Jerome (Jerry) Barrett, ’63 MA-IR, spent his career working in the areas of mediation and arbitration and, over the years, amassed a large collection of material on the topics. In 2012 he donated his collection to George Washington University, where it resides in the Labor History Archives. The archive consists of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) annual reports, bulletins and newsletters; mediator’s speeches; newspaper articles; and Barrett’s oral history, interviews, photographs, and publications.
Barrett shares details on the project:
Q: How did your collection begin?
A: The short version is I had a lot of down time during my intern year at FMCS in Washington D.C. So I started visiting the Department of Labor library in the same building as FMCS. I read everything I could find on the history of FMCS and its predecessor, the United States Conciliation Service (USCS). I made copies of the most interesting items, not realizing I was starting a collection.
Q: Where do you think your passion for mediation stemmed from?
A: The sources of my passion for mediation probably started in my birth family. I have nine siblings. My family was very pro-union. My dad and my two older brothers were union officers. My dad, my five brothers, and I worked as operating engineers, which is a blue-collar occupation where union membership was the norm. I have always been inclined to be more of a listener and problem solver than an advocate. I felt that mediating in the ‘60s and ‘70s was helping to build the middle class.
Q: What drove you to found non-profit Friends of FMCS (a not-for-profit foundation Barrett created to gather, preserve, and publicize the history of FMCS)?
A: My undergraduate degree is in history, which has always been a passion of mine. Over a number of years, I had acquired these materials from employees who saved them from being thrown-out or recycled when FMCS lost office space or moved. I enjoyed gathering that history.
Q: Why do you think these archived materials are still useful today?
A. The USCS and FMCS together cover over 100 years of conflict resolution via mediation and arbitration. When I was a young mediator in the early 1960s, any news media coverage that mentioned mediation would involve a labor-management conflict. All of the numerous uses of conflict resolution now referred to as ADR (Alternate Dispute Resolution), began to occur in the 1970s. The 1976 Pond Conference, where Chief Justice Burger urged the use of ADR in the court system and elsewhere, is seen as the birth of ADR. In 1976 FMCS and USCS had been using mediation and arbitration for more than 50 years. Regardless of the history after 1976, the 50 years before 1976 offer something of value.