TABLE OF CONTENTS
Gilbert Mers Collection MSS.0063
John Gilbert Mers, best known by his middle name, Gilbert, was born in Oklahoma, spent his youth in Arizona, and moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1929 at the age of twenty-one. In July of the following year, he began working with the longshoremen on the waterfront there. Mers did not become involved politically in union activities until December 1931, when he was elected president of the Local International Longshoremen's Association (I.L.A.) in Corpus Christi. In May 1934, Mers edited the official American Federation of Labor paper, which unfortunately only lasted a short time. He then retired from active participation in union offices of the I.L.A. During that time, he was also involved in several strike activities, and served on the contract committee in the waterfront strike of 1935. Mers left Corpus Christi in March 1941, when he was called up in the peacetime draft. After World War II, he came to Houston where in 1947 he joined the International Workers of the World (I.W.W.), or the "Wobblies" as they were known. In 1948, Mers moved back to Corpus Christi, and in 1949 he was elected president of the Local Union for three consecutive terms. In 1957, Mers returned to Houston permanently, and remained interested in union activities.
The Gilbert Mers Collection contains newspaper publications and clippings, correspondence, minutes, and miscellaneous handbills and propaganda concerning labor activities and the union career of Gilbert Mers, dating from 1936 through 1969. The collection's primary emphasis, however, is on publications dating from 1936-1939 concerning union organizations such as the Sailors Union of the Pacific (S.U.P.), Progressive Sea-going Firemen, International Longshoremen's Association (I.L.A.), and the National Maritime Union. These publications are significant in that they are early mimeographed publications not generally available. Each issue contains pertinent information about prominent issues and leading labor personalitites of the time, including Joseph P. Ryan and Harry Bridges.
Another significant contribution of the Mers Collection is its abundance of records of contract demands, strike negotiations, and law enforcement during union strikes in the Gulf Coast region. In relation to this, there is also a wealth of correspondence to and from union headquarters in New York concerning these strike activities. Also located in the collection is the miscellaneous propaganda of the Houston-Galveston, New Orleans, and New York Seamen-Longshoremen, including such items as open-letters and news sheets. All of this material is valuable to the study of local lobor union development, and the apparent apathy of Texans toward labor in the 1930's and 1940's.
Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Gilbert Mers Collection must be obtained from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center or the appropriate copyright holder.
Gilbert Mers Collection. Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library.
Donated by Gilbert Mers in 1977.
Processed by Claire Wilkins, April 1979.