Skip to main content

Charles Beckman Papers

Identifier: LP000892

Scope and Content

The papers of Charles Beckman reflect his work with Local 45 and the organizations with which it was affiliated and, to a lesser degree, his involvement in political and social issues.

Important subjects covered in this collection are: Activities of the Cleveland District Auto Council, 1934-1944. Activities of the Local 45 Negotiation Committee, 1937-1940. Anti-fascist and anti-war activities, 1941. Call to the National Conference of Negro Youth, 1941. Call to the National Negro Congress, 1940. Call to the Ohio CIO Women's Conference, 1941. Cleveland Sit-Downs, 1936-1937. General Motors Strike, 1939. Grievances and grievance procedures, 1937-1941. Ladies Auxiliary, 1936-1937. The Reuther-Wilson debate on war production, 1942. UAW factional disputes, 1939.

Among the correspondents are John L. Lewis, Homer Martin, Walter Reuther. Series 1. Clippings, 1938-1962. Clippings relating to the "Munich Betrayal," the NLRB, UAW and General Motors negotiations, the Reuther-Wilson debate on war production, strikes, various local political and social issues and the series of articles entitled "Inside the CIO."

Series 2. Conferences and Conventions, 1933-1958. Contains reports, resolutions, financial statements, speeches, roll calls and other material relating to the various conferences and conventions of the UAW, the Ohio State CIO and the Cleveland District Auto Council.

Series 3. Correspondence and Reports, 1934-1962. Contains the correspondence, reports, resolutions, grievances, financial statements, by-laws, constitutions, agreements, and other material relating to the organizations with which Mr. Beckman was associated.

Series 4. Minutes, 1934-1953. Minutes of the regular and Executive Board meetings of the Cleveland District Auto Council and its various committees; the meetings of the General Motors Council and Sub-Council; the various boards and committees of Local 45; the Trim Shop; the Tool and Die Council.


  • 1933 - 1962
  • Majority of material found within 1936 - 1960


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.


Charles Keller Beckman was born in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania, in 1901. His family later moved to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where he received his early education. In 1913, his family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where five years later, he became an apprentice at the L.K. Comstock Company. He left soon after for a position as a trimmer at the Briggs auto plant. From 1919 until 1920, Mr. Beckman worked at the Fisher Body plant on Coit Road as a fireman, but was laid off until 1921, when he was rehired by Fisher Body as a trimmer.

After two unsuccessful attempts by the AFL to organize the plant in 1929, the company in response to the AFL's action formed a company union in which Beckman was elected committeeman by the Trim Shop. However, he left the company union a year later and joined the AFL, Federal Local 14163, which struck the plant in 1932. Two years later, he joined the AFL Federal Local 18614. In 1936, it was chartered by the UAW as Local 45. Beckman served eighteen consecutive terms as president of Local 45 and, in between, a term as vice president, as well as two terms as trustee. He also served for twenty years on the Shop Committee, eighteen of these as chairman. Beckman was active in the UAW's GM Sub-Council #3 and served as chairman of the Sub-Council for three years and secretary for two. In addition, he served three terms as a member of the GM Negotiating Committee. He was also a delegate to the meetings that chartered the Cleveland District Auto Council and later served seven terms as secretary and nine as president of that body. On two occasions he was elected vice president of the Ohio State CIO Council.

From the time that he participated in the organizational strikes at Fisher Body, Beckman recognized the importance of helping to organize wherever and whenever the occasion called. He was at many organizational meetings and picket lines of other unions. In addition to his efforts in labor organization and negotiation activities, he encouraged and took a leadership position in promoting picnics, dances, parades and Christmas parties. Beckman was also active in community affairs, in civil rights causes and in opposition to fascism and war. He retired in 1960 and died on December 2, 1969.


5 Linear Feet (10 MB)


Charles Beckman served as United Auto Workers Local 45 (Fisher Body Plant, Cleveland) president for eighteen consecutive terms. His tenure included the Cleveland plant sit-down strike, which served as a catalyst for the historic Flint sit-down strike of 1936-1937. Beckman's papers reflect his work with Local 45 and its affiliated organizations and, to a lesser degree, his involvement in political and social issues, including civil rights, anti-fascism and anti-war efforts.


Arranged in 4 series. Series 1 (Box 1), Series 2 (Boxes 1-2), Series 3 (Boxes 3-8), Series 4 (Boxes 9-10). Folders are arranged alphabetically or chronologically, depending on the series.


The papers of Charles Beckman were deposited with the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in 1978 by Mary Beckman.

Related Materials

UAW Local 45 Records, Charles Beckman Oral History


Nine photographs, most of which relate to Local 45, Ohio State CIO and UAW conventions in the late 1930s, as well as a (circa 1944) poster advertising the "UAW-CIO GI-Mail" have been placed in the Reuther Archives Audiovisual collections. Numerous pamphlets concerning labor conferences and conventions as well as labor law and education have been placed in the Reuther Archives Library along with numerous, mostly labor, periodicals and newspapers. A list of the library material is located at the end of this guide.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in May 1979.
Guide to the Charles Beckman Papers
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
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