It’s hard to imagine that the Archival Workers Emergency Fund (AWE Fund) was established two years ago this month! In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was ripping throughout the world and archival repositories were quickly shuttering. While some workplaces transitioned their employees to work remotely, archival workers on social media were reporting furloughs and layoffs due to the closures. Within a matter of days, a grassroots organization came together to prepare a proposal for the SAA Foundation to establish the Archival Workers Emergency Fund.
The Fund proved to be an incredible rallying point for the archival community to show up for each other. The Organizing Committee led two craft auctions where archivists flexed their creativity and generosity. We convened panel discussions on mutual aid, salary transparency, and the intersection of disability with archival labor issues. Nearly 1000 individuals, 26 SAA Sections, and 11 organizations contributed to the fund, raising over $140,000 to help nearly 200 archival workers in need.
The Society of American Archivists sunsetted the Archival Workers Emergency Fund at the end of 2021. This marked a turning point for organizing committee members. Without the administrative infrastructure for fundraising and financial disbursement that SAA provided, we had to think critically about what we do, how we do it, and if we as an entity continue forward or not. We held two online open calls in December and January to connect with our colleagues and collectively re-envision our role going forward. Stripping away the fundraising element, the core spirit of the AWE Fund was – and remains – fundamentally the care and advocacy for each other as fellow archival workers. Thus, we are re-organizing as the Archival Workers Collective.
What does this mean?
We’re operating in the spirit of the Archival Workers Emergency Fund Organizing Committee, but with a broader and more flexible scope. Maybe someday we’ll get back to fundraising and mutual aid, but in the immediate future, we will be focusing our activities on advocacy, research, and programming work addressing labor issues within the archival profession.
What will we do?
We will continue to develop periodic surveys and conduct research relating to archival labor issues.
We have organized panels and other programming and can continue it going forward.
We will signal boost and partner with individuals and other groups that are active in this area.
We will be drafting a charter and creating new, updated communication channels.