Labor union donates wealth of archives to Gelman

The largest labor union in the country donated its permanent and historic archives to the University in a ceremony at the Gelman Library Wednesday.

The archives is set to house $2 million worth of documents from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union of mostly blue-collar workers that began in 1903 and played a large role in shaping the labor movement.

University President Steven Knapp joined the organization’s president, James Hoffa, to announce the opening of the archives.

“This will be the library for labor history,” Knapp said. “The labor union is such a critical part of the formation of modern America. For multiple fields, it’s going to provide resources for our students.”

Knapp said that the documents, which will be housed on the seventh floor of Gelman, would provide a resource for all students at the University. The center will serve as a display of the IBT’s unique history and will be the central housing of rare historical documents and associated materials, most of which have not previously been released to the public.

Hoffa, who became the organization’s president in 1999 and is seeking reelection to the position this month, said the archives were a reflection of his own life, which has been controversial due to his father, Jimmy Hoffa. Jimmy Hoffa was convicted of bribery and fraud in 1964 and was sentenced to 13 years in prison. He later disappeared and was declared legally dead in 1982.

“I’ve got a lot of books I want to donate,” Hoffa said. “Books about my father, the books that he wrote, a lot of books written about him – so that forms a rich part of our history.”

The collection will also store hundreds of oral histories from the group, vintage political cartoons, rare photographs and the only working wire recorder outside of the Smithsonian.

“I think to be able to see the materials in person and not just online is a tremendous aspect of a college education,” Knapp said.

Jack Siggins, a University librarian, said that the research center is a unique place that GW students are lucky to have the opportunity to explore.

“We’re encouraging undergraduate research here,” Siggins said. “We hope [the faculty] will bring students here for assignments so that students can put their hands on the original documents and use them for their learning experience and projects and classes.”

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