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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Roberta Till-Retz papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1970-2006
Creator: Till-Retz, Roberta (1940-)
Extent: 7.75 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0802
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Research and educational materials of activist and labor educator Roberta Till-Retz.

Alternate Extent Statement: AC[1365]

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 1074) were donated by Roberta Till-Retz in 2006.

Preferred Citation:

Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Address: 100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5068
Curator: Kären Mason
Email: lib-women@uiowa.edu
Website: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa

Labor educator and political activist Roberta Till was born in 1940, the great-granddaughter of Mormon pioneers. She grew up in Byron, Wyoming, a town named after her great grandfather, Byron Sessions, and attended high school in southern California. In 1962, she married Jae Carl Retz after graduating from Brigham Young University with a BA in American Literature. She continued her education at Harvard University, earning an MA in the History of American Civilization in 1964. That same year, Roberta Till-Retz and her husband moved to Heidelberg, Germany, where she spent five years teaching history for the University of Maryland to soldiers at US Army bases. During this time their daughter, Justine, was born.

Roberta Till-Retz received a Fulbright-Hays dissertation fellowship to support her research in Vienna, Austria, between 1972 and 1973. In 1976, she received a PhD in Modern European History at the University of Oregon. She was named a field researcher for Alice Cook and Val Lorwin for a German Marshall Fund grant studying women and unions in Europe, after which she decided that her true calling was in labor education, a career that would enable her to "touch the future." She enrolled in the Institute of Industrial and Labor Relations at the University of Oregon, where she received an MS in 1980.

Upon graduating, Roberta Till-Retz was hired as a program coordinator at the University of Iowa Labor Center and moved to Iowa City with her family. She held this position for 26 years, serving the University and the Iowa labor movement as a labor educator. She also conducted research on women in the labor movement, presenting and publishing several papers and articles.

Starting in the 1980s, Roberta Till-Retz and her husband were active in the Iowa Democratic Party, campaigning for and at times hosting candidates in their home. They were both inducted into the Johnson County Democrat's Hall of Fame in 2011. In addition to the Iowa Democratic Party, Roberta Till-Retz was a member and officer of the American Federation of Teachers Local 716, Workers' Education Local 189, the Coordinating Committee on Women in the Historical Profession, the Professional Council of the University College Labor Education Association, and the Association for the History of the Labor Movement in Vienna, Austria.

After retiring from the University of Iowa Labor Center in 2006, Roberta Till-Retz joined her husband as Co-Communications Director for the Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

The Roberta Till-Retz papers date from 1970-2005 and measure --- linear inches.  The papers are arranged in seven series: Biographical information, Administrative, High Performance Work Organization (HPWO), Teaching, Contract language, Public sector law, and Plant closings. Note: in folder titles, Roberta Till-Retz's name is abbreviated, "RT-R."

The Biographical information series consists of curriculum vitae, salary letters, articles and speeches about Roberta Till-Retz.  It also contains her 1986 publication, "Strengthening Your Local Through Education."

The Administrative series (1980-2002) contains materials related to strategies and initiatives of the Labor Center, and an AFSCME organizing drive.  It also contains materials related to Roberta Till-Retz's participation on Governor Vilsack's "21st Century Workforce Council," and her presentation at the Leiutenant Governor's 1988 conference, "Shaping the Workforce for the Year 2000."

The High Performance Work Organizations (HPWO) series (1979-2000) relates to Roberta Till-Retz's research into various workplace redesign initiatives that came to Iowa in the 1990s.  These initiatives affected work processes, worker interactions and inevitably, union solidarity.  The series includes two booklets by Roberta Till-Retz, "Negotiating New Work Systems," and "Unions and Teams."  These booklets became national "best sellers," and the Labor Center produced copies that were sold at the George Meany Center in Maryland and sent to unions all over the country.  It also includes teaching materials and correspondence with union leaders.

The Teaching materials series (1980-2006) contains materials Roberta Till-Retz used in her labor education courses. They include presentation notes, overheads, and classroom materials.  Some files document activities such as consulting done on an unpaid basis in areas of special expertise, such as employee involvement programs, safety and health committees, FMLA, etc. This series includes an audiotape, AC[1365], of sample hotline messages for union members, produced by the AFL-CIO.

The Contract language series (1974-1999) relates to areas of employee involvement and team concept, which were important in Labor Center teaching in the 1990's.  Documents include contracts, union and management manuals, union meeting materials and minutes, articles, and correspondence with union leaders.

The Public sector labor law series (1970-1995) contains notes, articles, and educational materials related to public sector labor law in Iowa.  It includes three manuals written by Roberta Till-Retz.

The Plant closings series (1979-1995) relates to manufacturing plant closings in the 1980's.  This topic was the basis of a significant amount of Labor Center work.  The series consists primarily of articles and research reports. It also contains correspondence between Dubuque Packing and IUOE Local 758.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS
Series 2: ADMINISTRATIVE
Series 3: HIGH PERFORMANCE WORK ORGANIZATION (HPWO)
Series 4: TEACHING
Series 5: CONTRACT LANGUAGE
Series 6: PUBLIC SECTOR LABOR LAW
Series 7: PLANT CLOSINGS

  • Series 1: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS
  • Box 1:
  • General information
  • Publication - 1986
  • Series 2: ADMINISTRATIVE
  • Box 1:
  • Campaign by AFSCME to organize clericals - 1984
  • Conference: "Shaping the Workplace for the Year 2000" - 1988
  • Consulting policy debate - 1980-1989
  • Internal Labor Center planning - 1989-1991
  • 21st Century Workforce Council, Strategic Planning Council, final reports - 2000-2002
  • University of Iowa survey to form a union - 1991
  • Series 3: HIGH PERFORMANCE WORK ORGANIZATION (HPWO)
  • Box 1:
  • Bargaining on Teams - 1995
  • "Class Struggle and Workers' Participation" - 1980
  • Communications Workers of America (CWA) contracts - 1998-2000
  • Box 2:
  • Conference, "Lean production and labor" - 1993
  • Copies of slides by Michael Parker - 1992
  • Correspondence - 1994-1997
  • Employee involvement questionnaire - 1991
  • Employee involvement - Rockwell in Fairfield, Iowa - 1993-1995
  • Higher education for continuous improvement - 1993
  • IAM field manual on HPWO - 1993
  • IES utilities and IBEW Local 51 - 1995
  • Illinois power company and IBEW Local 204 - 1993
  • Iowa locals teams - 1990-1991
  • Iowa labor-management program - 1991-1992
  • Box 3:
  • Lean production - overhead projector sheets - 1992
  • Legal rights of unions - 1993
  • Manuals - 1993-1998
  • Manual by RT-R, "Teamwork and High Performance in a Unionized Environment" - 1994
  • Manuals on teamwork - 1994-1996
  • Midwest manufacturing company and GMP Local 74B - 1993-1994
  • Midwest manufacturing systems and GMP Local 74B - 1997
  • Manual - "Workplace Change" - 1997
  • Neutrality and card check agreements (folder 1) - 1998-1999
  • Box 4:
  • Neutrality and card check agreements (folder 2) - 1996-1999
  • "New Work Systems:..." by RT-R - 1994
  • Presenter at UCLEA conference - 1996
  • Quality of work life, president's notes - 1980
  • Quality of work life - 1981-1982
  • Quality of work life, president's notes - 1982
  • Quality circles and unions - 1982
  • Reading list - 1991
  • Research - 1979
  • Response to Placid Harbor union educational center - 1990-1999
  • Rockewell-Collins in Fairfield, Iowa and IAM Local 1293 - 1993-1995
  • Study questions - 1991
  • Surveys on bargaining - 1990-1993
  • Box 5:
  • Survey on new work systems in Iowa workplaces - 1998
  • Teaching on new work systems manual, by RT-R - 1995
  • Teaching materials by RT-R (folder 1) - 1991-1994
  • Teaching materials by RT-R (folder 2) - 1991-1994
  • Teaching materials by RT-R - 1997
  • Teaching materials by RT-R (folder 1), undated
  • Teaching materials by RT-R (folder 2), undated
  • Teamwork in Germany - 1995
  • Box 6:
  • "Total Quality Government," by RT-R - 1992
  • Visit to Saturn company - 1993
  • Win-Win articles - 1990-1998
  • Win-Win articles - 1997-1998
  • Win-Win, interest based bargaining class - 1997
  • Win-Win manual, "Mutual Gains Bargaining" - 1993
  • Win-Win manuals - 1998-1999
  • Win-Win, "Model for Collective Bargaining" by Dr. Jerome T. Barret - 1992
  • Win-Win survey, undated
  • Worker Participation Network - 1993-1994
  • Series 4: TEACHING
  • Box 6:
  • Absenteeism - 1994
  • Box 7:
  • Asserting your rights, undated
  • The Attack on Government - 1990-2000
  • Building an effective steward system, undated
  • Center for Workplace Democracy - 1997
  • Coalition building - 1996
  • Communication skills for union activists - 1990
  • Box 8:
  • Comparable worth - 1984, 2001
  • Conflict at work - 1986
  • Decision making, undated
  • Deregulation under Reagan - 1981
  • Effective committees, undated
  • Economic power - 1980-1989
  • "Education and training for job skills" by RT-R - 1994
  • Electronic monitoring in the workplace - 1996
  • Family and medical leave, correspondence (folder 1) - 1996-2000
  • Family and medical leave (folder 2) - 1993-2006
  • Grass roots lobbying, undated
  • Grievances: absenteeism - 1980-1989
  • "History from Below" by Jeremy Brecher - 1988
  • Homestead strike - 1990
  • How to interview, undated
  • Immigrants, Quad cities - 1985
  • Box 9:
  • Immigration - 2001-2005
  • Insubordination, undated
  • Introdution to arbitration - 1986
  • Involving members in the union - 1980-2000
  • Iowa economy - 1980-1989
  • Iowa labor collection - 1999-2000
  • Japanese women - 1995
  • Job safety and health resouces - 1985
  • Just cause in grievance cases - 1989
  • Labor history - 2004
  • Labor history: Coalville strike, undated
  • Labor history teaching outline - 1981
  • Labor law history, undated
  • Labor Press - writing and rewriting - 1988
  • Box 10:
  • Labor Press/newsletters/communications (folder 1) - 1990-2009
  • Labor Press/newsletters/communications (folder 2) - 1982-1996
  • Labor Press (folder 3) - 1990-2009
  • Labor Press/newsletters/communications (folder 4) - 1990-2009
  • Learning to do oral history - 1980
  • Locals doing their own labor history - 1992
  • Ludlow mine in Colorado - 1991
  • Media concentration, undated
  • Military spending - 1983-1985
  • Box 11:
  • Negotiating the Right to Act - 1989-1991
  • New Technology, undated
  • Oral history interviews - 1990
  • Organizing model of unionism - 1990-2000
  • Overtime regulations - 2003-2004
  • Parliamentary procedure class, undated
  • Part-time work - 1989
  • Power, undated
  • Privacy - 1982
  • Problem solving - 1982
  • Problem solving in the local union, undated
  • Public relations/locals, undated
  • Public sector downsizing - 1997
  • Racism - 1994-1997
  • Reagan's reindustrialization - 1982
  • Box 12:
  • Reagan tax cuts - 1981
  • Reaganomics - 1980-1989
  • Record keeping and computers - 1983
  • Right to have a union representative - 1982
  • "Rockefeller and Heywood" - talk given to high school students - 1989
  • Safety bingo - 1991
  • Safety hazards in the workplace (contains article by RT-R) - 1994
  • South Africa, in and about (folder 1) - 1996-1997
  • South Africa, clippings (folder 2) - 1996-1997
  • South Africa (folder 3) - 1996-1997
  • Steward's Manual - 1980
  • Box 13:
  • Strategic planning - 1991
  • Stress in the workplace - 1992
  • Telephone strike of 1947
  • Tips on writing and dramatic reading, undated
  • Union-Busting - 1992
  • Union safety and health committees - 1980-2009
  • Union safety and health survey - 2000
  • Unions and politics - 1990-2005
  • Unions in Japan - 1994-1995
  • Union voters, guns and the National Rifle Association - 2000-2004
  • Box 14:
  • Wages/poverty in the upper Midwest - 1999
  • Who's who on the political right - 1979-1983
  • Women's issues - 1980
  • Series 5: CONTRACT LANGUAGE
  • Box 14:
  • Agreement booklets - 1989-1994
  • Alcoa contract - 1993
  • Alcoa partner agreements - 1996
  • Box 15:
  • Alcoa steering committees and ABGWIU Local 150 - 1994
  • Alcoa teams - 1991
  • Algona steel, Inc. and UWS Dictrict 6 - 1995
  • Amana Refrigeration and IAM - 1996
  • Bandag - 1997
  • Bargaining to protect our jobs - 1996
  • Bath Iron Works and IAM - 1994
  • British Tile and Rubber - 1993
  • Built-Rite and the Illinios foundation for fair contracting, undated
  • Cami Automotive, Inc., Canada and CAW Local 88 - 1995-1997
  • Clippings - 1974-1985
  • Corning Incorporation and American Flint Glass - 1994
  • Box 16:
  • Cummins Engine Company and OCU - 1994-1999
  • Dayton Power and Light Co. and UWU - 1994
  • Davis Tool and Engineering and UAW Local 174 - 1993
  • Detroit schools and AFT Local 4168 - 1991-1994
  • Diamond Star Motors Corporation and AUW Local 2488 - 1989
  • Donnelley Project - 1994
  • Florida Power and Light Compnay - 1990-1992
  • Ford Motor Company and UAW (folder 1) - 1993-1994
  • Ford Motor Company and UAW (folder 2) - 1991-1994
  • Frigidaire Company and UAW (folder 1) - 1993
  • Frigidaire Company (folder 2) - 1993
  • General Electric - 1993-1995
  • Harvard - 1990-1992
  • Holman - 1996-1997
  • IBEW 109, undated
  • Box 17:
  • Illinios Power-IBEW - 1993-1998
  • IES Utilities, Inc. and IBEW Local 204 - 1994
  • Illinios Bell Telephone, IBEW - 1994
  • Inland Steel - 1993
  • John Deere and IAM - 1990-1999
  • Kaiser and AFL-CIO - 1997-1998
  • Kalona Plastic and GMP - 1992
  • Levi Strauss and ACTWU - 1994
  • LTV Corporation - 1994
  • Magna Copper - 1991-1993
  • Mazda Motor and UAW - 1994
  • Midwest Manufacturing, Inc. - 1997
  • Miller Brewing and UAW Local 2308 - 1991
  • Multi company agreements - 1992
  • Nabisco Brands and BCT - 1990
  • National Treasury employees - 1994
  • New Algona and USW - 1994
  • New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. and UAW Local 2244 - 1988-1994
  • Northwest Natural Gas and OPEIU Local 11 - 1989
  • Quaker Oats - 1994-1998
  • Rath Beef Packing Company - 1982-1983
  • Rockwell International and IBEW (folder 1) - 1993-1996
  • Box 18:
  • Rockwell International and IBEW (folder 2) - 1993-1995
  • Roquette America and AFGM Local 48 - 1994-1995
  • Sara Lee Knit Products and BC&T - 1991-1999
  • Saskatoon Chemicals, Ltd. and CEP, undated
  • Schlegal, Inc. and URW Local 44 - 1994
  • Saturn and UAW - 1983-1999
  • Sears Manufacturing and UAW Local 1896 - 1994
  • Shell Canada Products, Ltd. and ECWU Local 800 - 1992-1994
  • State-wide labor management committee (SEIU) - 1995
  • The Trane Company and UAW Local 176 - 1996-1999
  • United Technologies and IAM District Lodge 91 - 1991-1994
  • Williams-White and IAM District Lodge 102 - 1994
  • Woodward State Hospital-School and AFSCME Local 2290 - 1994-1995
  • Xerox and ACTWU - 1994
  • Series 6: PUBLIC SECTOR LABOR LAW
  • Box 18:
  • Deradicalization, undated
  • Duty to furnish law - 1970-1989
  • Exercises, undated
  • Graduate school paper - 1979
  • Labor law at the workplace - 1980-1983
  • Box 19:
  • Legal rights overview - 1981
  • Manuals by RT-R - 1991-1995
  • Overhead projector sheets - 1992
  • Presentation: Eighth circuit court of appeals - 1989
  • Presentation: Laor law update - 1984
  • Presentation: notes - 1990-1991
  • Privitization, undated
  • Series 7: PLANT CLOSINGS
  • Box 19:
  • Caterpillar and UAW - 1995
  • Dubuque Packing and IUOE Local 758 - 1982-1983
  • Harley Davidson and AIW Local 209 - 1983-1989
  • IPB Waterloo - 1988
  • IPB - 1982-1991
  • Box 20:
  • Impact (folder 1) - 1980-1981
  • Impact (folder 2) - 1980-1981
  • Iowa - 1981-1983
  • Iowa plant closings - 1981-1994
  • Legislative extended assistance group - 1983
  • Levi Strauss and Co. - 1998
  • Notes - 1980
  • Polaroid - 1994
  • Rath Packing - 1985
  • Teaching materials - 1979-1982