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Documenting Labor Inside and Out
Internal Documents
Charters and Constitutions

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Introduction

The Archives of Public Affairs and Policy

Archives and Labor Records

Who Uses Labor Records?

Internal Documents

Organizing

Publications

Union Members

Union Democracy

Collective Bargaining

Political Action

Solidarity

Labor Culture

Conclusion

Additional Resources

Charter, Local 1715, September 4, 1969
Charter issued to Local 1715, Operators and Day Hands Union, September 4, 1969 (Records of Glove Cities Area Joint Board).

As branches of national labor organizations, union locals are most commonly established to represent workers at a single work place or within a geographical region. The charter they receive from the national organization spells out the details. For example, in September 1969, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America issued a charter to Local 1715 of the Operators and Day Hands Union. Not only does the charter indicate who is to be represented by Local 1715 (glove workers in the New York counties of Fulton, Montgomery, Hamilton, Saratoga, Warren, and Schoharie); it dictates that the local union must conform to the constitution of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America and specifies that the local's headquarters will be in Gloversville, New York.

Charters may also be of significant symbolic value to the local and its members--tangible proof of their commitment to work together to improve their working conditions and of their connection to a larger community of workers beyond their factory's walls and their local community.


Constitution and By-Laws, ca. 1950 Booklet containing the Constitution and By-Laws of the Columbia County Typographical Union No. 896, ca. 1950 (Records of Columbia County Typographical Union No. 896). Click on the image to see the Preamble and the first page of the Constitution

In addition to conforming to the rules of their parent union, most union locals also have their own constitution and by-laws to follow. In these documents one can usually find a concise statement about the union's purpose, information about who is eligible for membership, the membership dues, and information about how the union is governed, including the duties of the various officers and any other governing body such as an executive board. While the current version of the constitution and by-laws are most useful for the day-to-day functioning of a union or a local, superseded versions of these documents also have value. They document past policies of the organization and provide historical perspective on such things as membership practices by the union including restrictions on membership and changes in membership dues.

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Digital Exhibit created by Cynthia K. Sauer, Consultant, and Brian Keough, Head, 2002
Copyright 2002 M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives
Comments to bkeough@uamail.albany.edu