Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
J. William Belanger Papers
J. William Belanger was born in Newmarket, New Hampshire, in 1907 and began working in textile mills at the age of fourteen. By the time he was nineteen, he had worked in organized mills in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and in the early 1930's, had returned to New England to work as an organizer for the United Textile Workers of America. In 1934, he lead a 17-day general strike, acting as Assistant Director for New England.
In 1936 when the textile unions joined the CIO, Belanger served as Connecticut State Director of the Textile Workers Organizing Committee (TWOC-CIO), and later in Boston as the Assistant New England Regional Director of TWOC-CIO. In 1941, he was elected to the Executive Board of the Massachusetts State CIO, and made Secretary the following year. When the offices of Secretary and Treasurer were combined in 1946, Belanger was elected to the post. That same year he was chosen an International Vice President of the Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA), and in 1948, became President of the Massachusetts State CIO Council.
Belanger worked with leaders in the Massachusetts State Federation of Labor (the state branch of the American Federation of Labor) to defeat the three anti-union referenda on the 1948 state ballot. The cooperation between the two state organizations led to their eventual merger in 1958. At the merger convention held in December of that year, Belanger was elected the first President of the Massachusetts State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He held this post until 1964, when he was appointed Director of the Massachusetts Division of Employment Security.
In addition to his union activities, Belanger served on a number of governmental agencies, civic agencies and commissions. He died in Naples, Florida, in 1986.