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Preserving & Donating Records

The Labor Archives of Washington (LAW) serves the labor movement in the Pacific Northwest, preserving its historical records and suggesting ways to manage active records. We offer regular workshops in historical records preservation and records management for labor unions. Contact Conor Casey to schedule training.

Many labor organizations already have good records management systems but want to know which types of records to donate to the LAW, which to keep, and which to dispose of. This collection of resources explains the process of donating records to LAW and what kinds of records LAW collects.

Union Officers and Staff

How confidently can you:

    • Locate key documents from your union going back to your founding charter?
    • Retrieve these vital records when you need them?

    If your answer to the above question was "not very confident", you should consider implementing or revising a records management strategy for your union's records.

    Good records management makes it easier for you to do what unions do best: organizing new members, bargaining with employers, and protecting the rights of members on the job.

    Preserving Union Records

    A practical guide for union officers and staff on labor records management by Debra Bernhart. Courtesy George Meany Memorial Archives.

    • A Commonsense Guide to Union Records Management (Download PDF)

    Quick guide to records management for union officers and staff by Eugene D. Vrana and Rae C. Shiraki.

    Courtesy of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Eugene Vrana and Rae C. Shiraki. Special thanks to ILWU Librarian/Archivist Robin Walker for sending the copy that we posted here.

    • How to Clean Out a Union Office Without Destroying History (Download PDF)

    This handy 3-page publication, by Helmut Knies, Collection Development Archivist at the Wisconsin Historical Society, is a great step-by-step guide on setting up a records management system for local unions, what to preserve for historical archives, and what to get rid of.

    This handout outlines the typical formats of labor records, outlining which records of enduring value to keep or donate to the Labor Archives of Washington.

    Many unions are partnering with the Labor Archives to help pay for part or all of the processing of their archival collections. Processing preserves the records in archival housing long-term and creates access to the collections for union members, officers, and researchers.  This handout outlines the costs of processing records and allows a donor to estimate how much it costs the Labor Archives to process their collection.

    Donating Records to the Labor Archives

    What to retain or donate to the Labor Archives of Washington:

    Definitely RetainRetainCan't Accept
    • Agendas
    • Agreements
    • Annual reports
    • Articles of incorporation
    • Artwork
    • By-laws
    • Buttons
    • Charters
    • Committee files
    • Conference/Convention programs
    • Contracts (Drafts, Final, Printed in Booklet Form)
    • Correspondence
    • Directories/Rosters/Yearbooks
    • Documents pertaining to legislative activity or lobbying
    • Flyers
    • Grievances
    • Meeting minutes
    • Memoranda of Understanding
    • Newsletters
    • Interviews
    • Issues files which reflect your organization’s work
    • Job descriptions of major staff
    • Officer's files (Identify name of officer and position)
    • Organizational flow charts
    • Photographic materials – photos, movies, negatives, albums, etc. [If at all possible, identify individuals in photos and events pictured]
    • Picket Signs
    • Policies
    • Political action files (Committee on Political Action or other committee)
    • Programs from conferences or other events
    • Reports annual, financial, committee, etc.
    • Posters
    • Programs from events
    • Resolutions
    • Scrapbooks
    • Speeches--audio and transcript
    • Testimony
    • Publications ranging from books produced by organization to brochures
    • Research files on particular actions, negotiations, campaigns, or targets
    • Maps
    • Cancelled checks
    • Financial transaction records
    • Job applications
    • Personnel files
    • Planning files for events
    • Financial files
    • Tax returns