The records of the Central Labor Council of Alameda County (CLCAC) primarily reflect the
activity of the Council, in all of its roles, during the tenure of its
secretary-treasurers, Robert S. Ash (1943-1967), and for a shorter period, Richard K.
Groulx (1967-1986). The Council, at least from 1943, if not earlier, involved itself not
only in the business of the labor movement, but in activities and programs in the East
Bay that aimed to better the lives of working people in general. These records were
physically moved twice after being held at the Council's offices for over 30 years. The
files (52 cartons) came to the Labor Archives in less than orderly arrangement; often
folders lacked labelling, and unidentified, loose materials were interfiled. Still, the
collection could be seen as separate series, and with some reorganizing a logical order,
fairly similar to the apparent original, was achieved. The Council kept files arranged
alphabetically in several broad groupings within a given year, which have now been
designated as series: Minutes; Correspondence;Office Files; East Bay Labor
Journal/Journal Press. Unlike many organizations keeping years of a certain
series together, this Council maintained chronological arrangement with each series
represented therein. In the present arrangement, Minutes are
indeed a physically separate series (as they were upon arrival).
The AFL Central Labor Council of Alameda County was formed at a meeting of delegates from
31 local unions on October 26, 1903. C. W. Petry of the Shoemakers was elected first
president. Ira Cross has written that this body existed as far back as 1891. (An Alameda
County Federated Trades Council, originally comprised of six member unions, had been
organized in October 1900 and headquartered in Oakland.) The State Bureau of Labor
Statistics reported that by mid-year 1900, 24 unions were functioning in Alameda County,
though not all were AFL affiliates. The county's unions joined others in the state in
1901 to create the California State Federation of Labor. Meeting minutes from October
1904 document the Council's first approval of picketing in a local labor dispute. In June
1910, the central labor councils of Alameda and San Francisco approved assessments of 25
cents per member per week, to raise funds for Los Angeles metal trades workers striking
for an eight-hour work day. A weekly labor newspaper for Alameda County, the
Tri-City Labor Review began publishing in 1910. In a special election in
1912, the paper's management joined the Council and the Oakland Socialist Party in an
unsuccessful attempt to recall Oakland mayor Frank Mott, who these groups labelled a
reactionary. Unlike their San Francisco counterpart, the Labor Clarion,
the Review would later attack the prosecution of Mooney and Billings
(1918); in fact, the Council and individual unions made contributions to Mooney's defense
fund. Also, the council polled affiliates on the question of a general strike in protest
of Mooney's scheduled execution, and found that a majority favored the planned strike.
However, the San Francisco Labor Council rejected the general strike in a close vote, and
the commutation of Mooney's sentence diffused tensions somewhat. The first major work
stoppage the Alameda Labor Council would be involved in occurred early in October 1919,
when 1100 employees of the San Francisco-Oakland Terminal Railways struck for ten days.
William Spooner, president of the Council in 1908, was named secretary in 1913.
Membership had risen to between twelve and fifteen thousand workers from 38 locals by
this time. American entry into World War I, with the increase in shipbuilding and other
production, generated an attendant increase in unionization in the East Bay.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Labor Archives & Research Center. All requests
for permission to publish or quote from materials must be submitted in writing to the
Director of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Labor
Archives & Research Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to
include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the
Collection is open for research.