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.

Administrative Information

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

Biographical Note

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.


Content Description

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.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Browse by Series:


Subjects

This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.


Personal Names:
Till-Retz, Roberta

Corporate Names:
University of Iowa Labor Center
Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO
Dubuque Packing Company

Dates:
1970-1979
1980-1989
1990-1999
2000-2009

Topics:
Industrial relations
Labor unions
Labor
Working class
Labor union members
Labor laws and legislation
Plant shutdowns
Collective bargaining
Women in politics
Women in education
Labor contract
Labor movement
Discrimination in employment

Occupations:
Political activists
Educators

Geographic Names:
United States -- Iowa -- Iowa City

Genre/Form of Materials:
Archives
Personal papers
Sound recordings
Speeches

Browse:
Women, Politics and the Law