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Special Collections and Archives: W. J. Usery, Jr.  

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Biography

Born in Hardwick, Georgia on December 21, 1923, Willie Julian Usery, Jr. has been known as W.J. Usery, but universally as "Bill", throughout his entire life.  Educated at Georgia Military College (1938-1941) in Milledgeville, Usery worked as a machinist at naval shipyards in Brunswick, Georgia, and later as a Navy- enlisted (1943-1946) underwater welder on a repair ship in the Pacific Fleet.  While working as a maintenance machinist at the Armstrong Cork Company, Macon, Georgia (1948-1956), Usery attended Mercer University.

Usery was a founding member of the International Association of Machinists' Local Lodge 8 (joining March 1, 1952, what is now Local Lodge 918), eventually becoming its president and later IAM Grand Lodge Representative from 1956 until February 1969.  In 1961, GLR Usery was appointed industrial union representative on the President's Missile Sites Labor Commission at Cape Canaveral (Kennedy Space Center from 1963 on) and at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.  Additionally, Usery coordinated union activities at the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas and in 1967, became a member of the Cape Kennedy Labor-Management Relations Council, serving as its chair in 1968.

In February 1969, Usery received his first presidential appointment from Richard Nixon as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Labor-Management Relations.  While administering the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), Usery formulated and implemented Executive Order 1199, establishing standards of organizing and bargaining for more than two million Federal employees.  In 1970 and 1971, Usery worked intensively to settle disputes in the railway industry involving the Brotherhood of Airline and Railway and Airline Clerks (BRAC) and the United Transportation Union (UTU).  Employing his characteristic non-stop negotiations, Usery had already averted a 1971 nationwide strike by the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen.   Also in 1971, Usery obtained the first collective bargaining agreement in the history of the United States Postal Service.

From March 1973 until February 1976, Usery held the post of Director of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, guiding more than 300 professional mediators in 79 field offices throughout the United States.  During this period, Usery was chief mediator in major labor-management disputes.  He also advised Presidents Nixon (Special Assistant to the President for Labor-Management Affairs, August 1974) and Ford (Special Assistant for Labor-Management Negotiations, April 1975) on the status of the nation's labor-management relations.  In October 1973, the AFL-CIO Council voted unanimously to offer Usery the directorship of the Department of Organization and Field Services, which he accepted but then declined at the request of President Nixon.

In February 1976, President Gerald Ford appointed Usery United States Secretary of Labor, a post which he held until Jimmy Carter became President on January 20, 1977.  Almost immediately following the end of Usery's government service, he founded Bill Usery Associates, Inc. (BUA), a Washington, D.C.-based firm providing consulting services in all areas of employer-employee relations.  Usery has also been selected to serve on Presidential Commissions, i.e. the Commission on the Future of Worker-Management Relations, and the
"Coal Commission."

Bill Usery Associates served as the catalyst for pioneering negotiations among the United Auto Workers, Toyota, and General Motors to produce the entity popularly known as "NUMMI," the New United Motors Manufacturing, Inc. (established 1983).  NUMMI's inception involved Usery's firm in international negotiation, planning for productivity, and an entirely new way to foster labor-management cooperation.  High profile strikes involving Usery and his firm's mediation talents include the Pittston Coal Strike (1989-1990) and the Major League Baseball Players Association Baseball Strike (1994-1995).  Usery remains "on call" as a special mediator as presidents seek to resolve labor conflicts.

Usery was a Co-Commissioner of both the Coal Commission, seeking to resolve thorny issues involving miners' retirement funding, and the Commission on the Future of Worker-Management Relations (1993-1995).  In 1985, Usery established the Bill Usery Labor Relations Foundation which helped create Partners in Economic Reform, a group working with democratic labor and management in the former Soviet Union.

In the mid-1990s, Usery's vision of labor-management cooperation found a home in the W.J. Usery, Jr., Center for the Workplace at Georgia State University, an entity with wide programmatic aims in collective bargaining, workplace productivity, and dispute resolution serving company and union leaders.  In early 2000, Usery scaled back his work in the Washington, D.C. area to shift his focus to the work of the Center.


 

Chronology

December 21, 1923 Born in Hardwick, Georgia, son of Willie J. Usery, Sr., b. 1901 and Effie Mae Williamson Usery (later Phillips), b. 1903
1937 - 1938 Attended Midway High School, Hardwick, Georgia
1938 - 1941 Attended Georgia Military College, Milledgeville, Georgia
1941 - 1942 Welder, naval shipyards, Brunswick, Georgia
June 14, 1942 Marries Gussie Mae Smith, b. April 24, 1921, in Milledgeville, Georgia
1943 - 1946 Navy enlisted man, underwater welder on the repair ship, U. S. Tutuila, Pacific Fleet
1946 - 1948 Welder-steamfitter, Georgia State Hospital, Milledgeville, Georgia
1948 - 1956 Maintenance machinist, Armstrong Cork Company, Macon, Georgia
1948 - 1949 Attended evening classes, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia
March 1, 1952 Joined Machinists' Local 918, then Local 8, as a founding member in Macon, Georgia, held a series of local union posts and served as president
1954 - 1956 IAM's special representative at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Test Facilities, Florida
1956 -
February, 1969
IAM Grand Lodge Representative
1961 - 1967 While GLR, appointed as industrial union representative on the President's Missile Sites Labor Commission at the Kennedy Space Center (until 1963, "Cape Canaveral") and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama; coordinated union activities at the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas
1967 - 1968 Member, Cape Kennedy Labor-Management Relations Council in 1967 and chairman in 1968
February,1969 -
March, 1973
Appointed by President Richard Nixon as Assistant Secretary of Labor for Labor-Management Relations; administered Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA); formulated and implemented Executive Order 1199, establishing standards of organizing and bargaining for more than two million Federal employees
April, 1969 Averted nationwide strike of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen with non-stop negotiations
1970 - 1971 Worked intensively to settle disputes in railway industry involving the Brotherhood of Airline and Railway and Airline Clerks (BRAC) and the United Transporation Union (UTU)
1971 Obtained the first collective bargaining agreement in the history of the United States Postal Service
March, 1973 -
February, 1976
Director, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), directing more than 300 professional mediators located in 79 offices throughout the United States; acted as chief mediator in major labor-management disputes; and advised the President (Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford) on the status of labor-management relations
October 17, 1973 AFL-CIO Council voted unanimously to offer Usery the position of Director, Department of Organization and Field Services, which he accepted but then declined at the request of President Richard Nixon
January, 1974 -
August, 1974
Appointed by President Richard Nixon as Special Assistant to the President for Labor-Management Affairs, working as the President's principal advisor on all matters pertaining to labor-management relations
April, 1975 -
January 20, 1977
Appointed by President Gerald Ford as Special Assistant of Labor-Management Negotiations to coordinate federal and other labor-management relations activities involving both private and public sectors of the economy; served as President's representative in labor-management disputes having national impact
February 10,1976 -
January 20, 1977
Appointed by President Gerald Ford as United States Secretary of Labor
1977 Founded Bill Usery Associates, Inc. (BUA), Washington, D. C., in 1977 to provide consulting services in employee-employer relations; BUA acted as a catalyst in negotiations with General Motors and Toyota to produce an agreement between the new joint venture and the United Auto Workers; conducted contract negotiations and mediated strikes of national importance; and developed training, fact-finding, quality circle, and productivity improvement programs for corporations
1985 Founded Bill Usery Labor Management Relations Foundation for the "betterment of public awareness and understanding of labor-management relations, collective bargaining in the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union"
1989 - 1990 Mediated Pittston Coal Strike following post on Presidentially appointed Coal Commission to investigate and provide solutions concerning mineworker pension benefits and their duration
1991 Created Partners in Economic Reform to promote economic development and free collective bargaining in the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union
1993 - 1995 Member of Commission on Future of Worker-Management Relations, with testimony given at hearings throughout the United States
1994 - 1995 Major League Baseball Strike mediation
1997 Founded the W. J. Usery Center for the workplace, Georgia State University
 

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives
Southern Labor Archives
W. J. Usery, Jr., Papers

Phone: (404) 413-2880
Fax: (404) 413-2881
E-Mail: archives@gsu.edu

Mailing Address:
Special Collections & Archives
Georgia State University Library
100 Decatur Street, SE
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3202

In Person:
Library South, 8th floor

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