|Provenance:||Donated by Charlene Smith, daughter of Charles A. Hayes, in July 2010. These papers constitute what remained after a basement flood destroyed much of Hayes’ papers that remained in Mrs. Smith’s home.|
|Size:||10 linear feet (10 archival boxes)|
|Repository:||Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library (Chicago Public Library), 9525 S. Halsted Street, Chicago, IL 60628|
|Citation:||When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is: Charles A. Hayes Papers (Box #, Folder #), Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, Chicago Public Library.|
|Processed by:||Marcia Walker, Harsh Archival Processing Project|
|Supervised by:||Michael Flug, Senior Archivist, Harsh Archival Processing Project|
Charles A. Hayes, 1918-1997
The first trade union leader to be elected to Congress, Charles Arthur Hayes was a longtime labor leader and civil rights activist. Charles A. Hayes was born to Charles Martin Hayes, a farm laborer, and Nevada Irvin, a housewife, in Cairo, Ill., on February 17, 1918. Hayes was the second of 12 children and the first son.
Hayes graduated from Cairo’s all-black Sumner High School in 1935. After high school, Hayes found work with the Civilian Conservation Corps planting trees along the Mississippi River near Cairo and also worked for a short time repairing tracks of the old Missouri & Pacific Railroad line. Shortly thereafter, in 1938, he began working as a machine operator in Cairo for E.L. Bruce Hardwood Flooring Co. He and his fellow laborers founded a local union, Local 1424 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, to help secure bargaining rights and better wages, and to protest racist hiring and pay practices. He served as the first president of the local, from 1940 to 1942. During this time he met and married his first wife, Emma King. The couple would eventually have two children, Barbara Jean and Charlene Leslie.
In 1942, Hayes and his family left for Chicago, where he found employment with the help of an uncle at a Wilson & Co. meatpacking plant. Hayes became involved with the newly chartered United Packinghouse Workers of America (UPWA) in 1943, working with its grievance committee. In 1944 Hayes led a protracted struggle to achieve recognition of UPWA-CIO Local 25 to bargain on behalf of 3,500 Wilson workers. Ultimately successful, Hayes helped to lead workers, especially minority and women workers, on a campaign to end segregated facilities and discriminatory practices in hiring and promotion in the plant. In 1949 he became a UPWA field representative and in 1954 became district director of UPWA’s District One, which encompassed some 35,000 workers, the majority of whom were in Illinois.
As a leader in the UPWA and District One director, Hayes recruited and mentored more minority and women leaders, including labor leader and women’s rights and civil rights activist the Rev. Addie Wyatt, who worked under Hayes as a field representative and program coordinator. With the leadership of Hayes, Wyatt and others in the UPWA, the union played a role in supporting the integration of public housing, open housing and increased and better employment, as well as health care and civil and political rights in the city of Chicago. District One’s headquarters moved from a location near the meatpacking plants and Back of the Yards neighborhood to a building at 49th Street and Wabash Avenue, formerly Bacon’s Casino, in 1949. The controversial move would accommodate the growing numbers of black union members who resided on the South Side. A new building at the site was constructed by the UPWA in 1957 and dedicated as the District One Headquarters in 1958.
During this time, Hayes led the district’s efforts to raise funds for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s voter registration drive in the South and other Southern civil rights activities and cultivated a professional and personal relationship with King. Hayes worked closely with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the 1960s, and the UPWA would for the most part, continue to be a supporter of the Southern civil rights movement. In 1968, the UPWA merged with the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America (AMCBW), taking the name of the latter. Hayes was promoted to the position of international vice president and remained a district director of District 12, which comprised his former district and was expanded to include Indiana and Michigan.
Throughout the 1970s and the early 1980s, Hayes would play a role in major civil rights, labor-based and black political organizations. Hayes was a founding member of Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) and a board member of the Chicago Urban League. In 1972, Hayes was a founding member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) and its first executive vice president until 1986. Formed in opposition to the AFL-CIO’s neutral stance in the 1972 presidential election, the CBTU sought to provide a political voice for blacks in the labor movement and sought to improve the conditions and leadership voice of blacks within the labor movement. In Chicago, Hayes supported political candidates outside of the Chicago political machine, such as Harold Washington, and was a founding member of the Committee for a Black Mayor of the City of Chicago. Hayes and Washington became close friends, and Hayes supported Washington’s unsuccessful campaign for mayor in 1977.
Hayes suffered a series of personal setbacks in the 1970s. In 1973, his first wife, Emma died. He remarried two years later in 1975 to Ethel Cooper, who died four years later in 1979. That same year, Hayes’ labor union, the AMCBW, underwent yet another merger, this time merging with the Retail Clerks International Union to form the 1.5 million member union, the United Food and Commercial Workers. Hayes maintained his post as an international vice president.
In 1983, U.S. Rep. Harold Washington made a successful run for mayor of Chicago, leaving vacant his 1st Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. An eloquent speaker,a skillful organizer and well-known in the district, Hayes entered the congressional race with the support of Mayor Washington and organized labor. In his first-ever election for public office, Charles Hayes ran as a Democrat against 13 other candidates in the primary including Ralph Metcalfe, Jr., civil rights leader Al Raby and newspaper columnist and community activist Lu Palmer. Hayes won the primary election with 45 percent of the vote. He would go on to defeat his Republican opponent, Diane Preacely, with 94 percent of the vote in the special election August 23, 1993. Hayes was sworn in to the 90th Congress on September 12, 1983 at age 65.
As a representative, Hayes served on the Committee on Education and Labor and the Small Business Committee. He was also a member of the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service. Hayes was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and, along with other demonstrators, protested outside the South African embassy in Washington, D.C. against South African apartheid and was one of the first representatives to be arrested in the protest. Hayes’ congressional service was marked by his tireless efforts on behalf of labor and education. He introduced the Dropout Prevention and Reentry Act to encourage teenagers not to drop out of high school and to provide them with job training and support services. The legislation successfully secured $500 million from the federal government allocated to state and local government officials to address the problem. Hayes also sponsored unemployment reduction bills and public works programs, and he urged Congress to strengthen the 1978 Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act.
Hayes was subsequently re-elected for four terms, usually winning more than 90 percent of the vote. In 1992 he was narrowly defeated by Bobby Rush, a Chicago City Council member and former Black Panther. Hayes’ tenure in office ended on January 3, 1993. Charles Hayes passed away from complications of lung cancer on April 8, 1997. Twice widowed and once divorced, Hayes had four children and a host of grandchildren. He was a member and a deacon of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. The Charles A. Hayes Post Office on the South Side of Chicago opened under his name in 1996. The Charles A. Hayes Family Investment Center, a nonprofit technology center for disadvantaged Chicago residents, opened in the former UPWA headquarters building in 1999.
- “Charles Arthur Hayes.” Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007.U.S. House of Representatives. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2008. 546-549.
- Clay, William L. Just Permanent Interests: Black Americans in Congress, 1870-1991. New York: Amistad Press, 1992.
- Halpern, Rick and Roger Horowitz. Meatpackers: An Oral History of Black Packinghouse Workers and Their Struggle for Racial and Economic Equality. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1999.
- “Hayes, Charles Arthur.” The African American Encyclopedia. Ed. Michael W. Williams. Vol. 3. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1993. 733.
- Hoskins, James. “Charles Arthur Hayes.” Distinguished African AmericanPolitical and Governmental Leaders. Oryx Press, 1999. 123-125.
This collection has been arranged into three super series: pre-congressional records, congressional records and photographs. The first super series documents aspects of Hayes’ life prior to his congressional campaign and service as a congressman beginning in 1983. The second super series documents Hayes’ run for congressional office in 1983 and his congressional service from 1983 to 1993, and also includes a small amount of materials from his life after his congressional service from 1993 to his death in 1997. The third super series contains over 100 photographs that document aspects of Hayes’ personal life, labor organizing, and congressional campaign and service. Related collections at the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection include: the Rev. Addie Wyatt and Rev. Claude Wyatt Papers, the Timuel Black Papers and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists–Chicago Chapter archives.
Super Series 1: Pre-Congressional Records, 1944-1983
This super series includes biography and family records, early manuscripts authored by Hayes and others including manuscripts on the need for the election of a black mayor of the city of Chicago, organization records, serials and pamphlets, clippings and memorabilia. Included in the organization records are materials from the United Packinghouse, Food and Allied Workers of America (UPWA), the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America (AMCBW) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). Of note are several volumes from the 1960s of the District One Champion, the newspaper of UPWA’s District One, which Hayes directed. Also included in the organization files are records of Hayes’ other organizational affiliations and memberships, including materials from Mayor Harold Washington’s Transition Committee in 1982-1983.
Super Series 2: Congressional Records, 1983-1997
This super series has been subdivided into several series, including congressional campaign, congressional service and post-congressional records. The congressional campaign materials include correspondence, Hayes for Congress committee operational and organizational outlines, and letters of support and concern written to Hayes from citizens and voters. The congressional service records include biographical statements as well as some of Hayes’ statements and addresses on labor and employment legislation as a congressman. These records also include correspondence and Hayes’ congressional financial contributions in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as well as programs, serials, clippings and memorabilia. A small amount of materials document Hayes’ life after Congress from 1993 to 1997, including the dedication of a United States Post Office location in his name. This series also includes audiovisual materials, primarily videotapes featuring Hayes as a congressman.
Super Series 3: Photographs
The majority of the photographs in this collection document Hayes’ life as a congressman and capture his committee work, service and membership in the Congressional Black Caucus. Also included are photos from Hayes’ congressional campaign in Chicago. A small number of photographs date back to the 1950s and feature members and activities of the UPWA.
Charles A. Hayes, Predominant dates, 1960-1993, Inclusive dates, 1944-1997