Labor 12.1-2 (May, 2014)

Labor 12.1-2 Cover

In This Issue

Guest Editors’ Introduction

  • Susan Levine and Steve Striffler, “From Field to Table in Labor History

The Common Verse

  • Sara Ries, “American Cheese Family


  • Sarah Besky and Sandy Brown,”Looking for Work: Placing Labor in Food Studies

  • Rachel B. Herrmann, “‘Their Filthy Trash': Taste, Eating, and Work in Mary Rowlandson’s Captivity Narrative

  • William Bauer, “Sudsy Sovereignty: Indigenous Workers and the Hops Industry of the Pacific Slope

  • April Merleaux, “Sweetness, Power, and Forgotten Food Histories in America’s Empire

  • Vanessa May, “‘Obtaining a Decent Livelihood': Food Work, Race, and Gender in W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Philadelphia Negro

  • Felicia Kornbluh, “Food as a Civil Right: Hunger, Work, and Welfare in the South after the Civil Rights Act

  • Sarah Lyon, “The Hidden Labor of Fair Trade

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Teaching Labor History »

Society of American Archivists Labor Archives Roundtable at the 2015 LAWCHA Conference

By Conor Casey on April 29, 2015 | Comments: (0)

May 28-29, 2015. As part of the Society of American Archivists Labor Archives Roundtable’s ongoing efforts to coordinate with LAWCHA, two conference sessions and several archival repository open houses will be on the LAWCHA 2015 conference program this year. [Read More]

Workers Memorial Day and Earth Day: Links in a Chain

Out of Sight by Erik LoomisBy Rosemary Feurer on April 28, 2015 | Comments: (0)

The waning days of April have a little recognized convergence, inviting us to think about connections between workers issues and environmental concerns. [Read More]

The State of Wisconsin: Neoliberalism’s Ground Zero

University of Wisconsin Students Against Education Cuts rally March 2015By Jon Shelton on April 7, 2015 | Comments: (2)

Readers of this blog are probably aware of what has been going on in the state of Wisconsin over the past couple of months. To recap: back in early February, Governor Scott Walker proposed a massive cut to the state education system of about $300 million, with the promise of reducing the state’s system of higher education to a “public authority.” Then, in February, the Republican-dominated legislature held an “extraordinary” session to turn Wisconsin into the nation’s 25th right-to-work state. Walker, who initially opposed the effort , signed the bill into law in early March, outlawing union security clauses in the private sector (Act 10, of course, had already stripped agency shop provisions from the state’s public sector workers). [Read More]

The West Virginia Mine Wars Museum Opening May 16-please donate

blair+1921+miners+turning+in+guns+2039+copyBy Louis Martin on April 1, 2015 | Comments: (1)

Between 1912 and 1922, violence ripped across the coalfields of southern West Virginia as miners and their families took up arms to fight against a near-complete system of exploitation. Miners faced dangerous working conditions and often lived in company towns ruled by companies intent on controlling every aspect of workers’ lives. [Read More]

SLSA Symposium and Labor Archives

By Jennifer Eidson on March 2, 2015 | Comments: (0)

NOTE: This event has been cancelled as a result of weather. On March 5, 2015, the Center for the History of the New America at the University of Maryland will host a symposium exploring workers and organizing in the twenty-first century. [Read More]

Paraprofessional Educators and Labor-Community Coalitions, Past and Present

Teacher Sheri McCormick (left) and paraprofessional Shashala Saulsbury work on a reading assignment with students.
 Credit: UFTBy Nick Juravich on February 24, 2015 | Comments: (3)

Public education today is at the center of an unrelenting assault on the American labor movement. This is no accident; by some measures, nearly 40% of unionized workers in the United States work in education, and organized educators have proven vocal opponents of neoliberal politicians and policies. As a consequence, educational unions have been singled out for destruction by Republican governors, state legislatures, and courts as part of a broader attack on public sector organizing. From Wisconsin to California, these opponents challenge not just the gains made by public-sector unions, but their very right to exist. [Read More]

Remembering the Flint Sit-Down Strike

Flint Strike CalendarBy The Walter P. Reuther Library on February 15, 2015 | Comments: (0)

Tired of reductions in pay and jobs, increased workloads, and harassment of United Automobile Workers organizers, on December 30, 1936 automotive workers in the General Motors Fisher Number One Plant in Flint, Michigan sat down on the job. For the next 44 days workers refused to work or leave the Fisher One and Two plants, and later Chevrolet Number 4. [Read More]

Australia and U.S. Labor: Transnational Influences and Historical Comparisons

Robin Archer (UK) making a comment with Verity Burgmann (Australia) Dianne Hall (Australia) and Jennie Jeppesen (Australia) in audienceBy Peter Cole, Shelton Stromquist on January 30, 2015 | Comments: (0)

For three days in early January—summertime in the land “down under”—historians and other scholars interested in labor gathered on the campus of Australia’s oldest school of higher learning, the University of Sydney, for the lively Australian-US Comparative and Transnational Labour History Conference. This landmark gathering was co-sponsored by the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (AASLH), the Business and Labour History Group (at University of Sydney’s School of Business), and the US-based Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA). Greg Patmore (University of Sydney) and Shelton Stromquist (University of Iowa) conceived of and organized this conference, as they both possess long-standing research interests using comparative and transnational methods to examine labor, business, and politics in these two nations and others. [Read More]

Protest, Politics and Policing: What Bayard Rustin Could Tell the Ferguson-Garner Movement

Rustin at a news briefing on the Civil Rights March on Washington, August 27, 1963By Roberta Gold on January 19, 2015 | Comments: (1)

“I can’t breathe” actions in street crossings, sports fields and other civic spaces have blown new life into civil rights public history. Demonstrators seek their antecedents, and scholars are eager to remedy America’s amnesia of past struggles against police violence. But bygone reformers and rebels won little. Activists hoping for better this time might heed one forebear in particular: Bayard Rustin. [Read More]

Older Entries

Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein, “History Shows How 2 Million Workers Lost Rights,” Time

By Eileen Boris, Jennifer Klein on January 14, 2015 | Comments: (0)

Over the last year, the nation has seen a tumultuous wave of low-wage workers contesting terms of employment that perpetually leave them impoverished and economically insecure. It’s a fight in which home-care workers—one of the fastest growing labor forces—have long participated, as home attendants and aides have historically been singled out for denial of basic labor rights. [Read More]

LAWCHA Session at the 2015 AHA: “From the Frontlines with New York Labor: What Is Working?”

By Lara Vapnek on January 13, 2015 | Comments: (1)

Historians and activists gathered at the Murphy Institute on Friday, January 2nd for a LAWCHA event: “From the Frontlines with New York Labor: What Is Working?” CUNY professor Josh Freeman chaired a lively discussion featuring three organizers who suggested creative solutions to some of the serious challenges labor faces. [Read More]

Stop Kidding Yourself: The Police Were Created to Control Working Class and Poor People

By Sam Mitrani on December 29, 2014 | Comments: (74)

In most of the liberal discussions of the recent police killings of unarmed black men, there is an underlying assumption that the police are supposed to protect and serve the population. That is, after all, what they were created to do. [Read More]

Ferguson and Emerson Electric: The Paradox of Imperial Reach

By Henry Berger on December 19, 2014 | Comments: (0)

Six weeks following the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri Emerson Electric Chairman and CEO, Michael Farr, unveiled the corporation’s $1.5 million “Forward Program,” a multifaceted five year education and employment package to support “renewed community enrichment and development in Ferguson and the North County area.” [Read More]

Long Time LAWCHA Activist Undertakes Building a New Institution Devoted to Working Class History

By Peter Rachleff on December 15, 2014 | Comments: (3)

A year and a half ago, I left Macalester College after a three decades-long career. I decided that it's time to devote myself more fully and directly to the kind of work I have educated many students to do. [Read More]

Launch of LAWCHA’s Teacher/Public Sector Initiative

By Rosemary Feurer on December 9, 2014 | Comments: (8)

Today we launch the teachers/public sector toolkit, a set of resources that we hope will contribute to dialog on teacher and public sector unionism. We are asking for help in disseminating and adding to this toolkit, which is accessible under teaching resources. [Read More]

Growing Apart by Colin Gordon: Great Teaching Resource

By Rosemary Feurer on November 14, 2014 | Comments: (0)

Growing Apart is one of the most valuable tools for teaching about labor and inequality that I have seen in recent years. It’s a one-stop place for all the great graphs and charts to show the rise in inequality, the rise of right-to-work states, the declining value of the minimum wage versus the rise in executive pay at the top.This great new website by Colin Gordon is a treasure trove as a teaching resource. [Read More]

Dining Out in Dinkytown: Remembering the Minneapolis Truckers’ Strikes of 1934

By Bryan Palmer on November 7, 2014 | Comments: (1)

This is a different and expanded version of a previously published essay that appeared in Jacobin. Dinkytown’s Best Breakfast If you are in Minneapolis, after a hard day’s night, the place to go for a morning pick-me-up is Al’s Breakfast. Or so I was informed. Being in the Twin Cities in mid-July, I made my way to the legendary AM eatery, located in the heart of Dinkytown, the neighborhood adjacent to the University of Minnesota where Al’s is located. [Read More]

A Century of Teacher Organizing: What Can We Learn?

By Adam Mertz on October 30, 2014 | Comments: (0)

The history of teacher unionism is rich and vibrant, filled with numerous triumphs, tensions, and setbacks. For over a century, most education employees have been part of a public sector workforce that has been constrained by legal frameworks that assume that they are not entitled to the same rights as private sector workers. Because they comprise the largest segment of public sector labor, the story of why and how teachers sought to organize helps us understand many current debates surrounding education policies and the labor movement.

Title VII’s Legacy

By Erik Loomis on October 15, 2014 | Comments: (0)

The latest issue of Labor:Studies of Working Class History of the Americas has an excellent forum (available on the right side of this screen, courtesy of Duke University Press) on the legacy of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A half-century after the Civil Rights Act passed, the American workforce looks far different than in 1964 and the nation has certainly not achieved equality at work. Yet Title VII accomplished a tremendous amount, giving workers a legal tool to force the desegregation of much of the American workplace. [Read More]

“Behind Every Worker is a Family,” by Wendy Z. Goldman

By Ryan Poe on October 10, 2014 | Comments: (0)

In Buenos Aires, I spoke to a crowded auditorium of 700 workers, students, and faculty. Workers came from the Lear plant, from the transportation sector, and from other factories. One of the most moving comments was made by an older domestic worker who came up to the stage. She explained that she spent her entire life cleaning the houses of wealthy people. “The Bolsheviks talked about the socialization of household labor,” she said. “Today, only women do this work. And if a woman is wealthy enough, she pays another women like me to do it.” [Read More]

Comrades & Cowboys

By Mark Lause on September 30, 2014 | Comments: (2)

In 1886, several prominent European socialists came through Cincinnati in search of insights into America. Their local comrades--“delightful German-American friends” took them to a local dime museum. There, a showman introduced cowboys with “stereotyped speeches about them,” as his subjects lounged about “in their picturesque garb, and looking terribly bored.” Then, one of the cowboys, “singularly handsome face and figure, with the frankest of blue eyes, rose and spoke a piece. To our great astonishment he plunged at once into a denunciation of capitalists in general and of the ranch-owners in particular.” [Read More]

The Right’s Working-Class Philosopher

By Peter Cole on September 10, 2014 | Comments: (1)

Original posted in Jacobin on September 2, 2014. Eric Hoffer was a conservative who only had the time to write because he was represented by a powerful leftist union. [Read More]

New Projects from the Labor Archives Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists

By Conor Casey on September 5, 2014 | Comments: (2)

In an effort to update and expand tools for Labor Archives Roundtable members and our users, the Labor Archives Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists has been working on new projects of interest to LAWCHA members. [Read More]

Michael Sacco on Steve Early’s Save Our Unions

By Michael Sacco on August 28, 2014 | Comments: (3)

Labor law is outdated and rotten in the US, corporations have an inordinate amount of power, so it is rare that unions win or even strike these days. Solid activist leadership in our unions is rare in these last decades of concessionary bargaining and the sustained war on the working class. The lack of a class perspective by many Americans makes them susceptible to the ugliest sorts of manipulation against their own interests. [Read More]

Are Labor and Working-Class History Courses in Decline, or Healthier than We Imagined?

By James Barrett on August 24, 2014 | Comments: (3)

Are courses in labor and working-class history in higher education on the decline? If so, is this a particular problem, or part of a more general crisis in the discipline? Are students less interested in labor history than they once were? [Read More]

On Ferguson, Missouri: History, Protest, and “Respectability”

By Clarence Lang on August 17, 2014 | Comments: (1)

It is difficult to write about the situation in the black working-class community of Ferguson, Missouri, which began last week with the police shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. It is difficult because the details of the case have evolved so rapidly and unpredictably. Who knows where all of this is going? But here is what is clear to me. [Read More]

AFSCME, the United Negro College Fund, and Koch Money – Meanings for the Black Public Sphere

By Clarence Lang on August 4, 2014 | Comments: (0)

Lee A. Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), recently announced that his union is severing ties with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), effective September 1. For about a decade, the two organizations had been partners in the Union Scholars Program, which introduced students of color to the labor movement, funded recipients’ education expenses during their junior and senior years, and served as a pipeline to employment opportunities in AFSCME and social justice organizations. [Read More]

The Supreme Court’s War on Women, Workers, and the 99%

By Erik Loomis on July 2, 2014 | Comments: (0)

Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued two 5-4 decisions. The first, Harris v. Quinn, ruled that home health care workers are partial state employees and thus do not have to pay union dues, effectively creating right to work for a specific type of public employees. [Read More]

Made within/outside the EU: what’s the difference?

By Rutvica Andrijasevic on June 12, 2014 | Comments: (0)

In a dormitory beside a railway station there are several hundred migrant workers getting ready for – or else just returning from – their 12-hour shifts in the nearby Foxconn factory. Most of them were recruited by Express People, one of the Czech Republic’s 1,300 temporary work agencies. [Read More]

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