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Roy Siemiller oral history interview, February 22, 1986

Identifier: SiemillerR_L1986-13

Scope and Contents

Interviewed by Les Hough. Roy Siemiller discusses his early years and the influence his parents had on him. Both parents grew up in the West and his father was a veteran of the Civil War. Siemiller recounts the circumstances surrounding his leaving home at an early age and his start as a machinist. While working for the railroad, Siemiller was asked to join the International Association of Machinists as an organizer. Siemiller describes his work for the IAM as a Grand Lodge Representative and then as General Vice President. The evolution of the trade union movement in the United States and the union's involvement in politics are discussed. Siemiller discusses the union's work on the creation of pension plans and changes in union policy to allow African-American and female members. The merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations is discussed along with Siemiller's service on the War Labor Board and Defense Transport Administration. The union's opposition to several states attempts to pass right-to-work laws is discussed. Siemiller describes his rise to IAM President from 1965 to 1969 and his work negotiating the airline industry strike in 1966 and the railroad strike in 1967. Siemiller also describes his relationships with various politicians and labor leaders including George Meany and Jimmy Hoffa.


  • Creation: February 22, 1986


Restrictions on Access

Available in Reading Room only

Biographical Note

Roy Siemiller was born in 1904 in Nebraska near the Platte River. He became an apprentice when under aged by fibbing about his birth date. He was hired for nine hours a day at eleven cents an hour. After he completed his apprenticeship, Siemiller served in the U.S. Navy then went to work for the Rock Island Railroad in Herrington, Kansas. He joined International Association of Machinists Local 823 in Port Arthur, Texas in 1929. However, his job disappeared later that same year due to the stock market crash. Siemiller then moved on to Harrison, Arkansas where he organized IAM local 1093 and several other locals. IAM International President Wharton took notice of Siemiller's organizing activities, and appointed him as a temporary organizer. He was given a permanent appointment to Grand Lodge Staff in 1937. After being elected as International President in 1965, Siemiller began the "Go-Go" years of the IAM, using the term from the new rock dance style of the times, to give the Union a new public look.


2 item(s) (audio (2:36:33 duration) transcript (150 pages))

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

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