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SEIU Executive Office: William McFetridge Records

 Collection
Identifier: LR001542_McFet
The records comprising this collection chronicle McFetridge’s last years as President of SEIU. Records reflecting the bulk of his first fifteen years are maintained on microfilm at the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs. The Audio-Visual Department for the Archives retains a small amount of photos related to SEIU during this period, although most SEIU related photos and other audio visual material have been retained by the International. For more information on William McFetridge, please consult A Need for Valor: The roots of the Service Employees International Union, 1902-1992.

Important subjects: American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Audits of local unions Contract Negotiations Death Gratuity Claims Factional disputes Financial Reports/Statements Grievances International Brotherhood of Teamsters Jurisdictional disputes Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act Mergers National Labor Relations Board Organizational campaigns Picketing Raids Right to Work Strikes Taft-Hartley Trusteeships Unfair Labor Practice Complaints/Charges

Important correspondents (5 or more letters in the collection): Burke, Thomas Carey, James Cordtz, Richard Daley, Richard Fairchild, George Hardy, George Harrison, George Hearn, Albert Levey, Charles Meany, George Ottley, Peter Schnitzler, William Shortman, Thomas Sullivan, David Zander, Arnold

Series Description: Series I, Executive Office Local Union Files: Correspondence and other material between the Executive Office of SEIU and local unions. This series is arranged numerically in local union order.

Series II, Executive Office Officer Files, 1951-1962: Largely comprised of activity reports that chronicle the day-to-day activities of the union's officers, although a fair share of correspondence is also located within this series. This series is arranged alphabetically by the last name of the officer.

Series III, Executive Office International Representatives and Organizers Files: Activity reports chronicling the day-to-day activities of International Representatives and Organizers largely comprise this series, although a sprinkling of correspondence, clippings, and other material is also located in this series. This series is arranged alphabetically by the last name of the organizer or representative.

Series IV, Executive Office General Files, 1947-1963: Arranged in alphabetical order according to subjects and personal names.

Dates

  • 1936 - 1963

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

23 Linear Feet (23 SB)

Abstract

A nephew of William F. Quesse, SEIU's founder and first International President, William McFetridge began his career with SEIU in 1923 as a member of Chicago's Flat Janitors Local 1. In 1927 he assumed the position of SEIU Third Vice President and then ascended to the position of SEIU 1st Vice President in 1930, a position he maintained until April of 1940, when he became President of the International. The records comprising this collection chronicle McFetridge's last years as President of SEIU.

History

A nephew of William F. Quesse, SEIU’s founder and first International President, William McFetridge began his career with SEIU in 1923 as a member of Chicago’s Flat Janitors Local 1. In 1927 he assumed the position of SEIU Third Vice President and then ascended to the position of SEIU 1st Vice President in 1930, a position he maintained until April of 1940, when he became President of the International. He succeeded George Scalise, whose fall from power resulted from improper union activities and a conviction on embezzlement and forgery charges.

Responding to the state of disorganization that existed in the union under Scalise, McFetridge began a program of modernizing the union’s financial and record-keeping procedures, thereby inhibiting others within the union from engaging in illegal or unethical practices. McFetridge’s modernization plan entailed the creation of a research department, the establishment of a legislative affairs department, the hiring of labor attorneys, and the publication of various SEIU periodicals, all of which resulted in the acquisition and dissemination of information that permitted the union to form alliances within and outside the labor movement, keep track of opposing forces, increase its understanding of local union concerns, and better position itself for negotiations.

A testament to his emerging stature within the labor movement, the federal government chose McFetridge as a consultant to an International Labor Organization conference in Switzerland in 1949 and, in 1950, he was elected to a seat on the AFL executive council. Needless to say, McFetridge’s ascendancy benefited the union as a whole.

Under his presidency, McFetridge expanded organizing campaigns beyond the traditional building service workers and pursued members from service industries associated with airports, greenhouses, atomic plants, hospitals, bowling alleys, nurseries, cemeteries, nonacademic professions within schools, and many others. SEIU did not grow without great sacrifice during the McFetridge years. Like other unions, SEIU suffered from the ill-effects of the Taft-Hartley Act and many locals went out on strike for wages, working conditions, hours, and other demands. And yet, during McFetridge’s 20 year tenure as president ending in 1960, SEIU grew from 70,000 to 275,000.

Following his departure from the presidency of the International, McFetridge became the President of Chicago’s Local 1. In this capacity, he waged a heated jurisdictional dispute with Local 4, which was led by McFetridge’s one time International Secretary-Treasurer, George Fairchild, and came into conflict with the new SEIU President, David Sullivan, regarding a Chicago real estate project. McFetridge left the union shortly thereafter, as he had lost both fights and, as a result, fell into disfavor with the union’s top leadership.

Arrangement

Arranged in 4 series – Series 1 (Boxes 1-15), Series 2 (Boxes 15-16), Series 3 (Boxes 16-20), and Series 4 (Boxes 20-23). Folders in series 1 are arranged numerically by local, folders in series 204 are arranged alphabetically.

Acquisition

The Papers of SEIU President William McFetridge were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in 1993 by SEIU.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Louis Jones in March 1997.
Title
Guide to the SEIU Executive Office: William McFetridge Records
Status
completed
Author
Processed by Louis Jones.
Date
1997-03
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