LIBR-281 Metadata Project - Collective Bargaining Agreements

Metadata Project: Dublin Core and Collective Bargaining Agreements

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Literature Review



Before getting into the details of Dublin Core and the Omeka platform, some background literature on Collective bargaining agreements will be useful.

First it is useful to come to terms with some relevant background literature. Large portions of this review draw heavily on an earlier paper that I wrote for LIBR 281 (Lucore 2014a).

The Need for Collective Bargaining Agreement Information Retrieval

To understand the need that motivates this project, it helps to understand some basics about labor unions and collective bargaining. In their efforts to improve the lives of workers, unions undertake a variety of activities. Two of the most important activities are organizing new members, and negotiating agreements with employers.

Collective bargaining agreements are often called “union contracts.” They are negotiated agreements between management and labor that govern wages, benefits and working-conditions in a union-represented workplace. Both management and unions have a need to keep track of the contents of collective bargaining agreements. They have devised a variety of methods for storing and accessing information regarding these agreements. In both organizing and bargaining, it often becomes necessary for the union to have access to information about contracts. For example a union organizer may want to show potential members the kinds of contract language the union has negotiated with employers where it has an existing relationship. A union negotiating committee will want to have information on the provisions for similar contracts covering workers at other branches of the same company, or in comparable companies covering those in the same occupation or industry.

A large variety of works—for scholars, students, and practitioners—discuss the collective bargaining system and make clear the need for contract information. General textbooks on Labor Relations, such as Herman, Schwarz & Kuhn (1992, see especially chapters 7-9 and chapter 14), will usually cover these topics. Such textbooks often discuss comparing contracts as a way of preparing proposed contract language.

Two books that are written as “how-to” handbooks for practitioners of labor negotiating are Better (1993) and Morse (1963). Better’s book is intended for union leaders who are involved in preparing for bargaining; Morse’s is oriented toward helping managers prepare. However, the reader of either book will quickly understand that a major part of preparing to negotiate a labor agreement is having a good understanding of provisions of comparable union contracts.

Online source provide additional information about using collective bargaining agreements. For example, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees provides an online publication (AFSCME, 2014) that guides activists among its members to sources of such contract information. An online guide from the Cornell University Library (2014b) provides links to general resources for unions preparing to bargain. Cornell also provides valuable links to specific collective bargaining agreements, or databases containing such agreements, that a union might wish to access (Cornell, 2014a).

Decades ago, it became clear that computers could be useful to labor unions in compiling information from labor contracts. Woodrow Ginsburg, a prominent union research director, outlined the positive potential for computers in helping unions prepare for bargaining back in the 1960s (Ginsburg, 1968).

In 2002, I published a paper saying that new developments in information technology should be adapted to make contract information more widely available (Lucore, 2002). I suggested that government bodies, such as the U.S. Department of Labor, could convert paper files that they held containing collective bargaining agreements to electronic formats posted on the World Wide Web. They would be more available to the community if they could be downloaded from public databases. This has now been widely implemented. I also discussed the potential for unions to utilize such technologies. At the time, I was working for Teamsters. We had 40,000 contracts in filing cabinets that could be cross-referenced via an electronic database. However, the contracts were still on paper. Research department employees physically retrieved and photocopied, whenever our users needed them.

Although many large unions have databases at the national or international headquarters for their own organization’s contracts, smaller unions and local labor bodies could use a more cost-effective solution. Similarly, community, academic, library or other groups may have a need for specialized collections of contracts with a particular focus. However, they may not wish to invest in costly database programming. This project demonstrates that programs such as Omeka can be used to fill this need. It is an off-the-shelf, solution that could enable unions and others to do this, even if their resources are limited.

Dublin Core

To collect labor agreements and search for them in useful ways, it makes sense to utilize some form of metadata. Dublin Core is a metadata scheme that is widely used, easily adaptable to a variety of purposes, and already incorporated into Omeka. In this section, I review some literature useful for understanding Dublin Core, relying on an earlier paper (Lucore, 2014b).

Renowned cataloging scholar Lois Mai Chan, once wrote that, “Among existing metadata schemas, Dublin Core has emerged a the most widely used worldwide” (Chan, 2007, p. 226). It is a metadata scheme that is adaptable varying environments. It can be extended easily, for complex applications, or left in a very simple form for less complicated situations. It has broad recognition as an international standard for communicating metadata (International Organization for Standardization, 2009; National Information Standards Organization, 2013).

Dublin Core is a set of 15 elements which can be used to describe a resource.

Dublin Core Metadata Element Set, Version 1.1 (DCMI, 2012)

















A full description of each of the elements is available on the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI) site at this link: (DCMI, 2012). The DCMI also provides extensive information on how to use Dublin Core, how develop vocabularies and specific applications for Dublin Core and how to extend Dublin Core using qualifiers that add to the basic elements (see DCMI, 2014b). The DCMI provides a comprehensive list of sources for understanding the history of Dublin Core (DCMI, 2014a).

Two useful metadata manuals that include extensive coverage of Dublin Core are Lubas, Jackson and Schneider’s (2013) The Metadata Manual and Miller’s (2011) Metadata for Digital Collections. These books include some historical background material, guidance on how to use Dublin Core, and specific examples of applications of the scheme, along with exercises. A similar document is the National Information Standards Organization’s booklet, Understanding Metadata, which provides background and examples of Dublin Core (National Information Standards Organization., 2004). These sources would all be helpful in pursuing the proposed application of Dublin Core for collecting labor union contract information.

For a basic understanding of how to use Dublin Core, Diane Hillman’s Using Dublin Core (Hillman, 2005) is excellent and comprehensive without being overwhelming.

The metadata world in general has a unique terminology, and Dublin Core in particular is no exception. Fortunately, there is an excellent glossary, prepared by Tom Baker (Baker, 2011) that helps users make sense of this.

Before moving on to review some literature regarding Omeka, it would make sense to provide an example that shows how Dublin Core elements are used, and might be adapted for the purpose of providing metadata for a collective bargaining database.

Consider just one of the 15 basic Dublin Core elements, for example creator. Dublin Core applications typically treat the creator as the person (or entity) credited with “making” the resource—for example an author or a photographer. However, for a collective bargaining agreement, there is no clear “creator” in the usual sense. The document is a co-creation of both the employer and the union. However, it could be argued that these organizations would fit better under the contributor element, which is for an entity contributing to the content. They could even be referenced under publisher, which is the entity that makes the resource available (see Hillman, 2005, for definitions of these elements). These are just the sorts of decisions that will have to be made in creating a particular profile for the proposed project. This is what carefully defined metadata is all about.


We can now move on to discussing Omeka, which is described as a tool that can “Create complex narratives and share rich collections, adhering to Dublin Core standards. . . [and that is] designed for scholars, museums, libraries, archives, and enthusiasts” (Omeka 2014b). Omeka is a web-publishing platform developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) at George Mason University (RRCHNM, 2014).

Omeka is a web-publishing platform that allows scholars, museums, historical societies, libraries or even amateur enthusiasts, to present a wide variety of types of collections on the Web. Omeka is often used to build archives, virtual exhibits or display collections such as photo galleries. A short introductory video to Omeka is available at (Omeka, 2009, September 2). Developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) at George Mason University,

Omeka provides cultural institutions and individuals with easy-to-use software for publishing collections and creating attractive, standards-based, interoperable online exhibits. Free and open-source, Omeka is designed to satisfy the needs of institutions that lack technical staffs and large budgets (RRCHNM, 2014).

Omeka is often used for creating archives that are visual in nature, such as image or video collections. It is also often used for audio resources or exhibits that combine multiple forms of media. It is commonly used for online presentations of educational curricular supplements such as reproductions of primary source documents or photographs. One can get a flavor for the types of sites typically designed by Omeka users by browsing the Omeka showcase here: (Omeka, 2014c).

An extensive search uncovered no Omeka applications that archive collective bargaining agreements. However, the Omeka platform would appear to be readily adaptable to collecting and presenting similar textual documents. An example is the document library of the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research at this link: (Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, 2014). This Omeka-powered site archives and makes searchable a variety of documents and publications from its sponsoring organization.

Omeka might not seem to be the first choice of platform for setting up a labor contract archive, because that is not a use originally intended by its designers, nor does it appear to have been done previously. However, there are reasons to think it would make a good demonstration platform for setting up a metadata scheme based on Dublin Core. First, this project is not intended to be “final” in the same sense that it would be if it were delivering a product to a client. Rather, it is intended to test the feasibility of an idea for tracking labor-agreement information. Second, the fact that Omeka is free, open-source software makes attractive and low-risk for a demonstration project (Leon, 2014). Omeka is described as a tool that allows users to focus on building their archives or collections rather than getting bogged down in technical details (Omeka, 2014a). This would meet the needs of resource-strapped labor organizations lacking in information professionals or web-development expertise.

Because this project is intended to demonstrate how Dublin Core can be used, Omeka would also seem to be a good fit. It was designed with Dublin Core in mind, and has the ability to add Dublin Core qualifiers (Omeka, 2014d).


This review has covered a lot of ground, attempting to draw together relevant literature and information in three very disparate areas: (1) labor organization’s needs for information regarding collective bargaining agreements, (2) the Dublin Core metadata scheme and how it might meet the identified information needs, and (3) the web-publishing platform Omeka. In the process of this investigation, a possible metadata project has been identified. The next step will be to move forward with attempting to demonstrate that Omeka can be used, in conjunction with Dublin Core, to organize information about labor-agreements in a useful way on a web-based platform. This will be a challenging project, as this author has never undertaken a Dublin-Core project previously, and is only in the initial stages of investigating how to use Omeka. However, the potential payoff in terms of learning about a new software tool and about applying Dublin Core would seem to make it worth undertaking.

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