created before 1960, there are a number of particular interest. The bound volumes of The Labor Clarion, San Francisco Labor and Northern California Labor chronicle the local labor movement nearly continuously from 1902 on.
    Also housed in the collection are bound minutes and reports of the Allied Printing Trades Council, and associate body composed of the numerous unions involved in the printing trades. These volumes span most of the years from 1910 to 1963 and document the tremendous changes which occurred in the industry and it's workforce during this period.
    A small but significant volume is the bound minutes of the Asiatic Exclusion League, of which the SFLC was a charter member, from 1906 to 1910. This group attempted to document the inferiority of the various Asian races and agitate against their immigration to the United States.
    Among the committee records are files which predate the bulk of the collection. The Labor Day Parade files contain letters, reports and papers relating to the demise of the traditional Labor Day Parade in San Francisco in the early 1950s and it's eventual replacement with locally written & produced television specials which were aired on Labor Day for several years. Scripts for these programs from 1955, 1956 and 1957 are included.
    The files of the Constitution and Bylaws Revision Committee contain some materials relating to the 1955-56 changes in the SFLC Constitution as well as a larger number from 1956-61 reflecting the merger of the local AFL and CIO affiliates and the later loss of the Teamsters locals. Lists of member locals with their current enrollments, number of delegates and yearly financial contribution to the SFLC are included in some of these files.
    Of particular note to historians of racial issues and civil rights are two documents relating to blacks in San Francisco in 1962-63. Attached to the minutes of the Executive Committee for 7/18/63 is a photocopy report on "Negro Unemployment" in San Francisco. In the 1962/63 file of the Law & Legislative Committee is a 25 page report from the Superintendent of Schools outlining the racial makeup of the city and it's schools in 1962.
    As of June 1987 this collection has only been roughly processed. It should be understood that assessment of the contents and significance of the collection are tentative and will be revised as time and staffing allow further processing to occur.

    Newspapers Published by the San Francisco Labor Council

    Labor Clarion
    Vol. 1-46
    Date: (Feb. 1902 - Mar. 1948)
    San Francisco Labor
    Vol. 1-21
    Date: (Apr. 1951 - Apr. 1973)
    Northern California Labor
    Vol. 22-31
    Date: (May 1973 - Apr. 1981)