Study Group -- Labor, Equality, and American Civic Life


Wednesday, March 4, 2020, 12:00pm to 1:15pm


124 Mt Auburn Street, South Lobby, Suite 160S, Room 105

Join Ash Center Democracy Fellows Johnnie Lotesta and Gali Racabi for the second session of their spring semester 2020 study group on the struggles and successes of the U.S. labor movement. Popular and scholarly attention to the American labor movement is often bifurcated between two spheres of action: shop floor negotiations and the ivory halls of federal legislative and legal institutions. This second session explores a third, often under-appreciated sphere of labor action - civil society. The study group will examine the American labor movement as a network of organizations and individuals that have played important civic roles, including the education and turnout of voters, the construction of collective political and community consciousness, and the advancement of claims for legal and political recognition by marginalized groups. Participants will pay special attention to the latter by exploring the successes and limitations of labor’s alignment with the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as current efforts to achieve intersectional organizing. 

Guest speakers include: William P. Jones, Professor of History, University of Minnesota & Vice President of the Labor and Working Class History Association;  Erica Smiley, Executive Director, Jobs with Justice

Lunch will be served. Seating preference will be given to students. No preregistration or RSVP is necessary. 

Students are encouraged to sign up to the study group listserv to receive important updates and reading materials.

Throughout the course of the semester, the study group will examine unions’ past efforts to represent and give voice to marginalized groups within the workplace and without. The study group will also look at the role of the labor movement in important social transformations – such as the advancement of civil rights – as well as the organized attacks that have contributed to labor’s decline in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The study group will conclude with an eye towards the future, debating the prospects for aspirational labor law reform at the federal level. In these ways, the study group aims to shine light on labor organizing innovations past and present in order to deepen scholarly and practitioner insight into the possibilities for cross-sectional, worker-driven institutional change in the American context.