Category Archives: Labor History

Pathways to Modes of Movement Participation: Micromobilization in the Nashville Civil Rights Movement

Source: Larry W Isaac, Jonathan S Coley, Daniel B Cornfield, Dennis C Dickerson, Social Forces, Volume 99, Issue 1, September 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We employ a unique sample of participants in the early 1960s Nashville civil rights movement to examine within-movement micromobilization processes. Rather than assuming movement micromobilization and participation is internally homogeneous, we extend the literature by identifying distinct types of pathways (entry and preparation) and distinct types (or modes) of movement participation. Pathways into the Nashville movement are largely structured a priori by race, by several distinct points of entry (politically pulled, directly recruited, or professionally pushed), and by prior experience or training in nonviolent direct action. Participation falls into a distinct division of movement labor characterized by several major modes of participation—core cadre, soldiers, and supporters. We demonstrate that pathways and modes of participation are systematically linked and that qualitatively distinct pathways contribute to understanding qualitative modes of movement participation. Specifically, all core cadre members were pulled into activism, soldiers were either pulled or recruited, and supporters were pulled, recruited, or pushed. Highly organized, disciplined, and intense workshop training proved to be integral in becoming a member of the core cadre but not for soldier or supporter roles. We conclude that social movement studies would do well to pay more attention to variability in structured pathways to, preparation for, and qualitative dimensions of movement participation. These dimensions are critical to further understanding the way movements and their participants move and add insights regarding an important chapter in the southern civil rights movement. The implications of our findings extend to modes of movement activism more generally.

Privatizing Employment Law: The Expansion of Mandatory Arbitration in the Workplace

Source: Sarah Staszak, Studies in American Political Development, First View, July 7, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines the institutional, political, and legal development of employment arbitration as it shifted from a Progressive Era form of justice enhancement to one co-opted by business-friendly conservatives arguably more concerned with protecting employers from litigation. While arbitration has a long history in the United States, the expanding use of mandatory, employer-promulgated arbitration clauses has more than doubled since the 2000s. In examining the nature of the shift, this article argues that it occurred through a gradual process of conversion in three institutional realms (1) legislative conversion, (2) private-sector conversion of public regulation, and (3) judicial conversion. Facilitated by a growing divide among Democrats on the value of arbitration, conservatives began to promote it in the 1970s and 1980s as backlash to the expansion of statutory employment rights. I argue that they did so by converting the institutional infrastructures of labor and commercial arbitration, a process continued by the private sector and Supreme Court. As such, this article argues that conversion is the product of multiple actors targeting multiple institutions, over decades, and with consequences for both the literature on institutional change and conceptions of equality under the law.

Development on a Cracked Foundation: How the Incomplete Nature of New Deal Labor Reform Presaged its Ultimate Decline

Source: Leo E. Strine Jr., Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 19-48, November 22, 2019

From the abstract:
Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Margaret Levi, and Barry R. Weingast’s excellent essay, Twentieth Century America as a Developing Country, Conflict, Institutional Change and the Evolution of Public Law, celebrates the period during which the National Labor Relations Act facilitated the peaceful resolution of labor disputes and improved the working conditions of American workers. These distinguished authors make a strong case for the essentiality of law in regulating labor relations and the importance of national culture in providing a solid context for the emergence of legal regimes facilitating economic growth and equality. This reply to their essay explores how the New Deal’s failure to eradicate ideological divisions, racial inequities, and anti-labor power structures rooted in our nation’s history compromised the ultimate success of the NLRA, the protection of labor in the international trading regime, the effectiveness and prevalence of American labor unions, and the overall leverage of American workers.

The reply then addresses two related realities: 1) the New Deal idea that all workers deserve economic security, safe working conditions, and a fair say over the terms and conditions of their employment remains sound; and 2) but that idea cannot be realized unless it is backed by legal force in the institutions of law that govern a now global economy. Put simply, the original vision of FDR calling for a global New Deal must be implemented if American workers and their international brethren are to receive fair treatment.

A Collection of Materials About Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Portrait of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From the National Archives and Records Administration.
Resources from The King Center, Atlanta, Georgia
Complete Transcript of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassination Conspiracy Trial
Martin Luther King Encyclopedia (via Stanford University)
Digitized: Official March on Washington Program (via NARA)
This program listed the events scheduled at the Lincoln Memorial during the August 28, 1963.
● The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University
MLK Day Resources (via Infoplease.com)
Includes: History of the Holiday, Biography of Martin Luther King, Civil Disobedience, King Assassination Conspiracy Theories, The March on Washington, Excerpt from the “I Have a Dream” Speech, Martin Luther King Speeches, Quotes from Martin Luther King, Timelines: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Civil Rights Movement
Voices of Civil Rights Online Exhibition (via Library of Congress)
The exhibition Voices of Civil Rights documents events during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. This exhibition draws from the thousands of personal stories, oral histories, and photographs collected by the “Voices of Civil Rights” project, a collaborative effort of AARP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), and the Library of Congress, and marks the arrival of these materials in the Library’s collection.
Court Documents Related to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Memphis Sanitation Workers (via National Archives and Records Administration)
tion)
We Shall Overcome, Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement (via National Park Service)
Online exhibition.
Nobel Peace Prize Materials (via NobelPrize.org)
Presentation Speech Gunnar Jahn*, Chairman of the Nobel Committee, 1964
MLK’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
December 10, 1964
Transcript of MLK’s Nobel Lecture
December 11, 1964
Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement Resources (The Seattle Times)
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site (via National Park Service)
CNN Student News One-Sheet: Martin Luther King Jr. (via CNN)

Building America – The making of the black working class

Source: William P. Jones, The Nation, October 7, 2019

Books in Review
Workers on Arrival: Black Labor in the Making of America
By Joe William Trotter Jr.

Four hundred years ago, “about the latter end of August,” an English pirate ship called the White Lion landed at Point Comfort in the Virginia Colony carrying “not anything but 20 and odd Negroes,” wrote colonist John Rolfe. Though this is often viewed as the starting point of slavery in what would become the United States, the anniversary is somewhat misleading. Africans, both enslaved and free, had lived in St. Augustine, in Spanish Florida, since the 1560s, and since slavery was not legally sanctioned in Virginia until the 1640s, early arrivals would have occupied a status closer to indentured servants. But those ambiguities only point to how essential people of African descent were to the establishment and development of the imperial outposts that became the United States. It was their work, as much anyone else’s, that helped build the world we live in today.

In his new book, Workers on Arrival, the historian Joe William Trotter Jr. shows that the history of black labor in the United States is thus essential not only to understanding American racism but also to “any discussion of the nation’s productivity, politics, and the future of work in today’s global economy.” At a time when mainstream political rhetoric and analysis related to economic change still tend to center on white men displaced by job loss in manufacturing and mining, similar challenges faced by black workers are often examined through a distinct lens of racial inequality. As a result, Trotter contends, white workers are viewed as the victims of “cultural elites and coddled minorities,” while African American workers suffering from the very same economic and political conditions are treated as “consumers rather than producers, as takers rather than givers, and as liabilities rather than assets.” Reminding us that Africans were brought to the Americas “specifically for their labor” and that their descendants remain “the most exploited and unequal component of the emerging modern capitalist labor force,” Workers on Arrival provides an eloquent and essential correction to contemporary discussions of the American working class…..

Urban Regimes and the Policing of Strikes in Two Gilded Age Cities: New York and Chicago

Source: Richard Schneirov, Studies in American Political Development, First View, September 11, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Since the 1980s, scholars have argued that during the Gilded Age urban party machines incorporated working people through the use of patronage, informal provision of personal welfare, and limited concessions, thereby eliminating sustained labor and Socialist Party alternatives and keeping workers’ militancy and assertiveness confined to the workplace. That view is challenged by a historical comparison of the policing of labor disputes in New York and Chicago. In New York, organized workers were eliminated from the governing coalition of the Swallowtail-Kelly regime that succeeded the Tweed Ring, and police routinely used coercion to defeat strikes and intimidate Socialists. In Chicago, however, labor and Socialists were part of the governing coalition of the Carter Harrison regime, and the police took a hands-off stance in many strikes. This article explores the contrast in policing and the balance of social forces in the two cities and seeks to explain the differences by examining the political settlements that concluded Reconstruction, the ethnic makeup of each city’s working classes, the different characteristics of each city’s labor movement, and labor’s ability to mount third-party challenges—all in the context of regional variations. It concludes that historians cannot assume that workers were incorporated into machines in this period.

How LGBTQ Union Activists Transformed the Labor Movement

Source: Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue, No Class, June 7, 2019

….In 28 U.S. states, queer and trans workers can still be fired due to their sexual orientation and gender identity, and a strong union contract is often the only legally binding workplace protection available to LGBTQIA workers to fight employment discrimination. This is especially important because of the high unemployment rates for transgender and non-binary people — 16% overall — which can be compounded by other factors like racial discrimination, age discrimination, or national origin discrimination…..

‘We Want Both!’: pressuring Philadelphia unions for inclusion and equity during the long 1970s

Source: Alyssa Ribeiro, Labor History, Latest Articles, June 2, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines local labor insurgency in Philadelphia between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s. Drawing on alternative press sources, it traces the efforts of Black, Puerto Rican, and female workers to reshape their unions as stable employment opportunities declined. Across industries and job sites, workers pressured both their unions and their employers through public criticism, running slates of candidates in union elections, and taking part in picketing and wildcat strikes. Existing scholarship has privileged rank-and-file activism among White men focused on wages and working conditions. Enlarging our view to include a more representative workforce at the local level while following workers’ resistance forward through time recharacterizes the rank-and-file rebellion to include defiant, multiracial coalitions demanding progressive reform. That broader rebellion, in turn, challenges some long-held assumptions about US labor during the 1970s.

Women’s Rights: Primary Sources and Teaching Activities

Source: National Archives, DocsTeach, 2019

Women’s Rights and Roles in American History

When our Constitution was written, it was silent on women. Excluded from most of the rights and privileges of citizenship, women operated in limited and rigid roles while enslaved women were excluded from all. Yet women have actively participated as citizens—organizing, marching, petitioning—since the founding of our country. Sometimes quietly, and sometimes with a roar, women’s roles have been redefined. Use this page to find primary sources and document-based teaching activities related to women’s rights and changing roles in American history. Many of the documents, photographs, and other sources are also featured in the exhibits Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote, at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, and One Half of the People: Advancing Equality for Women, traveling the country.

Related:
Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote
Source: Library of Congress, 2019

This exhibition will tell the story of the long campaign for women’s suffrage – considered the largest reform movement in American history – which lasted more than seven decades. The struggle was not for the fainthearted. For years, determined women organized, lobbied, paraded, petitioned, lectured, picketed, and faced imprisonment.

The exhibition draws from the Library’s extensive collection of personal papers of such figures as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Mary Church Terrell, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Carrie Chapman Catt, as well as the organizational records of the National Woman’s Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, among others. Documents, images, video and audio recordings trace the movement leading to the women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, through the contributions of suffragists who worked to persuade women that they deserved the same rights as men, the divergent political strategies and internal divisions they overcame, the push for a federal women’s suffrage amendment and the legacy of this movement.

Related Links

  • Votes for Women: Selected Images from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
  • Web Guide: Nineteenth Amendment, Researcher and Reference Services
  • Digital Collections

  • Susan B. Anthony Papers
  • Carrie Chapman Catt Papers
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers
  • Mary Church Terrell Papers
  • National American Woman Suffrage Association Papers
  • Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party
  • Suffrage Sheet Music
  • For Teachers

  • Primary Source Set: Women’s Suffrage
  • Suffrage Strategies: Voices for Votes
  • Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection 1848-1921
  • Votes for Women: Suffrage Pictures
  • Women Have Had The Right To Vote For 100 Years. Here’s How To Celebrate
    Source: Mikaela Lefrak, WAMU, May 16, 2019

    The history of women’s suffrage and the landscape of Washington, D.C. are inextricably tied. It took decades of women organizing near the Capitol, picketing outside the White House, lobbying Congress and marching on the National Mall to win the right to vote. This June 4 marks the 100-year anniversary of Congress’ passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex. Museums and institutions around the District are marking the centennial with exhibitions on the movement’s history and leaders. Here are five of our top picks for places to learn about key women suffragists, the movement’s strategic wins and moral failings and how the fight for voting rights continues today.

    1. Untold Stories: The National Portrait Gallery …..
    2. Primary Sources: The National Archives …..
    3. The Room Where It Happened: Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument …..
    4. Personal Papers Galore: The Library of Congress …..
    5: Tables And Wagons: The National Museum of American History …..
    …..

    Influence without Bargaining: Unionization at the University of Wisconsin, 1930–1957

    Source: Timothy Reese Cain, Philip J. Wilkinson, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Vol. 16 no. 2, May 2019
    (subscription required)

    From the abstract:
    Through a historical case study of the University of Wisconsin Teachers Union (American Federation of Teachers Local 223) this article considers the roles that early unionized faculty could play in influencing their institution without ever pursuing a contract. It argues that the Wisconsin local effectively used research and political power to improve conditions for instructional workers and to affect funding patterns across the institution. It did so while only ever attracting a minority of faculty to join. In addition to its important salary work, which was often focused on improving the conditions of the instructors and others at the lowest ranks, Local 223 addressed an array of educational and societal issues. As such, it had elements of what in the modern era might be considered social movement unionism, combining both efforts to aid members and activities designed for broader social change.