Union activist and leader who was the first President of the Massachusetts State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and who also served on a number of governmental agencies, civic agencies, and commissions. Includes correspondence, biographical material, writings, scrapbooks, subject files, newsclippings; and pamphlets, manuals, and other printed materials. Scrapbooks comprise the bulk of the collection and include correspondence, news clippings, photographs, postcards, and various memorabilia.
The collection is open for research.
Background on J. William Belanger
J. William Belanger was born in Newmarket, New Hampshire, in 1907 and began working in textile mills at the age of fourteen. By the time he was nineteen, he had worked in organized mills in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and in the early 1930's, had returned to New England to work as an organizer for the United Textile Workers of America. In 1934, he lead a 17-day general strike, acting as Assistant Director for New England.
In 1936 when the textile unions joined the CIO, Belanger served as Connecticut State Director of the Textile Workers Organizing Committee (TWOC-CIO), and later in Boston as the Assistant New England Regional Director of TWOC-CIO. In 1941, he was elected to the Executive Board of the Massachusetts State CIO, and made Secretary the following year. When the offices of Secretary and Treasurer were combined in 1946, Belanger was elected to the post. That same year he was chosen an International Vice President of the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA), and in 1948, became President of the Massachusetts State CIO Council.
Belanger worked with leaders in the Massachusetts State Federation of Labor (the state branch of the American Federation of Labor) to defeat the three anti-union referenda on the 1948 state ballot. The cooperation between the two state organizations led to their eventual merger in 1958. At the merger convention held in December of that year, Belanger was elected the first President of the Massachusetts State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He held this post until 1964, when he was appointed Director of the Massachusetts Division of Employment Security.
In addition to his union activities, Belanger served on a number of governmental agencies, civic agencies and commissions. He died in Naples, Florida, in 1986.
Correspondence, biographical material, writings, scrapbooks, subject files, newsclippings; pamphlets, manuals, and other printed materials; and memorabilia related to Belanger's union and election activities, and his work with various government agencies and commissions. Scrapbooks comprise the bulk of the collection and include correspondence, news clippings, photographs, postcards, and various memorabilia. Correspondents include: the U.S. Conciliation Service of the U.S. Department of Labor; the National War Labor Board; the War Manpower Commission of the Office for Emergency Management; the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts; the Council for Constitutional Reform in Massachusetts, Inc.; and The White House.
Acquired from J. William Belanger, 1986
More information about Belanger, and his roles in various labor organizations, can be found in the following related collections:
Processed by Ken Fones-Wolf, December 1987.
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Cite as: J. William Belanger Papers (MS 117). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.