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Irwin L. DeShetler Papers

Identifier: LP000301

Scope and Content

Part 1: The collection covers the period from 1933 to 1968. However, the records from 1943-1946 are missing, and many of the records from 1946-1954 are missing.

Correspondents: Brophy, John Livingston, John Brown, Edmund G. McCabe, Glen W. Douglas, Helen Gahagan McPeak, Carl Engle, Clair Meany, George Flanagan, Daniel Mitchell, James Fuller, Paul W Murray, Philip Germer, Adolph Potofsky, Jacob Goldberg, Arthur J. Reuther, Walter Haywood, Allan Riesel, Victor Hillman, Sidney Riffe, John V. Kircher, William Roosevelt, James Knowland, William F Schnitzler, William Kuchel, Thomas Scholle, August Lewis, John L. Spock, Benjamin

Subjects: Glass Workers, Executive Board Meetings, 1935-1939 Glass Workers, Factionalism - Fuller vs. McCabe Glass Workers, Organization of CIO and shift from AFL to CIO Glass Workers, Organization of Libby-Owens-Ford Glass Co., 1934-1940 Glass Workers, Organization of Pittsburg Plate Glass Co., 1933-1940 Glass Workers, Election campaigns of DeShetler, 1934-1951

Political Action Campaigns in California, 1948-1968 Organization of Mexican farm workers in California, 1953-1968 Defense mobilization in California and Hawaii, 1953-1959 Plant Organization in California, 1949-1960 Jurisdictional raiding in California by unions expelled from the AFL-CIO, 1958-1968 AFL-CIO Unity, 1954-1955 AFL-CIO Merger of California State, County and City Councils, 1958 American Federation of Teachers, first NLRB election, 1958 (see Series 3F Studio Teachers Guide) United Farm Workers, Di Giorgio Grape Strike, 1966-67 United Furniture Workers, Communism and Administration of Local 1010, 1954-1955 Welfare Campaigns, proposals, and legislation in Los Angeles Metropolitan Area, 1947-1956 Employment of the Handicapped in California and in Los Angeles, 1954-1968

Series Description: 5 THE IRWIN L. DeSHETLER COLLECTION Outline of Series Series 1 Glass Workers, 1933-1967 Series 2 Regional Director, Ohio, Kansas City, and Southern California, Assistant Director of Region 13 and Director of Region 13, 1942-1955 Subseries A Correspondence Subseries B CIO, office file Subseries C Southern California and Region 13, office file Subseries D Region 13, plant organization Subseries E CIO Unions Subseries F Non CIO Organizations and General Office File Series 3 Assistant Regional Director, Region 22, 1955-1968 Subseries A Correspondence Subseries B AFL-CIO, office file Subseries C Region 22, office file Subseries D Region 22, plant organization Subseries E Region 22, jurisdictional raiding by unions expelled from AFL-CIO Subseries F AFL-CIO Unions Subseries G Non AFL-CIO Organizations and General Office File
Part 2: The second part covers all phases of Mr. DeShetler's career, from his presidency of the Toledo local of the Flat Glass Workers in 1935, to his work as the National AFL-CIO Coordinator for Farm Workers, which concluded in 1971.

Subjects: Glass worker facitonal fights, 1937-1940 CIO organizational efforts in Portland, OR, 1943 Expulsion of Communists from California CIO locals, 1946-1952 California Farm Workers organization and bargaining, 1967-1971 Career of Allan S. Haywood, 1943-1952

Correspondents: John Brophy Estes Kefauver James B. Carey William Kir cher Cesar Chavez Glen W. McCabe Lewis J. Clark James Francis Mclntyre Daniel Flanagan James P. Mitchell Timothy Flynn Wyndham Mortimer Delmond Garst Philip Murray Adolph Germer Walter P. Reuther John Green John V. Riffe Allan S. Haywood William Schnitzler Larry Itliong R.J. Thomas Maurice J. Tobin

Series Description: Series I, Glass Workers Toledo local President, International Secretary-Treasurer and President: correspondence, office records and clippings, 1935-1942.

Series II, CIO Regional Director in Cleveland, Portland, Kansas City and Los Angeles: correspondence, office records, speeches and clippings, 1943-1954.

Series III, AFL -CIO Assistant Regional Director, Los Angeles: correspondence and office records, 1961-1968.

Series IV, AFL-CIO Coordinator for Farm Workers: correspondence and office records, 1967-1971.
Part 3: Part III of the Irwin L. DeShetler Papers primarily document DeShetler’s activities during the 1970s after his retirement as the AFL-CIO’s coordinator for the United Farm Workers. The collection also contains some items from DeShetler’s career before this date, including early union membership cards, newspaper clippings, and correspondence dating from his tenure in Ohio and Kansas City. Also included are certificates and documents from various state and federal government agencies including a certificate signed by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan in 1967 and an invitation to appear at the White House from 1950.

Items dating from 1971 onward include correspondence regarding DeShetler’s attempts to join both the American Arbitration Association and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, AFL-CIO newsletters and correspondence, regional Knights of Columbus newsletters, documents from the California Governor’s Committee for Employment of the Handicapped, and documents related to the United Farm Workers including information regarding the Constitutional conventions of 1973, 1979, 1981 and 1984, official UFW publications, and documents involving major cases concurrent with DeShetler’s tenure on the Public Review Board, as well as his official letter of resignation from that body.

This collection also contains material from DeShetler’s wife, Helen, including her own early union activities.

Important Subjects Include: AFL-CIO Agricultural Labor Relations Board American Arbitration Association California Governor’s Committee for Employment of the Handicapped Communism Democratic Party Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Knights of Columbus Organized Labor United Farm Workers United Farm Workers Public Review Board Important Names: Arywitz, Sigmund Chavez, Cesar Levy, Jacques Padilla, Gilbert Reagan, Ronald


  • 1928 - 1984


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.


Part 1: Irwin L. DeShetler was born in Toledo, Ohio on April 13, 1906. In 1932 he was employed in Toledo, and following the enactment of the National Industrial Recovery Act in June, 1933, DeShetler participated in the organization of the Libby-Owens-Ford Glass Company in Toledo for the Window Glass Cutters League of the AFL. In December of 1933, he was elected president of the local union. In July 1935, while continuing to serve as president of the local union, he was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL Flat Glass Workers Union.

In November, 1937, John L. Lewis and other CIO leaders established the Glass Workers Organizing Committee. Paul W. Fuller, who had recently defeated Glen McCabe for president of the Flat Glass Workers Union, was chairman of the committee and DeShetler was Secretary-Treasurer. After a bitter internal jurisdictional struggle with the AFL forces led by McCabe, most of the glass workers were organized by the CIO, and in 1940, the name of the Flat Glass Workers Union was changed to the Federation of Glass, Ceramic and Sand Workers. DeShetler was elected president of this Union in 1939, and he served until December, 1942.

In 1943 he was appointed by Philip Murray and Allan Haywood as the first CIO Regional Director of Cleveland, Ohio. DeShetler later served as CIO Regional Director in Huntington, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Ohio, Kansas City, Missouri and as the Regional Director of Kansas and the western half of Missouri.

In 1946, DeShetler was transferred to Southern California as CIO Regional Director where he was a leader in the fight to remove the communists from power in the unions.

By 1952, the CIO was operating some 50 state or regional offices manned by a staff of directors whose responsibilities were divided between organizational activities and service work. In 1953, the decision was made to divide the country into thirteen regions, each region to be under the responsibility of a director. In June, 1953 Timothy Flynn was made Director of Region 13, which comprised the states of California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Nevada, and DeShetler was appointed Assistant Director. In February, 1954, Flynn resigned, DeShetler was made Regional Director, and the regional headquarters was moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles. His duties as Regional Director were to assist and to service CIO Councils, especially in their political action activities, and to carry out a public relations program.

Before the AFL and the CIO merged, the problems of establishing regional structure and of defining the duites of the Regional Directors were discussed. It was agreed to establish 22 geographical regions and it was further agreed that a director and an assistant director would be appointed in each region with the understanding that where a director came from one organization, then the assistant director would come from the other. Accordingly, Daniel Flanagan from the AFL was appointed Director of Region 22 which comprises the states of California and Nevada and DeShetler became his assistant.

It was found that the principle difference between the AFL set-up and that of the CIO was that the AFL Director had organization and other responsibilities, but no responsibility for political action, whereas the CIO Director had political action responsibilities but no organizing responsibility. After some discussion the AFL-CIO merger committee agreed that Regional Directors and their Assistant Directors would carry four major responsibilities - organizing, providing policy assista nce and policy guidance to central bodies, servicing directly chartered local unions, and being the spokesman for, and representative of, the National Office in their regions.

It should be pointed out that the merger of State, Territorial and local central Bodies which were affiliated with the AFL and the CIO was not affected until 1958 - two years after the AFL-CIO merged at the national level. As a result between 1956 and 1958 there were, for example, two California State bodies, the California Industrial Union Council of the CIO and the California State Federation of Labor of the AFL. When they merged in 1958, they became the California Labor Federation. Likewise between 1956 and 1958 there were two California political action groups, the California CIO-COPE, and the California Labor League for Political Education of the AFL. Also between 1956 and 1958, each major city or county had two labor councils. In Los Angeles, there was the Greater Los Angeles CIO Council and the Los Angeles County Central Labor Council of the AFL.

In June 1968 DeShetler resigned as Assistant Regional Director to become the National AFL-CIO Coordinator for Farm Workers.
Part 3: Irwin L. DeShetler was a lifelong activist for organized labor after joining his first union at the age of seventeen. A year after losing a job for organizing and participating in a strike, DeShetler, following the passage of the federal government’s National Industrial Recovery Act, was prominent in the initial organization of the American Federation of Labor Glass Cutters’ League, Toledo branch at the Libby-Owens-Ford Glass Company in June, 1933. In December of that year, he was elected to the presidency of that union, and in 1935, he was elected secretary-treasurer of the AFL Flat Glass Union.

In 1937, the CIO formed the Glass Workers Organizing Committee with DeShetler serving as secretary-treasurer. Following internal strife amongst the glass workers over whether their union should be affiliated with the AFL or the CIO, many, including DeShetler, opted for membership in the CIO. He then served from 1939 to 1942 as president of what became the Federation of Glass, Ceramic and Sand Workers, after which he was appointed by Philip Murray and Allan Haywood as the CIO’s first Regional Director of Cleveland Ohio.

Following stints as regional director in Huntington, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Ohio, and finally Kansas City, Missouri, DeShetler was relocated to the Los Angeles area in 1946 to serve as Regional Director of Southern California. He served in this position until 1953 until the CIO’s national leadership made the decision to consolidate its more than fifty regional offices and directorships into only thirteen. Timothy Flynn was appointed Director of Region Thirteen, which in addition to California, included the states of Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and Arizona, with DeShetler serving under him as assistant-director. In February of 1954, following Flynn’s resignation DeShetler was promoted to the directorship.

In this position, DeShetler assisted and served CIO councils and led public relations and political activities programs. DeShetler also participated in a larger nationwide effort that included advocates such as Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers, to purge the organized labor movement of communists and those with communist sympathies. This made DeShetler unpopular among many rank-and-file members of Region Thirteen, who felt he was more interested in pleasing the union’s national leadership than in securing victories for local interests. Among these members’ complaints of DeShetler and other national CIO was their support for President Harry S Truman, whom they felt was unresponsive to union demands.

In 1967, DeShetler resigned his position and began serving as the AFL-CIO’s coordinator for the United Farm Workers, a nationwide union for agricultural primarily active in the region to which he had served as director. He retired in 1971 at the age of sixty-five.

During his retirement, DeShetler was active in the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus and participated in its bowling league.

In 1973, DeShetler lobbied unsuccessfully to become a member of the American Arbitration Association. Despite his years of experience and the recommendations of prominent associates, DeShetler’s application was denied on the grounds that his history of union activity would make him unacceptable to management. Also that year, he lobbied for a position with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, for which he was found to be unqualified.

In 1976, DeShetler was nominated by California Governor Edmund Brown to serve on the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. However, as of 1979, DeShetler had not been assigned to any cases and saw no activity in this position.

DeShetler eventually was elected chairman of the United Farm Workers’ three-member Public Review Board. Their purpose was to provide a body within the UFW organizations that individual farm workers could turn to appeal decisions made by the organization’s Executive Board. Prior to the establishment of the Public Review Board, the Executive Board had final say in all matters.

In August of 1981, DeShetler voluntarily resigned his position as chairman of the Public Review Board because his felt all members of the board should be fluent in both English and Spanish, which he was not. Although there was no official rule at the time requiring that board members be bilingual, DeShetler proposed an amendment to the UFW Constitution that would make this mandatory. Despite his personal feelings that he was unqualified, DeShetler was reappointed to his position at the UFW Constitutional Convention the next month.

In addition to his union activities, DeShetler was also involved in other political and social organizations including the California Governor’s Committee for Employment of the Handicapped, the San Gabriel Committee for Employment of the Handicapped, and the Welfare Board of Los Angeles.


53.5 Linear Feet (104 MB, 2 SB, 1 OS)


Material collected by Mr. DeShetler as secretary-treasurer of the AFL Flat Glass Workers Union (1935-37), president of the CIO Federation of Glass, Ceramic and Sand Workers (1939-42), CIO regional director of southern California (1946-52), CIO assistant regional director of Region 13 (1952-55), AFL-CIO assistant regional director of Region 22 (1955-68) and National AFL-CIO coordinator for Farm Workers (1968-71). Various activities of the Glass Workers Union, such as Executive Board meetings (1935-39), factional disputes and organizing, political campaigns in California (1953-68), jurisdictional raiding, AFL-CIO merger, the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, and welfare programs in Los Angeles (1947-56) are covered.


Part 1: Arranged in 3 series – Series 1 (Boxes 1-19), Series 2 (Boxes 20-49) and Series 3 (Boxes 50-104). Folders are arranged alphabetically. Series 1 is further divided into 6 subseries and series 3 is further divided into 7 subseries.
Part 2: Note that boxes numbers restart in each series.

Arranged in 4 series - Series 1 (Box 1, Scrapbooks 1-7), Series 2 (Boxes 1-6, Scrapbooks 3, 8, 9), Series 3 (Box 7), Series 4 (Boxes 8-9). Materials are arranged chronologically, or by material type depending on the series.
Part 3: Note that boxes numbers restart in each series.

Material is arranged alphabetically by subject and then chronologically by year, if applicable, within each box.


Part 1: The papers of Irwin DeShetler were deposited with the Labor History Archives in July, 1968 by Mr. DeShetler.
Part 2: The second installment of the papers of Irwin L. DeShetler was placed in the Archives of Labor History and Urban AFfairs in August of 1971 of Mr. DeShetler.
Part 3: The Irwin L. DeShetler Papers were deposited at the Reuther Library on January 8, 1990.

Related Materials

Part 3: Reuther Library Collections: AFL-CIO News, El Macriado, UFW Central Administration Records, and UFW Office of the President: Cesar Chavez Records


Part 2: Nearly 100 photographs relating to Mr. DeShetler's career (chiefly from the years 1935-1952), several award certificates and other memorabilia once displayed in his office have been placed in the Archives' Audiovisual Collections. Numerous AFL-CIO pamphlets and newspapers have been placed in the Archives Library.
Part 3: A portrait of Philip Murray, 11 photographs of DeShetler and an award from the City of Los Angeles were moved to the Reuther’s Audiovisual Department. Guides and inventories are available.

Processing History

Part 1: Processed and finding aid written by LH in November 1969.
Part 2: Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in June 1971.
Part 3: Finding aid written by Todd M. Butkovich on April 16, 2010 and Kathy Makas on October 12, 2010.
Guide to the Irwin L. DeShetler Papers
Processed by LH.
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

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Detroit MI 48202 USA