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SEIU Executive Office: Microfilm

Identifier: LR001542_EOMicro

Scope and Content

These 134 rolls of microfilm are the only extant records which document SEIU’s (then BSEIU-Building Service Employees International Union) first 34 years.


  • 1921 - 1955


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


For a brief history of the Union, please consult A Need for Valor: The roots of the Service Employees International Union 1902-1992.


2 Linear Feet ((2 SB).) : 134 16mm microfilm reels


The Service Employees International Union was established in 1921 and known as the Chicago-based Building Service Employees International Union until 1968. An affiliate of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), it largely organized what were then called flat janitors. Eventually, it grew to include non-professional employees working in private and public institutions employed as clerical workers, technicians, janitors and maintenance workers, health-care workers, guards, doormen, and attendants of stadiums, entertainment and recreation facilities, just to name a few. These 134 rolls of microfilm are the only extant records which document SEIU's first 34 years. The location of the paper records which were filmed to create this collection is unknown; the papers are presumed to have been destroyed.


The individual boxes of microfilm are numbered 1 to 134 in the upper right hand corner of each label on each box. These are the box numbers which are the reference numbers in this guide. The best way to search for information in this collection is to know the year the material was produced, and then look at the reel(s) for that year.

On the broadest level, the film is organized chronologically; each box contains film for a specific year or years. In the guide, each box number has a general contents guide: the topic is underlined, and underneath the topic one finds the first subject on that reel, subjects “in the middle” of the reel, and the last subject on the reel. Subjects on a reel are usually found alphabetically, then chronologically.

EXAMPLE: Box 82 Correspondence Local #312-Local #363 A, B, C Representative Correspondence Burke, Thomas

Box 82 contains records from 1949. The general topic is correspondence. The first item on the film relates to Local #312. Materials about Locals 312 through 363 will be the next items found on the film. Following the Local information on the film are materials from Representatives with names beginning with A, B, and C. Representative Anderson’s materials will be first, followed by representative Ball’s materials, and then Representative Carroll’s items will appear. All of Representative Anderson’s materials will be in chronological order, then all of Representative Ball’s materials will be in chronological order, and so on. The last item on the roll of film is material from Thomas Burke.

Also, there are more items on the reel than are listed in the guide. For example, in Box 109, for the year 1952, the names listed are Carmell, Kriegbaum, McCarty, and Shortman. If you are looking for a letter from 1952 from Joe Johnson, it might have been placed between the letters from Carmell and Kriegbaum.

Occasionally, interrelated material from several years will be found on a reel listing only one year.


Service Employees International Union (SEIU) deposited the microfilm collection in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in 1994.

Existence and Locations of Originals

The location of the original paper records which were filmed to create this collection is unknown; the papers are presumed to have been destroyed.

Related Materials

SEIU Collections

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Louis Jones in 1996.
Guide to the SEIU Executive Office: Microfilm
Processed by Louis Jones.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA