The Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives was established in 1979 as a joint project of New York University, the New York City Central Labor Council, and the Tamiment Institute to preserve the historical records of the City's trade union movement and our labor heritage. It has been designated by the Central Labor Council as the preferred repository for its historically important records as well as those of its member organizations. The collecting emphasis is on international unions with roots in New York.
On a selective basis, the Archives will seek to acquire the records of international and local unions that have their roots in New York's labor movement or have important connections to the City or State.
The Archives collects the personal papers of individuals who have played an important role in the labor movement as well as collections of papers that document the working class experience from the perspective of the rank and file.
The Archives has a special relationship with the unions whose records its preserves. It helps the labor movement construct a useable past. An important part of its mission is working with the labor movement to develop historical resources that, if managed properly, can be an important asset in organizing drives, political action campaigns, contract negotiations, labor education, as well as grievance and arbitration proceedings.
The Wagner cooperates with the labor and progressive movements to present the history of organized labor in such a way as to preserve the memory of the labor movement's many contributions to the struggle for social justice, higher living standards, equal opportunity, and job security. It works with the labor movement to make New York's labor history accessible to union members and all working people.
Given its roots in the Tamiment Library, the Wagner seek to document the complex relationship between the labor movement and the struggle for progressive social change. The emphasis is on the struggle for workers' rights, civil rights, gender equality, immigrant rights, and the role that workers have played in American politics, culture, and society. The Wagner also documents the experiences of working people in their workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities, by preserving the records of allied organizations with important working class constituencies devoted to union democracy, immigrants rights, civil rights, and women's rights.
The Archives works with the labor movements to make the history of working class New York accessible to union members, students, scholars, and the general public. It seeks to build relationships with worker education programs, museums, and other educational institutions that interpret American labor history.
The Wagner adheres to the highest professional standards in cataloging, conserving, and processing its collections. It publicizes its collections through outreach programs, lectures, exhibits, and book talks. It collaborates with the union movement and the New York State Labor History Association to organize public programs around labor history themes.
The Archives works to establish a secure funding base to support its many programs. It seeks financial support from the unions whose records it preserves, the labor movement in general, individuals sympathetic to its mission, national, state, and local government funding agencies, and private foundations.