During the early 1980s, Dr. Leonard Pitt, Director of the Urban Archives Center, in cooperation with the ILWU, Local 13 conducted a series of oral history training workshops for the union's membership. An ILWU Oral History Committee was formed and several longshoremen began interviewing former members of the local. The first set of oral history interviews were taken with the "34 men," those retired longshoremen that were on the waterfront prior to and during the 1934 Strike and the forming of the union. A second series of interviews were conducted with those workers who came onto the docks during World War II. Interviews continued to be taken with longshoremen, who joined the union after the war and during the change in the hiring practices of the union and the rapid rise of modernization and mechanization on the docks during the 1950s and 1960s.
Each narrator was asked a series of questions about family life, union affiliation and union history, union leadership and politics, collective bargaining, dispatch hall procedures and job duties, health and safety issues, discrimination in hiring practices, their participation in strikes, slowdowns and lockouts, jurisdictional disputes with other unions, and union relations with the Waterfront Employers Association and the Pacific Maritime Association.
The collection is divided into two series, Digital Audio (1982-1996) and Transcripts (1980-1996). Audiocassette recordings of all oral history interviews are located in International Longeshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU), Local 13 Records, Part II.