Chicago, Illinois, 2021

Already registered? Find your session on our Zoom Info page to participate!

Organizing Committee

  • Emma Amador
  • Peter Cole, co-chair
  • Keona Ervin, co-chair
  • Shennette Garrett-Scott
  • Toni Gilpin
  • Sergio González
  • Robert Johnston
  • Manu Karuka
  • Mark Lause
  • James McElroy
  • Sarah McNamara
  • Tejasvi Nagaraja
  • Colleen O’Neill
  • Paul Ortiz
  • Sarah Rose
  • Marcia Walker-McWilliams
  • Lane Windham
  • David Zonderman

2021 LAWCHA Conference

Workers on the Front Lines

May 20-28, 2021


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Because of the uncertainty caused by the global pandemic, the biennial conference of LAWCHA, 2021 Workers on the Front Lines will be delivered in a virtual format. The conference’s events will take place between May 20 and May 28, with conference sessions convening on Friday and Saturday, May 21-22 and Thursday and Friday, May 27-28. Registration is now “open,” please click on the button above. The program is available for download. A brief schedule of conference events can be found below and the program accessed and downloaded.

Please contact with any questions.

Thursday, May 20: Opening Night Plenary: College for All and a National Agenda for Labor in Higher Education. This event will be livestreamed and open to all, but does require registration.

Friday and Saturday, May 21-22: Two sessions of panels during the day with an event in the evening.*

Monday, May 24: An evening cultural event cosponsored by the United Association for Labor Education (UALE) and LAWCHA.

Tuesday, May 25: LAWCHA Board Meeting (12-3pm ET) and an evening film screening of 9to5: The Story of a Movement, cosponsored with UALE.

Wednesday, May 26: LAWCHA Membership Meeting, 6-7:30pm ET.

Thursday and Friday, May 27-28: Two sessions of panels during the day with an event in the evening.*

*Daytime sessions will take place at 12:00-1:15pm ET and 1:45-3:00pm ET.

All participants in events connected with this conference are expected to read, understand and abide by LAWCHA’s Anti-Harassment Policy. The team responsible for investigating possible violations of that policy is made up of:

Shennette Garrett-Scott, Claire Goldstene, Manu Karuka, Sophia Lee, and Jon Shelton

If you believe the policy has or may have been violated, please contact the investigative team at or 305.209.7314. These contacts are not monitored overnight but at other times someone will respond within 3 hours. Reports of violations will be kept confidential to the extent possible, and investigations will be initiated only at the request of the reporter unless the safety of a meeting participant is potentially at risk.

The Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA), an organization of scholars, teachers, students, labor educators, and activists, will hold its annual conference in 2021 virtually between May 21 and May 28. The theme for our 2021 conference will be Workers on the Front Lines. Our conference will overlap with that of the United Association for Labor Education (UALE), which is scheduled May 24 to 27, allowing for shared programming and dialogue. UALE is a network organization dedicated to worker and workplace training and education.

Be it in pandemics, natural disasters, industrial “accidents,” or wars, workers always have been and remain on the front lines. The coronavirus crisis has put many workers in harm’s way. Too many are deemed “essential” and then underpaid while workers better paid and sheltering in place also suffer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, precarious workers take home poverty wages while forced by employers to undergo new bodily policing procedures and risk their health and safety and that of their communities. This crisis has widened and deepened when it intersected with protests exploding in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. The pre-existing conditions of racism and police brutality—combined with COVID-19—further exposed the problems of a capitalist society designed to put profits above workers at all costs. Collectively, these intertwined crises reveal the deep significance of labor and working-class history to understanding our current moment. In 2021, LAWCHA seeks presentations that explore the experiences of workers on the front lines, interrogating the meanings of “essential” and “front line” across time and place, examining the stories of workers at the forefront of movements for democracy, sovereignty, rights, and freedoms, and what those histories mean for us today. Truly, there is no better place to hold this conference than Chicago.

The program committee encourages the submission of comparative, global, and transnational panels; sessions on “front line” or “essential “workers; workers and global supply chains; immigration and migration; gender, sexuality and work; the intersection of public health, medical care, and work with eyes towards marginalized workers including Black, Brown, Indigenous, Latinxs workers, and people with disabilities; working-class and labor movements for justice and democracy. We encourage presentations on the United States, across the Americas and beyond, in all time periods; teaching and public history; race, ethnicity, gender, disability, colonialism, citizenship status, and sexuality; workingclass communities and social movements. Proposals on other labor and working-class topics are also welcome.

We will consider traditional panels with 3 papers; lightning sessions of 4-to-6 very short presentations; roundtables of 5-6 people discussing a larger theme; workshops; performance-oriented sessions featuring artistic work; and moderated conversations between activists or artists and historians. All sessions must designate a comment/chair or moderator/chair separate from presenters. Please note if your proposal includes UALE members and/or aligns with the UALE conference.

We welcome proposals from scholars and activists in all fields, and especially urge contingent faculty and independent scholars to submit panel proposals and papers, not necessarily related to the labor issues concerning employment status in the field.

We encourage the submission of complete panels rather than individual papers. Single paper authors are encouraged to seek out others prior to submission. To assist, the conference has created a collaboration form where individuals can post ideas and seek others to create panels. Proposals for complete panels should include a one-page session description that includes a short narrative of the session’s theme, abstracts for each paper or short summary of each presenter’s focus, and two-page CV for each participant including chair and/or commentator. Proposals for individual presentations should include a one-paragraph description and two-page CV. Include contact information for all participants. The deadline for submissions is October 15, 2020. We plan to announce acceptance of submissions in December 2020 or early January 2021.

Please use this link to connect to the submission portal to upload a proposal.

Please use this link to access the collaboration form to create a panel.

Please contact with any questions.


Duke University Press
Duke University Press