Janitors in the Archive

DSC_0020Last week we welcomed about 25 off-duty janitors and their children to the UCLA Special Collections Department to look at the Justice for Janitors archive.

Union members got to look at newsletters, organizing flyers, photographs and letters of support from janitors around the country–all laid out in the hushed and rarefied atmosphere of the Special Collections Dept. It was a fitting, if low-key, culmination of more than a year of collaboration between the United Service Workers West, the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, History Department, and the UCLA Library. All the UCLA partners are committed to making the union’s records accessible to members and the community.

As participants in the Parent University of the Building Skills Partnership, the janitors were on campus to learn about the public higher education admissions process, and to generate enthusiasm for college with their children. Surveys of union members by UCLA researchers revealed that over 70% expected their children to attend college. The Parent University program was developed to help members with children in the Los Angeles Unified School District become more effective advocates for the children, and navigate the complexities of college admissions.

The collection is now open to the public for research at the Special Collections Department of the Charles E. Young Research Library on the UCLA campus. The first place to start is with the very detailed finding aid, available online. It provides a folder-by-folder description of the collection and is fully searchable. If you want to see the collection in person, you need to put in a request at least a day in advance. In the meantime, you can view more than 100 items from the collection online. If you find something interesting, let us know!

Cross-posted from the L.A. Social Justice History Project.

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