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Labor Archives & Research Center

Needles to Thread: Dancing Along These Lines in Continuum Alley


LARC Image

LARC is open to the public free of charge.

Few regions can rival the rich, lively labor history of the San Francisco Bay Area. This history is preserved in primary source and vintage history materials at the Labor Archives and Research Center (LARC). Founded in 1985 by trade union leaders, historians, labor activists and university administrators, the Labor Archives is a unit of the J. Paul Leonard Library at San Francisco State University. The Labor Archives has an Advisory Board drawn from the labor, academic and community leaders of the Bay Area.

Hours and Directions

The Labor Archive hours are Monday - Friday, 1 - 5 PM, or by appointment. Please call (415) 405-5571 at least two days in advance to arrange an appointment. Holidays and expectionto hours are listed here.

LARC is located in the J. Paul Leonard Library on the SFSU main campus. Getting to LARC is easy by car and public transportation.

Our new address:
Labor Archives and Research Center
J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 460 - 4th floor
San Francisco State University
1630 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132

(415) 405-5571



The Labor Archives collection includes materials from the counties surrounding San Francisco Bay, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara.

More than 6,000 feet of primary source material is available for research. From the beginning of the twentieth century to the present, a wide scope of Bay Area labor activity is represented.

Many unions have made the Labor Archives the official repository for their historical records -- minutes, office correspondence, membership files, publications and contracts. Labor leaders, attorneys, arbitrators, and rank-and-file workers have donated their personal papers.

Personal memorabilia, photographs, ephemera, and oral histories document the lives and stories of working men and women. Visual material, in addition to photographs, includes cartoons, banners, posters, prints, handbills, picket signs, and buttons.

Holdings List

The Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) Listing of Collections is at this site. A printed copy is also available on request.

Selected Images

Selected Images from the Photograph Collection are available for viewing.


A portion of the Labor Archives collection is stored off-site and may take one to two days to retrieve. For inquiries, please call or e-mail.



Needles to Thread:
Dancing Along These Lines in Continuum Alley

Flyaway Productions newest site-specific aerial dance takes on the issue of wage security for women through the story of San Francisco’s garment workers past and present.

When: Thursday to Saturday, October 1 - 3, and Thursday to Saturday, October 8 – 10, twice each evening at 8pm and 9pm. At 7pm on Saturday October 3rd & 10th, the Labor Archives & Research Center will host a walking tour focusing on the neighborhood’s important sites of labor history.

Where: Continuum Alley located at the intersection of Dale Place and 255 Golden Gate Avenue (near UNITE HERE Local 2).

This is a free event. Please note that limited seating is available for each 30 minute performance.

About Flyaway Productions
Flyaway Productions is an apparatus--based dance company that explores the range and power of female physicality and advances social issues in the public realm. Founded in 1996 by Artistic Director Jo
Kreiter, the company uses the artistry of spinning, flying, and exquisite suspension to engage political and social issues. Flyaway creates dances on both architectural and fabricated steel objects, typically off the ground, with dancers suspended anywhere from 2 to 100 feet above ground level. The company creates a sense of spectacle to make a lasting impression with an audience, striving for the right balance of awe, provocation and daring.


Labor Hall












Dual Views
Labor Landmarks of San Francisco

Photography by Wendy Crittenden & Tom Griscom
A Labor Archives & Research Center Exhibition

Exhibit Opening April 2, 2015 | 5:00pm to 7:00pm

Featuring Remarks by the Artists and
Professor Emeritus Robert Cherny

Labor Archives and Research Center
J. Paul Leonard Library
San Francisco State University
1630 Holloway Avenue, 4th Floor

poster pdf


Striking Images - San Francisco State 1968

Featuring the photographs of Phiz Mezey

October 28 to December 20, 2013 | Monday-Friday 1:00pm to 5:00pm

Exhibit opening December 2, 2013 | 6:00 to 8:00pm

A Labor Archives and Research Center Exhibition

Student unrest at San Francisco State reached a boiling point in 1968 over such national issues as racial justice and the Vietnam War, resulting in a bitter student and faculty strike - the longest campus strike in United States history. The impact of the strike was far-reaching and ultimately led to the creation of the University's College of Ethnic Studies. Phiz Mezey's striking photographs capture the tumult of events while focusing on the participants of this historic moment of social change.

Exhibit Location:
J.Paul Leonard Library, 4th floor
San Francisco State University
1630 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132


Marching Through History
with Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers

A Photo Documentary
by Cathy Murphy

This powerful exhibit captures life in the fields and on the line for Cesar Chavez and members of the United Farm Workers (UFW). An official UFW photographer, Cathy Murphy was also very close to Chavez and her intimate images offer a human portrait of this iconic hero.

April 2 to September 30, 2013

Opening April 2 ~ 5:00 to 7:00pm

J. Paul Leonard Library Gallery
San Francisco State University
1630 Holloway Avenue, Room 460
San Francisco, CA 94132

Opening Reception: April 2, 2013 ~ 5:00 to 7:00pm

Featuring slide show presentation by photographer Cathy Murphy and music by San Francisco State's own Dr. Loco (aka Latina/Latino Studies Professor Emeritus Jose Cuellar). Light Refreshments. Program begins at 5:30pm.

See attached flyer for map and directions.


Occupation! Economic Justice as a Civil Right in San Francisco, 1963-1964

Beginning in 1963, massive civil disobedience actions swept through San Francisco. Demonstrations focused on discriminatory hiring practices that excluded African-Americans from employment equal to white workers and shook the city’s liberal image of itself.

Featuring photographs by Phiz Mezey, this collaborative exhibit presents selections from the San Francisco State’s Labor Archives and Research Center, University Archives, and Bay Area Television Archive, as well as the Public Library’s San Francisco History Center.

Occupation! is a unique collaboration between the Library and Museum Studies 730 graduate class on exhibition design, offering an opportunity to highlight Special Collections rare material while Museum Studies graduate students gain real world exhibition experience.

J. Paul Leonard Library
Special Collections Gallery, Room 462
San Francisco State University
1630 Holloway Avenue
November 1, 2012 – February 15, 2013

Nov 1 to Dec 23:  Mon-Wed 1-5pm and Thu 1-7pm
Jan 2 to Feb 15: Mon-Thu 1-5pm.


Spanning the Gate: Celebrating the Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, a stupendous feat of engineering and design that has been called one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

Spanning the Gate offers a behind-the-scenes look at the complex construction process of this amazing landmark. The project required a multitude of skilled workers – carpenters, electricians, pile drivers, divers, ironworkers – along with many laborers who provided back breaking support work to these craftsmen.

Built hundreds of feet above the dangerously churning waters of the entrance to San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge was an extremely challenging worksite. Several men lost their lives and many others were injured during the four and a half years it took to build the bridge.

We salute the working class heroes whose skill and dedication brought the dream of spanning the Gate to fruition.

Auto Row
by Giacomo Patri

Marion Brown and the Department Store Employees Union

In 1936, Marion Brown, a 19 year old clerk at Woolworth’s Department Store, was radicalized by the unjust firing of several workers and went on to found the Department Store Employees’ Union.

Rosenberg Library, 4th Floor Reference Case
February 1-September 9, 2011

Images and info from exhibit

labels exhibit
Graphic: Kim Munson

Look for the Union Label:
A Celebration of Union Logos and Emblems

Online Exhibit

by Jeff Rosen and Susan Parker Sherwood

This collection of over 150 images surveys union labels, their history, and related artifacts. American Union labels evolved from the seals and coats of arms of European craft unions and were a great source of tradition and pride. Beginning as early as 1880, the union label movement became an important economic tool as organized workers looked for ways to support union jobs and to protest unfair working conditions through tactics other than strikes.

For more on the topic of union logos, see the online slide show presentation, Evolution of an Emblem: The Arm and Hammer. Art historian Kim Munson shares her investigation of the origins of the arm & hammer from Greco-Roman myth and its role as an early union label to its current usage as the Socialist Labor Party emblem and as the baking soda trademark.


poster image
Poster: Andrew Zermeno

Cultivating Creativity:
The Arts and the Farm Workers' Movement
During the 1960s and 1970s

Online Exhibit

Farm workers and the world of art? It may not seem to be a natural pairing, yet the migrant farm workers’ movement of the 1960s and ‘70s generated artistic symbols of such iconic power that they not only fixed a small struggling union’s (the United Farm Workers) plight in the American public consciousness, but also helped launch a new style of Chicano art.

poster image
Mural: Kate Connell and
Oscar Melara

Our Work Life

Online Exhibit

by Kate Connell and Oscar Melara in collaboration with the Labor Archives and Research Center

In the array of commercial images that paper over our world, working people are rarely represented. Our Work Life documents three generations of Bay Area work and workers, offering a visual celebration of the people around us whose contributions we enjoy but are often "invisible."

poster image
Graphic: Kim Munson

Dual Views: San Francisco Labor Landmarks

Online Exhibit

Photography by Wendy Crittenden and Tom Griscom. In collaboration with Kim Munson, curator and the Labor Archives and Research Center.




order here




The San Francisco Labor Landmarks Guide Book

A Worker’s Guide to San Francisco:

Take a tour of San Francisco’s labor past and present working class neighborhoods, labor hangouts, monuments, murals, memorials, and buildings that reflect the history of the people who built the “City by the Bay.” Discover 88 different sites and five neighborhood walking tours covering an array of landmarks from the unique point of view of those who work in its stores, labor in its hotels and run its cable cars.

Learn about:

• The building of the Golden Gate Bridge and the “Halfway to Hell Club.”
• The first public electrical power station in
the United States.
• The site of the first union labor strike in Chinatown.
• Two blue collar cafes from the 1930s still
open for business.
• The oldest statue in San Francisco of
a person at work.
• How the death of two workers touched off a city-wide general strike.

San Francisco Labor Landmarks Guide Book is packed with historical photographs and easy-to-follow maps. It includes lesser known landmarks as well as famous sites re-examined from a worker perspective. The guide is an educational and fascinating excursion into the hidden history of one of America’s favorite tourist destinations.

Excellent guide for students and teachers in labor studies, history, social studies, political science, architecture and geography!

Read more about the Landmarks Book:

“Discover San Francisco’s labor landmarks”
SF State News, March 4, 2009

“Project of the Month: The San Francisco Labor Landmarks Guide Book
 News and Updates, Ink Works, March 2009

Listen to interviews about the Landmarks Book:

The Morning Show, KPFA, February 26, 2009
Listen to LARC Director Catherine Powell and San Francisco Chronicle columnist Carl Nolte talk about the creation of the Landmarks Book and some of the interesting sites described in it. The interview begins approximately 1 hour, 36 minutes, into the program.

Against the Grain, KPFA, April 20, 2009
Listen to San Francisco State University History Professor Robert Cherny and LARC Director Catherine Powell discuss many of the important labor sites depicted in the Landmarks Book. The interview begins approximately 42 minutes into the program.

View an online photography slide show presentation inspired by the Landmarks Book:

San Francisco Labor Landmarks Photography by Wendy Crittenden and Tom Griscom

How to order the Landmarks Book:

The Landmarks Book is available through the Labor Archives (order form). The book can also be purchased at the following San Francisco bookstores:

San Francisco State University Bookstore
Modern Times Bookstore
Green Apple Books and Music
Bird and Beckett Books and Records


poster image

LARC Newsletter

All Issues of the LARC Newsletter, 2002 - 2011


Watch the new LARC video on the Golden Gate Bridge featuring oral histories and photographs from the 1930s.


C-SPAN broadcast of California Historical Society symposium on the Golden Gate Bridge featuring Gray Brechin, Richard Walker and LARC director Catherine Powell. here

Labor Archives' YouTube video channel

LARC Collaborations

labels exhibit
"Hermanas de la Trenza"
(Sisters of the Braid)

by Laura Ortiz Spiegel

Remembering the Struggle:
A Community Retrospective of the Watsonville Cannery Strike (1985-1987)

Click here to visit this online archive of material originally digitized in conjunction with the exhibition done by the Pajaro Valley Arts Gallery, July 30 - September 21, 2008.

Following the gallery exhibition honoring the “stubborn one thousand,” as the Watsonville cannery workers were known, selected historical material on the strike, including promotional items used by the strikers, photographs, and news articles, continue to be available online at the exhibition website. This online archive draws on collections of the Labor Archives & Research Center and the Pajaro Valley Historical Association, including items from LARC’s Frank Bardacke Collection.


labels exhibit
Photo: Philip M. Klasky

Labor Folklorist Archie Green

On June 21, 2009, the Labor Archives and Research Center hosted a celebration of the life and work of Archie Green. The event was open to the public and was attended by over 300 people. The attendees honored Archie as a proud union man and scholar who pioneered the field of ‘laborlore’ and successfully fought for the creation of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. 

Archie was a good friend to the Labor Archives, serving as an advisory board member from its founding in 1985 and spearheading the San Francisco Labor Landmarks Guide Book project.

More on Archie's Life:
“Archie Green (1917-2009): Called to Labor”
Daily Yonder, March 24, 2009

The celebration included a musical tribute by the following legendary bluegrass artists:
Hazel Dickens
Mike Seeger
Elaine Purkey
Jody Stecher

David Selvin Student Essay Contest 2013-2014

Topic: Work or Workers

SFSU students are encouraged to submit an historical paper, journalistic article, oral history with analytical introduction, photographic essay, short story, memoir, or poem.

SFSU Chapter of the California Faculty Association
and The Labor Archives and Research Center

pdf flyer

Deadline: All entries must be received
by 5 pm, January 23, 2015.


Mailing Address

For information on holdings, visit the Labor Archives or send request to:

Labor Archives and Research Center
J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 460
San Francisco State University
1630 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94132
Telephone: (415) 405-5571
Fax: (415) 338-0534
Electronic Mail:

SF State Home
J. Paul Leonard Library, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132 - 415.338.1854 -
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