University of California (1868-1952)

Alternative names
Active 1857
Active 1931

History notes:

Administrative History

During the mid-twentieth century, the American Labor Movement reached a pinnacle of power and influence within society. The Second World War required that labor be managed as a strategic resource; the high productivity of workers during the war carried over in the peace time economy, which experienced a sustained economic "boom." Unlike European labor relations, where unions play an "official" role in government, the American trade union system does not allow for an official "place at the table" for unions. U.S. labor unions nonetheless wielded extensive political power and also were in a position to influence social policy in a wide of array of areas.

The extent of labor's reach was often seen in its concerted efforts to secure better pay, better working conditions and reliable pensions for its members. These priorities spilled over into the non-unionized workplace, where management actively sought to stay "union-free" by matching or improving upon union benefits. It could be argued that workers benefited from this competition. However, even as labor reached the apex of its power, it was already becoming more bureaucratic, more institutional and less bold in its actions. At the same time, management associations remained virulently anti-union, and the Cold War triggered widespread probes of unions as potential "hot beds" of communist activity. Even as the U.S. labor movement reached many of its goals with respect to policy and influence, it found itself beset from all directions with competing and even hostile forces within the fabric of society.

This multi-disciplinary collection captures some of the flavor of the times. It provides original documents, pamphlets, company publications, union reports, student papers and theses that explore the state of American Labor during these heady years. The collection has five areas of focus:

General labor Longshore Workers Minority Workers Older Workers Personnel Policies

The General Labor category offers a cross-section of materials that breathe life into the debate about the leading issues of the times. Longshore Workers explores the tumultuous post-war history of the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, with original materials from both organizations as well as related materials. Minority Workers made important strides in the workplace, both during World War II and in the years following the war. It could be argued that the workplace of the 1950s was a front line in the civil rights movement, because work was a forum where all kinds of people came together for a common purpose. Older Workers and Personnel Policies both explore societal attitudes toward the work force, which was comparatively "youthful" at the time, but was certain to "age" as the twentieth century progressed. Personnel Policies, including pension policies of the era reveal a direct look at how policy making was formed and implemented.

This digital collection was funded by the University of California Labor and Employment Research Fund (LERF). The Fund enabled the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment Library to digitize a large percentage of the Federation's publications.

From the guide to the California and West Coast labor and industrial relations, selected publications, 1933-1993, 1945-1980, (University of California, Berkeley. Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Library.)

Administrative History

The origins of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) predate World War II, and could be considered to have begun in the 1920s. At the time, the University of California, Berkeley was home to the most influential labor economists of the day, including Ira Cross, Paul Taylor and Charles Gulick. Berkeley had one of the first Labor Education schools, and Berkeley faculty were especially active and influential in San Francisco's labor relations during the turbulent years of the 1930s.

In 1944, University President Gordon Sproul and California Governor Earl Warren together planned the inception of the Institutes of Industrial Relations (IIR, hereafter referred to as "IRLE"), to be founded at Berkeley and Los Angeles. Governor Warren asked President Sproul to enlarge its educational base in labor and industrial relations, and so facilitate, "open and honest labor-management relationships." This important focus on labor-management cooperation came to be known as the "California 'School' of industrial relations."

The California legislature approved the formation of IRLE in 1945 under AB 391, with Northern and Southern Divisions at Berkeley and Los Angeles. IRLE's founding director was Clark Kerr, who was later Chancellor of Berkeley and President of the University. Both divisions formed libraries and created curricula aimed at educating students about the importance of labor issues, the role of unions, and the challenges facing the rapidly growing economy of California and the West Coast. The Legislature outlined three initial charges for the faculty to pursue:

Community Relations. Working with the University Extension, IRLE focused on adult education and training, together with conference, weekend institutes and short courses. This early initiative has grown substantially in scope and mission, and currently encompasses many public and private partners in research and programming for a wide variety of topics. Campus Instruction. IRLE, as an "Organized Research Unit", supports faculty teaching and instructional activities by working in close cooperation with campus departments and schools. The faculty receives a variety of support services to assist them in their research, including grant administration, library services, and coordinated community outreach opportunities. Research. Investigation of facts and issues is the basis of effective research. IRLE's 1947 report states, "Good will alone, although basic, will not solve the pressing problems of industrial relations, which appear currently to be second only to the problems of internationals relations in their impact upon social and economic welfare. New insights and greater understanding of underlying causes are equally necessary."

Today, IRLE's research encompasses the study of organizations and labor market institutions, the high tech work force, the change role of labor unions, and the increasingly globalized economy. Over 80 affiliated faculty members represent more than 15 academic departments and schools, which confirms that 21st Century labor and employment issues continue to require multi-disciplinary approaches. IRLE provides the common ground where academics and community leaders can meet and study the complex world of work and workplace issues.

About this Collection

This digital collection was funded by the University of California Labor and Employment Research Fund (LERF). The Fund enabled the IRLE Library to digitize a large percentage of IRLE's publications. These documents form a record of scholarly thinking about labor and employment issues for the second half of the 20th century, as well as a record of IRLE's own goals and objectives. Three broad subsections of the collection are organized around 1) IRLE-Berkeley; IRLE-UCLA, and IRLE-Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education ("The Labor Center"). Although the collection is not complete, it is extensive, and it is anticipated that it will as more publications are discovered from various sources.

From the guide to the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, University of California, publications and papers, 1946-2006, (University of California, Berkeley. Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Library.)


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • Industrial relations
  • Education
  • Protest movements
  • Labor policy--California
  • World War, 1914-1918--War work--Schools
  • Migrant labor
  • Motion pictures--Congresses.--Mexico
  • Industrial safety
  • Labor movement
  • Retirement income
  • African Americans--Employment
  • Wages and labor productivity
  • Arbitration, Industrial
  • Migrant agricultural laborers
  • Women--Employment
  • Labor--Statistics
  • Retirement--Economic aspects
  • Collective bargaining
  • Nursing
  • Labor productivity
  • Students--Political activity
  • Pensions
  • Personnel management
  • Stevedores--Labor unions
  • College students
  • Grievance arbitration
  • Discrimination in employment
  • Aging--Economic aspects--United States
  • World War, 1914-1918--War work
  • Industrial hygiene
  • Older people--Economic conditions
  • Labor education
  • Labor policy
  • Labor unions
  • Unemployment
  • Labor unions and communism


not available for this record


not available for this record


  • Berkeley (Calif.) (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California--Berkeley (as recorded)
  • California--Berkeley (as recorded)
  • California--Berkeley (as recorded)