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UAW 578's library story
Joe Preisler and the Oshkosh Public Library share a similar view when it comes to history: Both believe the stories of the past should be preserved and shared.
Preisler is the President and Bargaining Chair of UAW Local 578, which represents the hourly workers at Oshkosh Corporation. When he and fellow union members approached library staff for assistance in tracing the history of their local chapter, they couldn’t have asked for better research partners. Several members of the Reference staff worked with Preisler’s group to look back through the years to compile a history to share with Local 578’s current membership.
“It’s the history of what happened here and we don’t ever want to lose that,” Preisler explains. “We want to educate our members; to give them a fair and accurate snapshot of what’s happened in the past – the good and the bad.”
Some of the information the group found documented events that are well-known local lore for union members, such as the strike of 1974. But their research unearthed a few surprises too, including a one-day strike in June 1968. With few “old-timers” available to tell these stories, they might be lost if the library didn’t offer access to newspaper archives and assistance in navigating them, Preisler says.
Wading through years of newspaper articles on microfilm would have been far more cumbersome and time-consuming without the help of library staff, according to Preisler.
“The library definitely helped us out,” he says. “The whole process was clean and orderly and friendly – a really enjoyable experience.”
Local 578 plans to use the information they found at the library to put together a permanent timeline collage for the union hall that will help to educate current members about the group’s history. “It tells the story of who we are and what we do and there’s such a connection to what is happening today,” Preisler explains. “There needs to be an equal balance so that we never lose sight of the past as we look to the future.”