Oral History Association Conference 2014: Oral History at the Grassroots level

Members of the OHC attended the OHA Annual Meeting in Madison, Wisconsin. OHC researcher Scott Price presented his project ‘Stand Our Ground’: Life Story Interviews of UFCW Local 832 at the Grassroots Oral History Panel chaired by Michael Gordon (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) on Saturday on October 11, 2014.

 

Since early 2012 Price has led a research project with UFCW local 832 to record and preserve the union’s diverse history in Manitoba. Price’s presentation primarily focused on the 1978 Manitoba Safeway Strike as an historical touchstone rich with competing narratives, overlooked historical analysis and relevancy to feminism in the wider Canadian labour movement. Much of the research highlighted the surprising degree of union militancy in the retail sector during this time period. Many retail workers had a very militant trade union outlook during the 1970s and 80s. Those views are steadfast in rank and file members who are still affected by the event some 30 years later. The Safeway strike of 1978 also played a huge role in gaining women union reps and activists; many of which became leaders in powerful labour organizations.

 

The panel garnered much discussion regarding the importance of inclusivity and guidance from subject organizations when creating historical narratives for grassroots projects. It was Price’s contention that allowing space and time for the participants to guide the project has unmistakably befitted the research. The quality and diversity of the historical narratives collected was aided by the willingness and direction of the participants.

 

This can provide an alternative model of community research outside the parameters of ridged academic guidelines and timelines which may be beneficial for potential long-term research projects. Since its initial launch the UFCW project has been seen at the OHC as a test case for other potential grassroots collaborative projects.

 

Ultimately the OHC and local 832 want to create an archive that will not only be accessible to researchers but also to the union and its members in the form of a searchable archive and educational resource.

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