tv Western Labor and Working Class History CSPAN January 2, 2016 10:25am-12:01pm EST
website. coming up next, seven history professors discuss the state of the field for labor and working class history in the west. they also explore some of the primary labor forces in the western states including agriculture and mining could this panel was a part of the 2015 conference in portland, oregon. it is about one hour 30 minutes. >> good morning, everyone. thank you very much for joining us on a slightly overcast day. it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the 2015 western history association conference roundtable conversation on the state of the field for labor history and western history and working class history. the selection of labor historians, one that we love, betsy prompted the creation of
this fashion. professor jamieson is the first of story strongly identified with the field of labor history to hold the presidency since paul did so in 1977. since that time, there has been a remarkable body of excellent labor history produced about the american west, including a large number of prize-winning books, a number of which were written by our panelists. it is fair to say that labor history has played in increasingly minor part in the w h a -- wha, at least that's publicly identified. is to look at ways that continues to offer a critical analytical framework for understanding the history of the north american west. i am delighted a fantastic group of scholars has accepted my
invitation to join this conversation, and i want to underline that we see this very much as a conversation. we have reoriented ourselves to make sure we have plenty of time for folks to engage in this topic. i would also like to thank the labor and working class history association for sponsoring this panel. we are delighted to have them on board. our panelists, in no particular , the directorrcia of the school of historical philosophical and religious studies at arizona state university where he also directs a comparative border studies program. his most recent books, the .riumph and tragedy of chavez colleen o'neill is an associate
professor of history and former tour co-editor. she is the author of "working the navajo way," and is currently working on a book called "labor and sovereignty." tsu is a history professor at the university of california davis. current book project examines the evolution of southeast asian refugee resettlement policy and its intersection with the rise of modern conservatism in the 1970's and 1980's. james gregory, professor of history at the university of washington, nothing university of california washington, and vice president and president-elect of the labor and working class history association. many of us know his work.
his most recent book is the "southern diaspora." he directs the online pacific northwest labor and civil rights project and his current work is on the historical and political geography of american radicalism. chair at the campus university of alberta. he has written many, many publications, including three contributed numerous articles to scholarly publications in north america and overseas. stacy smith, associate professor of history at oregon state university. she is the author of "freedom's frontier." unarguable -- inaugural prize for the labor and working class history association in 2014.
and i am matt basso, i teach at the university of utah. my most recent book is "meet joe copper." the 2014 labor history book award and the pacific coast branch book award. i am currently working on a new project on labor and the evolution of set ideas in the pacific world. that is enough about our back stories. we will be talking more about these and the work we have done and how it links up to this question of the nexus between native history and western history. my introductory comments have alluded to the idea that labor history is perhaps a field on the wane, and perhaps even more problematically a field which students are not attracted to anymore. panelists to ask our
then how they got involved in labor history. anybody? take the microphone. >> i will take it. >> thank you, jeremy. >> i got involved because i did .ot have a television set and now's working as a skilled labor in new zealand. all of the guys were about 30 they would than me, only talk about what was on tv the night before. after a while, i was kind of the technicolor hippie and a lot younger than that. i begin to ask them questions about their own lives. it was like i had flipped a switch and they begin to tell me about how they had survived the depression, and it was amazing. we ended up engaging in what i now realize were oral history sessions. it was this revelation to me
that those stories those guys told me counted as history. i thought, labor history, sign me up. professor basso: thank you. who else? >> mining was a very personal entry. i thought about the two parts of myself, which were on the one hand, coming from an anglo family that worked in sunkist as white-collar workers but never saw themselves as working class, always aspiring to middle-class. but most importantly the , distinction between them and the mexican side of myself which were fruit pickers. i thought it was so interesting that they are bound by the same industry, and that compelled me to try to understand it. from there i continued to follow
, the story of food and farm work. and i still have not really come to a coherent explanation. but that is the origins of my fascination with labor. >> please. >> i came to my particular unfreed which is on labor in a weird way, which is , that i grew up in suburban colorado and i lived near what had been a carriage stopped in -- stop in the colorado gold rush. this was an older deteriorating building near my suburban neighborhood. and i had always heard stories about african-american slaves who were buried on this old, crumbling property. if you really flipped a switch
in my head. african-american slaves in colorado, in the 1850's? it does not make sense to this did not fit the narrative we had. that is how i came to labor history, specifically trying to think about the weird to -- weird dissonance between american southern history and american west history and connect those fields in ways we have not thought about before. professor basso: that is interesting to consider what happens for those of us who integrated ourselves into the 20th century stories, and then the question of labor history beyond oral history, beyond the story of people we knew, family members, or others. did you talk to your family
members about labor history? >> that is where it began. i started with testimonials, where we would have a conversation mostly around my mexican family table. usually with a mexicans do that we ate -- mexican stew that we ate in the morning. and there were these private conversations about working for what we often call for man, but in this case it was more often the claremont colleges where my grandmother worked in food services for 63 years. and yet the public presentation was something different because we were a mexican family. we had to mind our manners, we had to ensure that that job was protected. i was fascinated by the internal conversation, and the outward presentation. and i have spent the rest of my life really embarrassing my grandmother by sharing those
stories that were happening around the table, and doing it in a formal way, oral history. common sense of what was kind of a testimonial and then formalized it through my mentorship with vicki louise, a fantastic practitioner. so it gave me a methodology for something that was familiar to me all my life. professor basso: when you have done your various projects, i know you have interviewed a lot of people. have you run across people who will not describe themselves as workers? who will go out of their way to not put themselves in that frame? >> i do not think the people i have sought out and talked to would do that. the projects that the pacific northwest project are about activism.
a lot of what i am doing for years is studying activism his the good thing about interviewing people with activist backgrounds is that they want to talk, they can talk, and oral history becomes almost turn on the camera and let them go. so, your question, i thought i would jump back to the how we got involved. i was a young student activist in the 1970's in santa barbara. bad -- and i first discovered the wobblies, that is what made me a labor historian. the connection between what the wobblies seem to have done half-century earlier, and what people had done in the 1970's seems so natural. i remember finding in a flea market an old original copy of ralph chaplin's centrale you of -- of tragedy.
it is now deteriorating. at one point, the first time i ever came to the north west, friends and i drove -- we were driving to centralia. seattle, we saw that, but we were going to centralia. i had a very visceral connection from sort of undergraduate years, which -- can i say one other thing? when you are talking about personal -- this is about western history and labor history and how they interact for me they have always been the , same. from the moment i started into graduate school. it was western labor history. that is what it was for me. and i have always seen the field kind of doing this. even though our proposition is that we are not doing that enough. professor basso: that is intriguing, because that has not been the case for me.
in some ways i feel more tied to , labor history than to labor -- weston -- western history. it took some work to see myself as a western historian. my workers were in the west, but they did not have that western patina at first blush for me. it was a little bit more work in some ways to see myself, because i looked at western history journals, i looked at conferences, and again some you see some panels on western history. excuse me, some panels on labor history, but you do not necessarily see a dominant presence as you would in other conferences i would go to. where do other folks stand on that? >> what is interesting for me is that i have often been asked are you a labor historian or are you an american indian historian? i have always been pigeonholed in those paradigms.
so i had a hard time locating my work in a disciplinary home. i would go to labor history conferences, and what i have seen, when we have labor histories for people of color, they fit into a civil rights paradigm. we have a lot of scholarship that connects people of color using unions as a way to strengthen their claims to civil rights. and kind of transforming unions into advocacy for human rights. so we have a big role for the farmworkers, for the sanitation workers, for the brotherhood of sleeping car porters. as major changes. but american indians do not have a cesar chavez, right? in terms of an american labor
leader who creates this civil rights movement. what i'm trying to rethink is that we need to contextualize this struggle around the issue of colonialism. we start thinking about colonialism, then we can draw on the great scholarship of people who have been doing work in the colonized context. and colonial context. the great work of people like frederick cooper and all the people who have really taken the connection between class and colonialism. and that is happening in south asia, among people really making those connections. if we start to think about the west in that way, the workers become part of that story. in fact, american indian labor
history is on the rise right -- the rise, so that is what is really interesting. it counters that narrative that we are not doing -- it is falling apart. we have stories about nurses, -- native nurses, labor history, stories about fishermen, berry pickers. we have stories about indian workers in hollywood and domestic work, so we have those stories. the latest prize went to a n author about berry pickers. i'm sorry, the montgomery award. that shows you that this actually is a deepening field in this way. but it is not the same story that the civil rights union
ism tells. it is interesting to be concerned about our paradigm. professor basso: what is your sense of how the story has played out in asian-american history? >> it is a little bit different. in thinking about asian-american history, it seems on one hand, we know that the history of the land of the west has filled with examples of asian american labor in the construction of gold mines,oads, -- gold railroads, agriculture and so forth but on the other hand , there is a lack of dedicated history of head asian-american history and it is ironic given the origins of the field and how it emerged in the late 1960's, the influence of the new social history and the emphasis on the working-class status of asian immigrants. that also serve to the goal of activists who are trying to counter this model minority
stereotype that asians were well-to-do middle-class professionals. in graduate school what struck , me about this if there was -- is there was surprisingly little empirical study beyond these early studies from the 1970's, 1980's. it is as if the scholars assume that that history has been done. and we knew enough about workers. and they moved on to other issues, and second-generation community formation. and still, i think this was a hole. historyit in the labor when you are talking about agriculture, so this is what got me interested in the research for my book and thinking about the ufw and the filipinos within
that. my friend is working on this great work. but when i teach california history, or u.s. history, or asian-american history and i talk about the place of filipinos within that labor movement, none of my students know about this. it is a huge surprise to them and they are floored by the pictures. there is that aspect of forgotten history, and even thinking about chinese railroad workers. we think of them as the quintessential asian laborer, but this was just several years ago that over at stanford they started this chinese railroad worker project because there is the premise that there has been little scholarship on the group. and we know very little about who these people were, how they were recruited, and how they lived and died. there is that kind of irony there, and there are new directions and new studies in
american -- asian-american history that is addressing that. it might be from the angle of colonialism, the pacific world, and thinking about the white pacific and labor discourse. professor basso: do your students, when you say, would you tell them this history, do they get excited around the concept of labor and studying work? or is that part of the story that they might look into, but it is not centrally intriguing to them? what is your sense of how students respond? >> that is a good question. i think they are interested. i am a social and cultural historian, so that becomes the main emphasis of my courses. so labor is a big part of that. many of them come from working-class backgrounds. that informs their lives. 40% of the, we have
student population is asian seeingns, so i think themselves in that history is a point of entry. professor basso: when it doesn't -- but it doesn't need to be reframed to be a transpacific story? >> no. absolutely not. >> i like your question, and i like your conversation. it is still begs the question of why there is this division between labor history and worker history in the 20th century. i think it cuts along the lines of not just simply that the labor history conferences happening right now -- [laughter] that is an easy argument. always conflict to their -- conflict there. but the second is the days of of these bowie knife are gone. you all know about that.
and yet this seems awkwardly placed in the american association. these movements we are talking about are people who have agency, who are maybe redefining what's labor looks like. if you look at the farm movement, even that is safely tucked away in the past. then we don't want to hear anymore about the farm workers. in fact, what happens in the 1970's and 1980's is absolutely essential to understanding how immigrants organize themselves today, and how that immigration act is transforming labor across the united states. sciu and like the justice for janitors does not happen without grappling with the idea that these mexican immigrants, who were actually
pushed out of the united farm workers, really got empowered by that. they said let's learn from the mistakes of the 1970's and 80's. but the problem here is we need to understand the complexity of the agency, and that of people of color, and how they are redefining what labor history is and what it means to be a worker. but they are doing it in the west. and they are doing it in modern times. that is why i always feel like there is a bit of tension with western history. i feel like there is this kind of 19th century early 20th century, or even with particular topics like my own, a kind of time and place for you this because by it, and then we don't want to hear anymore. >> i would like to say that the big elephant in the room is the waning influence in the labor movement.
that is part of why we have a less labor history because when it gets its start, workers and organizers want to know their history. and we have a development of worker education programs. and as that has declined, the interests i think the client, unfortunately. my students in their right to work state do not know what unions are. my graduate students do not know what unions are. i have to start from that place, then i have to fight all of the -- all of the really -- the prejudices and misinformation how unions have been characterized. that is part of our problem. we are connected, our discipline is connected to the social movement. and so maybe what we need to think about is how we refrain -- reframe the social movement to
o- the labor history t connect with the social movement? i really think the civil rights paradigm is important, but perhaps we need to rethink our paradigms a bit to think about how to think about class in a different context. professor basso: what is your perspective from canada? is this a similar problem in that part of the american northwest? what is the relation between labor history and canadian western history? >> i am glad you asked. [laughter] as with other things, i think there are differences, and some of them are subtle differences. the differences in political structures has had a real impact on what i would argue are the differences.
just to give you one factoid, over the last 20 years there have been 12 different leaders of the opposition in ottawa from six different parties. so there is a much more diverse political culture. in western canada, it is a political pulled sure -- political culture that has seen the election now in all four of the western provinces. i would not call it a socialist government, but certainly a slightly pink social democratic party that is now being in power or has held power in all 4 provinces. historyso say that the -- the political history and the labor history has not been airbrushed out of the present. somewhat bizarrely, 11 years ago, there was a publicized
contest for the greatest canadian ever. and there were the predictable nominees. but the winner was tommy douglas, for those of you who don't know, led the first socialist government in saskatchewan. elected in 1944. if not the architect, he certainly played a key role in the introduction of canadian medicare. he was elected, chosen, as the greatest canadian ever. so western canadians think about labor, and it might be a stretch to say think about the working-class, but labor is not silent. there are protections in the constitution for picketing and union membership, which is probably quite different in some of the american differences. and some that could be explored
would be the impact of past, which particularly in british columbia where there is a number of unions, there is significant social unrest and so on. it is different north of the border. i think it is also different because, and i see this as less positive, perhaps, betsy and i once wrote an article about this, the canadian imaginary -- national imaginary puts less weight on the canadian west. so there is not a collective canadian west in the 20th century as the same way there appears to be a collective american west. these are provinces that have all had working-class governments. you cannot dodge the question, if you wrote them out of history their absence would be notable. professor gregory: i come from baja, british columbia, which
-- the state of washington. [laughter] which shares with our northern comrades both a history and current gravitas for the movement that is in sharp contrast to arizona. the political institutions have a strong labor sense to them. and the academic institutions, laurie, you could probably join in, tend to recognize labor and labor studies. certainly one of our bigger , accomplishments was getting the state of washington to create a labor archive, which the legislature has finally funded after we raised about three quarters of a million dollars from unions and supporters to just reserve labor preserve -- -- preserve labor history. that exercise was actually a wonderful chance to interact both with unions and the labor
movement, and mobilize the community about thinking -- in thinking about labor as important. in other states that could be a really good enterprise for labor historians. but one other thought, just to get back to your big question -- how much is this branding? i have always thought, lawcha understands labor and working-class history to be all of the things that we do and everyone in this room. it is all the struggles for equality and justice. it has fundamentally to do with race and gender. it is not just unions. i have never really written about unions. that is my way of being a labor historian. and so, i think lawcha should claim this. and it is really almost a matter
of explaining to people you are a labor historian because this is your work. maybe we need messaging strategy. [laughter] professor basso: it is a fabulous point. i do not teach a labor history class. i do not know who in our panel teaches a labor history class that is branded as a labor history class. zero? professor gregory: i teach a course called class, labor, and american capitalism. labor is definitely in there. professor basso: and yes, when i -- yet, when i talk to my students about work, they are very passionate about it. they are deeply engaged in it. they understand the way gender and race structure that. they understand history of power through labor. these are our most vital conversations, and yet i do not teach a class called labor history.
one of the things that has been intriguing is the rise of history as capitalism. which we do teach at the university of utah. that host: -- that is a very popular class. in the business school. [laughter] professor garcia: it is a very slippery slope. you can get quickly away from the experience of work. we should study unions, even though i agree with you that that may not be the best entry point in terms of attracting students. i rebranded my class from a labor history class to working in america. i've start with the occupy movement, even though it is not western. and demonstrate that 99% of us have purchase on this idea. it is extremely important to the majority of people who come to their classes. in terms of the union versus working-class history, i think
that is an interesting tension. for me, after studying, it really makes a difference to understand how unions organize themselves, and what power they have. i think we are doing ourselves a disservice if we jettison the study of former -- formal labor organizations. not just what they achieve, but what they fail to do. i found the greatest lessons are its failures, and how organizations subsequently, and the state pickup from those mistakes, specifically organizing undocumented immigrants in the organization as a policy, and succeeding where the ufw has failed. that then goes throughout the country, and in those organizations i have mentioned
earlier, like justice for janitors. that becomes a very important lesson for groups of workers that want to organize and say -- create something that is so important to them. like a union. but eventually you have to sue for some kind of peace with the state, i believe. and organize yourself so you can have collective bargaining rights. otherwise, it always a kind of extralegal activity. i think there is important in -- importance in studying unions, still. professor basso: as i said earlier, we mean this very much as a conversation, and i would like to invite audience members to chime in on this topic. do you teach labor history? if you teach work and labor in other ways, how do you do it? and this broader question, of where you see the relationship between labor history and labor
and working-class history, and the american west. you, unfortunately, will have to trip over each other and go to a microphone, but i hope you do because we really like to hear from you on your perspective. come on up. david. oh, betsy. go ahead. [laughter] >> first of all, i want to thank all of you. this is a wonderful panel. i was thinking about my trajectory into western history, which is some combination of what matt said and what a -- what jim said. i've did not start out as a western historian, i got seduced into it. and so for me, it was an entry into a history that was
collective, interdependent, that had to do with social change in the late 1960's, which is when i was doing that. in the process, i fell in the west. but the tension that was always there was the history of western labor had been cast erroneous ky -- erroneously as more radical than that of easter labor. and there was attention that remains between the reality of work and organizing in the west, and the popular culture mythology of the west where you are an individual. where you don't act collectively. and i think that, unlike in canada, trying to teach a all of all of theth
different varieties of work which includes women's unpaid labor, but also the way that that work can lead people to act collectively either as families or as -- in unions. still that comes into tension with popular fiction of what the west is. and that's a big problem for me bringing them together for mice -- for my students. following on betsy's point -- >> following on betsy's point and this kind of larger engagement about the west and labor history, other other folks in the audience -- do you use particular strategy to bring labor into the west courses? or do you not see it that way? do you see the more integrated fashion where you don't actually
think about the fact that you are teaching about work and workers? is this a conscious decision? >> could i chime in? something that i've struggled with is rugged individualism in the west. and this sort of thing that the california gold rush, even though i see susan lee johnson back here and nancy, still these events kind of perceptual allies be precapitalist or proto-capitalist endeavors. the metaphors of golden media, lust for gold, gold media, gold fever kind of take it out of its context at the moment and its global capital. and it also transforms workers
in the gold mines. adventurers rather than as laborers. it is something i have really struggled with him and trying to integrate labor history into that story. it's such a pervasive story that i have had both professional historians and archivists approach me and angrily and say -- angrily say are you trying for labor in the gold rush? to me it's not just have not followed up on three labor in the last so much as we haven't thought about the importance of labor to the conquest of the tension of the west. that's what's been a big disconnect for me. the gold rush as great adventure versus a great moment in labor history. >> how do your students react when you frame it as a labor story? >> again, very surprised. theiconic goldrush image is
individual prospector out on a claim in the middle nowhere. somehow there's labor in that picture. panning for gold is labor, but because it has been conceptualized as highly individualistic, as adventure and not a part of capitalism, it's a very upsetting moment for them to sort of think about the gold rush as something other than this individualistic enterprise. to think, well, people were bringing slaves in the california to dig gold, and e have native americans indentured to partnership in california in response to demands for mining labor and sexual labor, so forth. i was thinking about where we could go in western history.
going back to betsy's comment, the idea of markets for domestic labor and sexual labor are still very unexplored topics, especially in the gold rush. susan and other folks have done a great job with that, but it has not kind of permeated the field as much as i would like to see. struck by jim's comment earlier and putting it next tuesday seas, and because i wonder about a project like that would be absolutely fabulous and whether the word labor would fall out. i think that's one of these problems. a lot of the very best on history in western the last two decades do have work and labor at their heart, but it is one of those topics
that seems to fall out. maybe it is not a problem. maybe we will keep on putting workers at the center. for some reason it still seems worrisome for the place and vitality of labor and working class history in the west. you know i keep coming back to , the notion of how popular histories of capitalism are. it kind of drives me crazy. [laughter] >> [indiscernible] [laughter] >> that is what i was going to say. >> i think it's important. historians weor often sacrifice the top for the bottom. i think we have to understand how capitalism work and how to understand what workers are up against. my concern about work falling out is that so much of our lives -- if we think of our own lives
and how work structures over 50% of our lives yet we leave it out, that seems to be a huge mistake on our part. we alwayse also is -- have to be cognizant on the way people organize their lives and be able to give people a kind of tool for understanding their place within this economy. and as workers, really a kind of essential category that we cannot leave out. inside,e one, i think, and a question. the inside is that what hooks your student is that they are workers or their parents are workers, and that is a really powerful hook. labor,about calling it let's call it work and see what happens. my question, which you may not want to deal with this at all, but why is it that easter labor historians have gotten away with ignoring western labor for so long?
>> that is a great question. who wants to tackle it? [laughter] >> well, new york dominates the world, so what can i tell you? [laughter] they are starting to recognize los angeles, but not much. yeah, i think that is all of our perennial problems and challenges. , asink it is getting better are some other things in the profession. a little less parochial in a lot of ways. ann in to be the polly this discussiona, but it does recognize-- we should how amazing the transformations in our discipline, and i would say them particularly in this organization, which not too long ago was, how should i put it, embarrassing. [laughter] now, here -- our president
in the same year as vicki louise is president of aha and the you that patty steps down as president of oah, there is western and labor history flourishing. flourishing. so i think we really need to say, hey, we have done some really good things. i was at the banquet last night and i loved the humor and all of that. years been easily a dozen since i have been at the w h a wha, but it struck me as something i was noticing as really healthy. western history and labor history share a challenge of being both a popular and academic, pulling together two often contradictory audiences. , and in that worked
think it is really working out for both organizations, it is amazing because it keeps the academics grounded, and we have to -- we have to respond to something other than our own little conversations and at the same time it does this multiple work of education and history. in the old days, the wha got pulled too far by one cranky old audience. now it seems to me you still have, we still have, both audiences, but it is much healthier. and the conversation now seems to be very productive and progressive. things arei think going pretty well. and i just want to congratulate betsy one more time. everybody knows how much we love her and what amazing things she has done for the discipline. it is just terrific.
>> back at you. >> if folks have questions, please make your way to the microphone. lori? >> i don't know if i have a question, but just in terms of a strategy to teach more labor history because we know that history courses throughout the country are waning in popularity , and so one strategy we had at washington state -- and i don't know if jose is in the room, but he really initiated this course, workers across the nation. i talked to the business college about to making this course and elective. so this is a way to build enrollment in a course that students may not even know much about. are iners or laborers
the title of the course. when i'm able to teach this course, i have probably 30 business and finance reagan's in there who know nothing about work, but knowut nothing about labor unions. and i have noticed over the that fewer students even have any conception of what a labor union does. so i often bring in labor union activists to talk about what labor unions do, and that is a great way to start a course to begin with students are now because they all have some kind andow-wage labor experience have some immediate interest, even though they think the college degree will be there union card to the middle class. they have some conception of what work and exploitation are about. but i guess a question i have is about this history of capitalism that is so popular today, and there is this burgeoning scholarship about the history of capitalism.
maybe, jim, you could speak to integrate how we do structure along with agency and our teaching. >> well, i will say quickly i think the history of capitalism is fair game for labor historians. and jeff has been doing this and promoting this and running seminars. we should be teaching at because in a sense i have always taught labor history as labor economy. a couple years ago, i changed the title a little bit to recognize that and pull in some of the business students. know, we don'tu want to leave it to the business school. >> i just want to second that. our business school at utah state is heavily funded by the koch brothers. and so, i mean, it is pretty
tough third i would really like -- it is pretty tough. i would really like to see us contest. it seems like capitalists -- i remember a billboard by "forbes" magazine, capitalist tool. at the same time, we were running from the language of capitalism. you cannot even find capitalism in -- what was it her book was criticized for not using the "c" word, capitalism, right? it to made is kind of run away from marxist frameworks and stuff like that, except in canada. [laughter] and so i think we really need to
reclaim that space. work,ecifically with my bringing native peoples and colonialism into the history of capitalism in a way that does not happen in a lot of those business school classes. frankly, it doesn't happen with some of the recent histories of capitalism, the kind of brand new histories of capitalism that is coming out. they are trying to line themselves with issues of social justice. indians do not fit into that story at all. so i think if we start to reintegrate that notion of settler colonialism in the story of capitalism, then the west is exactly essential to that story. >> sir? >> yes. i am not a labor historian, just an old trial lawyer. but the mexican american history largely in the united states is western history.
and out is very interested in hearing about the outcome from paso,so, texas -- from el texas and to the race aspects of the mine. and i would like to hear more about that because it was such an interesting part of history. there was a great deal of tension. plus the political differences between the two are always fascinating. >> there is a fantastic book by ."nica, "smeltertown i think it is a wonderful exploration of the ways in which mexican people have really reshaped mining and smelting. and what i like about the book is that it is a community level view.
and it engages, i think, another important topic, which is environment. so the environmental consequences of a mining. a lot of times, there are studies of mining. there had not been a consideration of the effects on the environment and the ways in which people live and the health of those people. i think monica does all of those things really well. all i can say is read monica's fantastic book. >> of course, the history of mine mill is important to many of us and to the story of the west. one of the intriguing things to me and my thoughts about mine mill is to think about it in light of a new framework, colonialism. at the heart of that project, one of the things that indigenous scholars and others happily been urging us to think about is, yes, the power of
settler colonialism, but also alliances that are made in the face of settler colonialism. why can argue that labor has been at the forefront of multiracial coalitions that intrinsically and organically understand settler colonialism and work to try to figure out its to ameliorate destructive impacts. >> i do not want to speak ill of heart,, very close to my but the united farm workers in the 1930's fought against organizing indians, right? in some ways, sometimes unions have been very -- even mine workers unions that are more industrial unions have really tried to manage and privilege racial privilege, right? white privilege. interestingreally
is that this organization i have been following, i have been working with some of those same unions that were so discriminatory in indian country, like laborers international and carpenters unions, things like that, to educate unions to understand treaty rights. it has been really interesting to see. this organization is a multi-tribal organization centered around how to reframe workers rights in terms of tribal -- in terms of sovereignty. thathat is relatively -- originated in the 1970's. to kind of look at that struggle that happens between those groups. >> sir? >> to follow up on that, it is also organizations like the dfw better excluding undocumented
immigrants. it is raise, but it is also immigration status. but to bring it back to the question of strategy -- i lie to my students. [laughter] what i mean by that is i offer a class called the history of food , but it is really a labor history class. [laughter] [laughter] [laughter] [laughter] [laughter] [laughter] once i get them in there, it is pretty easy. everybody wants to study food, and then i start talking about globalization, labor, etc., etc. the other strategy i have -- and i do teach sort of traditional labor history classes. the first thing i do is i create a survey for my students that is questions about their class. like what class is your class? i asked them would a medical emergency bankrupt your family? does your family own a home? and i also do something that i probably should not do until i
have tenure, but i post the salaries of the president all the way down to the janitors. when they see that the janitors make less and a year than what our president makes it a month -- makes in a month, it really brings things home for them. even when they see our salaries, they are like, what? somebody mentioned that they think college education was the ticket to the middle class, and i am like a phd is not a ticket to the middle class at this point. this promise of this kind of hopeful future kind of shakes them up a little bit. i have had pretty good success with that. a number of my students have become organizers in fresno county, so i a pretty happy about that. it is really coming up with these creative ways of reminding them of who they are. 70% of our students are power grant eligible.
so this is also the kind of student body i am working with. >> thank you. is glenda matthews. i wanted to say i propose the strategy question as well that the koch brothers and the right have done a great job of branding labor as the other. i think the occupy movement, one of the things that made it really striking was that they separated the 1% from the rest of us. and most of us are going to be in the workplace. unless you are living on a hedge fund. but students are part evidence students areere, -- a part of an environment where -- several years ago, i was teaching at berkeley as a visitor and i was teaching a very large class. and i to the oah,
overheard the flight attendant right behind me talking about her work conditions. and i turned to her and said, excuse me, madam, but would you like to talk to 500 berkeley students? i was teaching a class in modern american history. and so she came. the first thing she said to the students was when i saw your professor paying so much attention to me, i thought she was a spy for the employer. [laughter] but then she told them. i thought it was so powerful because this is what students think of as a white-collar job, yet all the stuff we have learned about about the stretch out, she was facing cramming more passengers into the plane, expecting more flight attendants, and so on. i think it made a big impression on the students to have somebody who is experiencing this. this is at the time when the two tier contracts were being
extracted from flight attendants, too, so she could talk about what that meant. and i have to say on a personal note, my son has been a steward for his ask me local on my daughter belongs to the newspaper guild. >> let me say how delightful it for a how typical conversation on the state of the field in western and labor history, but especially labor history, to turn into a strategy session. [laughter] this is why this field is fabulous. folks are interested in activism equally with intellectual pursuits. those, of course, are not separate. >> hello. my name is christian from northern arizona park service. i think it is a challenging, but really important time to talk about labor history. i was kind of weird for discovering -- studying the
andworkers in the 1970's 1980's. because if i'm going to go get a phd and work for gilded age poverty wages, why would i do that if i was interested in raising conditions of living? and public history is kind of interesting because if you go and study that, you kind of pay yourself read. you say you care about work and justice and exploitation. and if we are supposed to be this historian's, that might be can of upsetting. it might be a much safer thing to say i study the environment, any other topic that might be more trendy and employable. there is a question about where our labor historians supposed to go? is about getting away from the new deal. i remember working in a restaurant with some friends and
ski resorts, living in really weird conditions and reading about the utah new deal history, which is totally unrecognizable to our experience. i have never heard an american politician say the word working class. i think bernie sanders might have said it. [laughter] hasthe end of the cold war left the impression that capitalism is it and this is what you have. are we talking about the 1970's and 1980's in university classes? are we asking what happened to the labor movement? are we interviewing people today who are looking in these conditions that are quite difficult? because i think if we go on ignoring the fact that everyone in our classes has this work experience, this economy is probably going into debt and will not get a good paying job after a lot of people graduate. if we talk about the new deal as, oh, this is great and
everything, and then we ignore what happens afterwards -- and i know a disease you to do in a survey class -- we are just not being relevant. are we finding that? and what is the reaction? >> sorry. i would say if you are looking at agricultural workers during the 1930's and the new deal, it is a really different story. and that is what i emphasize in my courses in california history. they are left out of that story and their nonwhite status relegates them to a different history; although, initially they did think they were included and that is whether went on strike and so forth. i think that would be the short answer, looking at agricultural workers gives a different perspective. i do not related to things that were said earlier. i was also thinking about in terms of work on this dichotomy between history of capitalism
and what we perceive as what that is about versus labor history, it is where farmers come in, where do they come into that? in the case of the asian american experience, unlike with mexican americans when we are talking about the agricultural history of asian americans in the west, they are also sharecroppers and tenant farmers and farm operators. and they are employers of co-ethnics and other groups. it isthink that leads -- more complicated than just thinking about -- i mean, i theyd argue the farmers -- are farmers, but the existence they leave is quite marginal. when you are looking at japanese farmers in the early 20th there's something more complicated than just the not joining unions.
their experiences i think our akin to what we would consider labor history. >> the new deal is incredibly important even though it is something that we may be celebrate too much. i think if you look at the history of capitalism. his other book that shows the consequences of the new deal and distribution of wealth. what i think is most interesting about the new deal is how eroded the 1950's. there was an important conference about two weeks ago in santa barbara.
most of it was how did we lose what was most important for that period? also sometimes being left out of the new deal -- the farmworkers movement because they were not constricted by anti-boycotting laws and those kind of things, i also think that we have to understand what was lost in the decades after the new deal. >> i will go and then you go. >> what i was going to say is in organizing the session we posed three questions. one was how we reinsert labor and working-class history and my answer is to do precisely what
you are suggesting. to focus on the 19th of these in 1980's -- the 1970's and 80's. how labor was impacted by neoliberalism and globalization. thinking about western history and labor history and that way i reengage. point to >> i spent half my life studying utah coal. one of the ways one can easily unite labor history and western history is through extractive history. my students are usually children and grandchildren of okies. i got really interested in labor. when we look at a different form of colonial extraction, it's
one subset, but to was agriculture. it's again using the west he the -- to feed the nation. using the japanese in the central valley, that could lead over into environments is great. that environmental history -- into environmental history. we still do labor history, even in utah. i think it's exciting that that kind of marriage and that kind of subversion can continue. feel the character of this conversation would change if you taught at private schools that serve students from ?he upper-middle-class how do you teach labor history to a kid with a trust fund? is a
matter of lying to your students or rebranding or do you have to change the nature of what you teach? >> good question. somebody want to tackle that one? >> i would have to move to the states. [laughter] there is still a thing called the people arees trained to move forward and make sense of. wherever you land within that society, you have to have some investment in the question. is really smart what mario does in terms of identifying the class. if you did that in that particular classroom, as i did at brown university -- we don't have work in students. -- wharton students.
they become conscious about their working-class background. the ones that are not working-class also become conscious of the burden that they have as the class unfolded, the lessons that play out. they become much more commission of their privilege and how to use it after that class. schools,mes private there is more intellectual freedom because a lot of us who work in state universities are subject to state legislatures. that becomes interesting when labor historians in places like nyu or columbia because there might be a little more intellectual freedom to come from that privilege. -- our to report to history department is trying to explain ourselves to the state legislature in utah.
talk about zombie. it is really difficult. we are more accountable in that way come at can make it more difficult to speak to. -- which can make it more difficult to speak to. >> do you have a question? >> hello. nyu.eanette from i'm wondering if you might think talk aboute can labor history or the state of organized labor in the united states since 1989. how that has affected the -- more broadly u.s. organized labor. >> i think these all go together. the entry point for a lot of
history classes and everything i -- i interrogate the present through the past and often start classes. on class labor and american capitalism, we last read the plutocrat. it is current. it is about the state of inequality and global capitalism, liberalism. then, we go back and find out how we got here. intellectually really important way that history can work and also a good teaching strategy. it brings current events and the things they know into relationship with what they don't know. >> talking about global workers
movements and the place of global capital as a structuring device in the 21st century is something our students are quite aware of, especially if we grounded in the experience of not just workers overseas, which we absolutely should, but workers here in the u.s. and the corporations that tend to employ them. there is a lot a possibility for and talkingld war about the cold war and labor relations at that particular eriod andd that p springing into this more contemporary moment and try to grapple with these topics, whether it's indigenous peoples movements. it is a great question, but there's so many rich possibilities for that. sir? >> thank you, matt.
i'm the organ vice president of the pacific northwest history association. -- oregon vice president. my comment relates a little bit to some of the interconnecting themes here in the mexican american labor movement. strategies, unique approaches. i come at as a writer and a phd candidate. those threea is connected topics. of you know, we suffered the 60th anniversary of the making of salting the earth. that relates strongly to extractive industries, mexican-american trade unionists, you name it. that insearch, i found the town i am studying, they brought up that movie in 1954
and they were told you cannot show that here. -- a theatered owner showed it. they brought out about a thousand people. i reenacted that last fall. i set up a few cameras and i filled people going in and out. i advertised it. they filled the theater again, 60 years later, people came, old, young, you name it. communists.ians, and sawghed and cried this old film on the big screen. they got angry and felt empathy for the workers who fought the itike and one it -- won because the women faced capitalism.
after the film was shown, people got up and spoke and some of them noted that the local city workers were on strike downtown about three blocks away. 250 people got out of their chairs and went down and walked the picket line. it was cold, too. publicies that may be rather than classroom, they can work in the classroom as well. bit --oraries in a contemporary eyeize it. i think it resonates a bit with the conversation. thank you. >> thank you very much. >> i just want to mention so we don't forget, this is the 100 year anniversary of -- there will be a celebration at -- there's been a lot of celebration in utah. there will be a celebration at
the place where he was hanged in sugarhouse park. something to remember that is coming up. a great way of making history contemporary as well, i send my students to the concert and they were pretty surprised. i've asked them to listen to the music and think about what these words meant. it was really pretty effective for this exact same thing that ron was talking about. i was wondering if you could speak to the way in which mobility in migrant labor influences and effects how you can connect western history with labor history, thinking of the long tradition, how you can work those together. anybody want to take up the mobility question? >> there's been great work on
that by historians. , his mainll's work thesis is that the migratory nature of the farmworker is what the owners in the state want to maintain so they can never organize a union. that is an essential part of the interpretation. i was thinking this when we were laborwhy are eastern historians ignoring western? partly that prejudice against what is perceived as a large part of the laboring class -- farm labor is presumed to be migratory, malleable, transient and therefore unorganized able.e
not the cesar chavez era, but ohe whole thing from ernest to the hop riots. there is this constant contestation. radical laborst entities and organizers and most creative's within the labor are actually migratory farm workers. -- a is great work now renaissance in farmworker usw history going on right now. is they wereinding struck inble, they the pacific northwest. they had much more strength and much more agency and struck for better wages.
it is a pretty interesting and complex history. sometimes migration and that rootlessness leads to greater radicalism. that's why i think it is valuable to study this question of migration in relationship to labor. >> i will jump in. speaking of the 19th century, something that is insight into labor history, the way in which mobility which if you think of it in a turn arian sense, the , what ito move around means to be a free person. you think about it in the frontier kind of context. the free labor dream of the west. what i'm finding in my own work mobility is actually not
freeing or liberating because the ability to control workers mobility, to control how they move across a vast space, whether it's to come over from china or from south america, the coercions that are built into and theess of migration way in which controlling mobility actually becomes a really important method of labor coercion. something that 19th century historians can really learn from the american west. i am trying to do that in my book as well. getting at the ways in which mobility can be this inherently unfree and coercive experience peered a of migrants way we can connect western history and labor history and
some great ways. i am in a lot of dialogue with civil war reconstruction historians. this whole binary does not work for the rest of the country. there's all kind of intermediate types of core version -- which weand unfreedoms don't see if we keep that binary. finding out what to do with labor in the wake of the civil , the west is really important for figuring out postwar labor relations. the first anti-peonage campaigns are in new mexico and have do with mestizos and native americans.
free,chanics of mi semi-bound labor. that happening in the west before it happens south. there's a lot to contribute. think out of the free slave think outside of the free slave binary. >> i will add that i was in a recent labor and imperialism conference in the u.s. last was surprisingly absent. this was very striking to me insofar as the movement of people and the containment of the movement of people has been absolutely essential to imperialism, to understanding transnational histories. there was some great work going on, but the west really speaks to this. this is also part of a larger
point to be made about what the future of western history looks like. in the future western labor history. robust our understanding of transnational connections, whether it is through comparative work, really understanding empire as a formative force -- force is one of the places we need to get. we got this panel together and i have to agree, western labor history is vital. it is dynamic. there's amazing stuff going on and has been going on, but i wonder if folks in our last couple of minutes on the panel would speak about what they see as directions we need to consider going in. one of the directions needs to be getting closer to the
present in our local studies. i'm also thinking of responding to those issues around migrants he. issuesgran -- thinking around migrancy. we could be smarter with bringing digitization, connecting that history. the western federation of miners committed you are a member -- if you're a member, your card tracks your movements around the west. there's lots of places where those traveling cards would be an interesting project to begin to map those movements. that is one thing that can be done. , have to say to the mine mill it was not going to give anything to steal muscle they put them all in the archives for steel, theyng to
put them in the archives for us. >> what i see in the new history is that kind of organic transnational history. in that same panel, dave the forcedemoaned transnational is him that has been happening in other arenas. i will not name names, but there's a cultural studies friday. one thing western historians do well is follow the evidence. in some cases particularly in the west, being transnational by its very nature, we have really good evidence. for me, it is the new process manifesting this. >> i was going to follow up on
jeremy. i think these two fields, labor and western history, both with their popular audiences and public history missions are surprisingly slow to embrace possibilities in the digital turn. i don't mean none of us are doing anything. there's some really good examples. victoria is really good. the panel on digital projects was good. the spatial history lab at stanford is pioneering a program . there's so many opportunities that go wasted. digital humanities is exploding all over the place. some historians are getting seriously into this, but not so much in our two fields.
a group of us are going around and calling it laboring big data. lots of twists to that. need to take these opportunities and seriously, get into new and more expensive through publishing websites and new kinds of research that come through digitization, turning information into data. the good news is that this is easier than ever. it used to be that if you wanted to map something, you have to learn gis. it took forever and you might as well get a new career. now, there are systems that will just -- they are out-of-the-box, you can learn them pretty
quickly and you can map things a lot of stuff, pretty easily. you can build websites with wordpress. is -- all off these materials, they are pdf'ing everything. i think this is something that would really advance missions. of labor history and western history. let's really get on the since he what we can do. new kinds of ideas, new kinds of analyses come out of this. and then reaching broader audiences. audiences.se big thes get out from under
obscure articles that are hard to find and not well read and make it much more public. just a quick comment about bringing things to the present. i think about labor migration and global migration as a whole and how it gives rise to this whole industry. when i teach that come as dunes are very interested. the smugglers and organizations involved in bringing people from place to place. employers networks and so forth. looking at the history of that, it is cool to document and possibly mapping -- loads of possibilities. the migration and mobility other systems and mechanisms and networks can be explored further. >> do you want the last word?
>> sure. i think it is about connecting to the social movements around us. there's lots of things happening on the ground. find this was to go group called the council for employment rights. i ended up writing their history. and speaking to them about their history. it was a really interesting experience because it was an interesting moment because it -- they really wanted -- the elders of the organization wanted me to write this history because they are having trouble with younger members not knowing their history. when i gave my talk at their convention and talk about their history, it was this interesting moment where the generation started to become less prominent. how thenteresting
feedback i received from that moment was, oh, we understand -- the perspective that was part of that was interesting. connecting to that history is old-fashioned. it makes it an empowerment thing. connecting with the labor movement wherever we are, there's a lot of -- there are lots of people organizing around social justice questions right now, whether it's black lives or the new left roots organization. there's lot of these groups responding to the economic climate right now. if we can engage them and help them think about their histories , that is an important part of what we can do. >> we set out to try to talk about the relationship between western history and labor history.
i think what we actually did, what i hope we actually did his answer the question, why should i be a labor historian. i want to thank my fellow panelists here. [applause] plug?ld i make a little >> plug away. >> this materials, including the journal of labor over there. a lot of you are members. one of the many good things, it is cheap. $50, $45 for graduate students. you can be a member and feel really good about yourself. [laughter] >> thank you. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015]
[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] >> you are watching american history tv, all weekend on c-span3. >> coming up next on the presidency, harry s truman welcome -- welcomes the for the donation of a rare paper crane became the symbol of peace and reconciliation after world war ii. dying,ne was voted by a 12-year-old girl who was two years old when the americans dropped the atomic bomb on hiroshima on president truman's order. she put her hopes in a japanese legend that promised one wish in cranese for 1000 origami . it inspired childr a