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SEIU Executive Office: David Sullivan Records

 Collection
Identifier: LR001542_EOSullivan
Important subjects covered in the collection are: American Federation of Labor — Congress of Industrial Organizations American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Audits of Local Unions Automation Civil Rights Contract Negotiations Death Gratuity Claims Factional Disputes Financial Reports/Statements Grievances Health Care Workers Janitorial/Maintenance/Custodial Workers Jurisdictional Disputes Legislation Marina City Real Estate Venture Mergers National Labor Relations Board Organizing Campaigns Pension Plan Public Employees Race Track/Pari-Mutuel Employees Raids Scholarships Service Industry Strikes Trusteeships Unfair Labor Practice Charges Utility Workers War on Poverty Window Washers Among the important correspondents are: Asher, Lester Burke, Thomas Butler, Walter Cambridge, Henry Cancellere, Richard Coleman, John Cordtz, Richard Donahue, Thomas Fairchild, George E. Hardy, George Hare, Arthur Hearn, Albert Jolicoeur, Armand Kelly, Tom Kruse, Henry Levey, Charles McFetridge, William Meany, George Moats, Eugene Ottley, Peter Schnitzler, William Shortman, Thomas Sorbie, John Sweeney, John Wurf, Jerry Zander, Arnold

Series Description: Series I, Local Union Files, 1942-1972: Correspondence and other material regarding local unions retained by the Executive Office.

Series II, Jurisdictional Dispute Between Locals 1 and 4, 1937-1964: Clippings, correspondence, union hearing transcripts and court records relative to the dispute.

Series III, State Files, 1948-1970: Material regarding the activities of SEIU in individual states where the union had a presence and in Canada and Puerto Rico. The material within this series is similar to that found in the local union files.

Series IV, SEIU Joint Councils, 1953-1969: Material regarding the relationship between the Joint Councils and the locals over which they provided guidance and direction.

Series V, International Officers, Assistants, Executive Secretary, and Executive Board Members, 1957-1969: Primarily correspondence pertaining to the activities of high-ranking union officials.

Series VI, International Representatives and Organizers, 1951-1970: Daily activity reports and a small amount of correspondence and other material related to the organizing and servicing of SEIU locals.

Series VII, General Files, 1942-1973: Material pertaining to individuals, organizations, government agencies, events, internal union matters, as well as racial, ethnic and religious groups and other matters with which the union was concerned.

Series VIII, Charters of Defunct Locals, 1948-1964: 21 actual charters of defunct locals.

Dates

  • 1937 - 1973
  • Majority of material found within 1960 - 1969

Creator

Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.

Access

Collection is open for research.

Use

Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. 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.

Extent

93 Linear Feet (93 SB)

Abstract

David Sullivan was an elevator operator in New York City and a founding member of the Service Employees International Union's Local 32B in 1934. He rapidly ascended the ranks of the local's leadership and eventually became International President. Sullivan enhanced the union's visibility and influence by moving the International headquarters from Chicago to Washington, D.C. in 1963. In this same vein, he involved the union in the AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education, a political fund designed to help finance the campaigns of politicians friendly to organized labor. He also became a vice president of the AFL-CIO, instituted a pension plan as well as a college scholarship program for members and their children, directed the union's attention to the elderly and retired members, and developed a Civil Rights Department for SEIU. The collection records include correspondence, clippings, reports, and other materials related to local unions, joint councils, high-ranking union officials, representatives and organizers, among other subjects.

History

Born in 1904, David Sullivan immigrated from Ireland to New York City in 1925. There, he became an elevator operator and later a founding member of the Service Employees International Union’s Local 32B in 1934. Rapidly ascending the ranks of the local’s leadership, Sullivan assumed its presidency in 1941 and became an international vice president in 1950 before attaining the rank of International President 10 years later.

Sullivan enhanced the union’s visibility and influence by moving the International headquarters from Chicago to Washington, D.C. in 1963. In this same vein, he involved the union in the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education, a political fund designed to help finance the campaigns of politicians friendly to organized labor. He also became a vice president of the AFL-CIO, instituted a pension plan as well as a college scholarship program for members and their children, and directed the union’s attention to the elderly and retired members. It was during his administration that the union dropped the word, “Building” from its name signifying SEIU’s evolving mission. Thereafter, it would be known as the Service Employees International Union.

The Sullivan administration supported the social action philosophy of President John F. Kennedy’s administration by developing a Civil Rights Department for SEIU and involved the union in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society” programs. Sullivan himself chaired the Office of Economic Opportunity’s Labor Advisory Committee in the War on Poverty program. Sullivan’s presidency received credit for its progressive tenor largely due to the motivation of Thomas Donahue, Sullivan’s Executive Assistant, who served in that capacity until 1967 when he left SEIU to become Assistant Secretary of Labor.

SEIU’s growing involvement in the organization of public employees under Sullivan’s leadership coincided with the enactment of legislation at all levels of government and the issuance of executive orders by Presidents Kennedy and Nixon making it easier for public employee unions to organize and bargain collectively with the government. These political developments coupled with SEIU’s organizing campaign, enabled the union to expand its membership from 275,000 to 430,000 during Sullivan’s presidency. Many of these new members came from the ranks of public employees and health care workers.

Arrangement

Arranged in 8 series – Series 1 (Boxes 1-47), Series 2 (Boxes 47-48), Series 3 (Boxes 49-51), Series 4 (Boxes 51-53), Series 5 (Boxes 53-56), Series 6 (Boxes 56-66), Series 7 (Boxes 66-92), and and Series 8 (Box 93). Folders are arranged numerically by local number or alphabetically by name or subject, depending on the series.

Acquisition

The papers of SEIU President David Sullivan were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in 1993 and 1994 by the Service Employees International Union.

Related Materials

SEIU Collections

Transfers

The International possesses most SEIU audio visual material, although the Archives’ Audio Visual Department retains a small amount of this material as well. For published information regarding the Sullivan administration, consult “Going Up!”: The Story of Local 32B, Local 32B-32J: Sixty Years of Progress, A Need for Valor: The Roots of the Service Employees International Union, 1902-1992, and Building a Dream: The History of a Union for Canadian Service Workers. Other relevant SEIU collections housed at the Reuther Library include the “David Sullivan Collection,” and the “SEIU International Vice-Presidents Collection.”

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Louis Jones in June 1998.
Title
Guide to the SEIU Executive Office: David Sullivan Records
Status
completed
Author
Processed by Louis Jones.
Date
1998-06
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA