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Jerry and Mildred Wurf Papers

Identifier: LP001132

Scope and Content

Series 1: New York District Council 37 Materials, 1952-1967 Correspondence, speech notes, clippings, flyers, brochures and pamphlets, convention and reference materials and court transcripts relating to Wurf's various positions with and activities at Council 37. There is considerable material on the 1962 and 1964 international conventions.

Series 2: Presidential Materials, 1946-1978 Correspondence, clippings, papers, speeches, organizing, convention and reference materials reflecting Wurf's activities and interests as AFSCME's president. There are also several folders of clippings about the sanita-tion strike of Memphis Local 1733 in 1968.

Series 3: Appointment Books, 1955-1981 Appointment books kept by Jerry Wurf both when he was with Council 37 and and as international president.

Series 4: Personal Papers, 1936-1982 Correspondence, passports, birth certificates and a yearbook, birthday and condolence cards, clippings, telegrams, jury notices, mementos on his death and reference materials mainly from the period Wurf was at Council 37 and as president. These papers reflect his acquaintance with numerous political and civil rights leaders, and his interest in civil rights, domestic politics and issues of concern to workers, both nationally and internationally.

Series 5: Mildred Kiefer Wurf Papers, 1952-1982 Some correspondence, but generally reference materials consisting of brochures, flyers, pamphlets and papers relating to Mildred Kiefer Wurf's activities with Council 37 in labor education and the training of stewards. Considerable material is included on the Union Leadership Academy.


  • 1936 - 1982


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.


Jerome Wurf was born in New York City on May 18, 1919, the son on Sigmund and Lena Tannenbaum Wurf. He received his B.A. in Economics from New York University in 1940. Before World War II and during the early 1940s, when he was working as a cafeteria cashier, Wurf was an active member of the Young People's Socialist League. By 1943 he had become an organizer for Local 448 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union and by 1947 he was administering the local's welfare funds. In the same year Wurf was hired by Arnold Zander, first president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), as an organizer for New York District Council 37, and he became a member of AFSCME Local 924. He remained a "general organizer" for the New York area until July 1956 when he became regional director of Council 37. By 1959 Wurf was both president of Local 924 and the new executive director of the New York council. In May of 1964, after a closely fought election, Wurf succeeded Zander as the head of the international union. Wurf also served as a vice-president of the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO, and in 1969 became a vice-president of the AFL-CIO itself, and a member of its executive board. He instituted an aggressive organizing policy and vastly expanded the membership of AFSCME during his tenure, bringing it from about 235,000 members in 1964 to over a million. In 1978 AFSCME became the largest component of the AFL-CIO when it absorbed the huge Civil Service Employees Association of New York. Wurf was still head of the union at his death, December 10, 1981, when he was succeeded by Gerald McEntee. Throughout his life, Jerry Wurf was actively involved in civil liberties; the anti-nuclear and peace movements; workers' rights, health and education; Jewish concerns; and domestic politics, especially the Democratic Party. Reflecting these interests, Wurf was a member of the executive committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, of the Committee for National Health Insurance, and of Americans for Democratic Action, was a member of the Jewish Labor Committee, and a leader in both New York and Washington, D.C., where AFSCME headquarters were located, against housing discrimination. He also personally participated in the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike of AFSCME Local 1733. In 1941 Wurf married Sylvia Spinrad, whom he later divorced. In November of 1960 he married Mildred Kiefer. She was born in San Francisco on September 1, 1926, and received her B.A. from the University of California in 1947. She began work at Council 37 in May of 1951 as a researcher and writer. She later undertook such varied tasks as office manager, organizer and first education director of the council. She resigned in July 1959. While with the council, Kiefer was especially involved in worker education programs and the training of union stewards. She was a member of AFT Workers Education local 189.


6.5 Linear Feet (11 MB, 1 SB)


Jerry Wurf started his work in AFSCME in New York's Council 37, becoming executive director by 1959. He went on to serve as AFSCME International president from 1964 until his death in 1981. He also served as a vice-president of the AFL-CIO. Throughout his career, Wurf was actively involved in campaigns for civil liberties; anti-nuclear and peace movements; workers' education, health, and rights; Jewish concerns; and domestic politics, especially related to the Democratic Party.

Mildred Kiefer Wurf began work at AFSCME Council 37 in New York in 1951 as a researcher and writer. She was heavily involved with worker education programs and training union stewards. Mildred and Jerry married in 1960.

Jerry Wurf's papers relate both to his professional work with Council 37 and as AFSCME president, and to his efforts for civil and workers' rights. His papers also contain correspondence with a great number of prominent union, political, and civil rights leaders of his era. Mildred Wurf's papers, which constitute the last series of this collection, reflect her interest in labor education.


Arranged in 5 series – Series 1 (Boxes 1-3), Series 2 (Boxes 3-5), Series 3 (Box 6), Series 4 (Boxes 7-9), and Series 5 (Boxes 10-12). Folders in Series 1, 2, 4, and 5 are arranged alphabetically and then chronologically. Folders in Series 3 are arranged chronologically.


The papers of Jerry and Mildred Wurf were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in July of 1983 by Mrs. Wurf, and were opened for re-search in February of 1985.


Books, copies of AFSCME constitutions, convention materials, union publications and pamphlets and materials from other American and foreign unions received with this collection have been added to the Archives Library. Numerous photographs, documents, posters, prints and some tapes have been transferred to the Archives Audiovisual Collection. In addition, a considerable amount of memora-bilia has also been placed there, including such items as plaques, buttons, pins, hats, plates, ashtrays, statuary, pens, coins, wall hangings, framed pictures and honorary awards.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in February, 1985.



Guide to the Jerry and Mildred Wurf 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