News from North America

Labor and Working Class History Association Update, July 2000

Since last October, when the first officers of the Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA) began serving their terms, a lot has been accomplished. With an eye both to filling you in and encouraging your thoughts and feedback, we provide information here about LAWCHA's main activities in the recent past and future.

First of all, LAWCHA has grown! With 250 members we are off to a very strong start. A lot of this growth has come from members spreading the word about LAWCHA to their friends and colleagues. Please help us continue getting the word out to labor historians, activists, teachers, public history folks, and anyone interested in labor history! With a current balance of $4200, our finances are in healthy shape as well.

Under the peerless leadership of LAWCHA President Jacquelyn Hall, Vice President Joe Trotter, Secretary Vicki Ruiz, and Treasurer Tom Klug, a first major task after last October involved setting up committees for each of the major areas and getting energetic folks involved in them. LAWCHA established the following committees, with their chairpeople listed in parentheses: Membership Committee (Vicki Ruiz and James Green); Liaison Committee (James Gregory and Rosemary Feurer); Nominations Committee (Elizabeth Jameson); Publications Committee (Robert Zieger); Program Committee (Julie Greene); Electronic Resources (Scott Nelson and Toby Higbie); Elections Committee (Tom Klug); Ad Hoc Committee on Elections (Nelson Lichtenstein); Ad Hoc Committee on Sponsorship (Shelton Stromquist); Incorporation Committee (Tom Klug).

Tom Klug directed the effort to get LAWCHA's legal house in order, a huge challenge that is now complete. Tom filed Articles of Incorporation of LAWCHA with the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services on December 14, 1999. Tom also spearheaded a revision of LAWCHA's constitution and by-laws that was needed for legal purposes. On December 20, 1999, each member of LAWCHA was sent a ballot asking them to vote on these revisions and asking them also to adopt the Constitution and Bylaws on behalf of LAWCHA, a nonprofit corporation. On February 23, 2000, the Elections Committee opened and counted the ballots. By a vote of 95 to 2, LAWCHA members voted to adopt these documents.

This autumn LAWCHA members will elect six new Executive Board members, each one serving a three-year term, to replace Ira Berlin, A. Yvette Huginnie, Nelson Lichtenstein, Lizabeth Cohen, Stanley Rosen, and Robert Zieger. Our deep thanks to these board members as they complete their term of service!

Ballots will go out to members in late August and will need to be returned by October 1. We will announce the results at our annual membership meeting, held at the North American Labor History Conference at Wayne State University in Detroit on Oct. 21, 2000. The nominating committee welcomes suggestions for nominees, including self-nominations, and it has put a call for nominations out on H-Labor. Members may also make suggestions directly to Betsy Jameson at

LAWCHA continues to maintain a strong presence at conferences around the country. LAWCHA is a co-sponsor of the North American Labor History Conference. We have organized an exciting group of sessions for that conference, including panels on globalization, international labor migration, slavery and the transition to free labor, and casino workers. The latter session, for example, will involve screening the new film One Day Longer: The Story of the Frontier Strike and will bring organizers and strikers from that Las Vegas conflict together with the filmmaker to talk about their experiences. The highlight of LAWCHA's contribution will be a Thursday night talk by Robin Kelley, titled "Without a Song: the Musicians' Strike of 1935-36 and the Problem of the 'Labor Artist'".

LAWCHA also sponsored sessions this last May at the Southwest Labor Studies Association conference and at the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association. Next October, in addition to the NALHC in Detroit, we will sponsor sessions at the Social Science History Association conference and at the conference of the Oral History Association. If you have ideas for sessions LAWCHA might sponsor at conferences, please contact Julie Greene at

Several dozen members of LAWCHA gathered for a second annual luncheon at the 2000 OAH in April, this time in St. Louis. The luncheon program began with an update presented by President Jacquelyn Hall. Following that, Neil Foley gave an excellent keynote talk titled "Partly Colored or Other White: Mexican Americans and their Problem with the Color Line." LAWCHA is pleased to note that Professor Foley's talk is available, in its entirety, on our web site at, and we invite all members to read it there. Our thanks to Professor Foley for allowing us to post the talk on our web site.

Labor history tours provide a way to bring workers' past alive, and to connect scholarship with public history. LAWCHA began what we hope will be a long tradition with two fine tours this year. In January Shelton Stromquist organized a tour of Pullman in conjunction with the AHA Conference. The bus tour was filled to cpacity, with 44 people participating in addition to the speakers and organizers. Janice Reiff, Jim Barrett, and Susan Hirsch presented talks and/or slide shows detailing the history of Pllman and exploring its place in Chicago's labor history. Then, in conjunction with the OAH this April, Rosemary Feurer organized a labor history tour of St. Louis. The tour visited such sites as te riverfront, Turner Hall, the garment district, the site of the 1900 Washington Avenue massacre, and the St. Louis Public Library, the latter being one of many places across the United States where ashes of Joe Hill were buried by I.W.W. members. Members can read reports on each of these tours at LAWCHA's web site.

Finally, the Electronic Resources Committee has been working hard to add more links and other information to LAWCHA's web site. Begun so ably last year by Steve Freund at Wayne State University, the web site was recently moved to William and Mary where more resources will be available to us and where Scott Nelson will be able to oversee it. Although the site is still very much under construction, we invite members to visit it at and to give us feedback or make suggestions for further additions to the site. You can contact the Electronic Resources Committee at

Our Membership and Liaison Committees have been working energetically to build ties between LAWCHA and other groups and to recruit more members. We encourage all members to help us spread the word about LAWCHA. Projects planned for the future include strengthening our web site, including a possible syllabi exchange and a members' directory; continued work to heighten labor history's presence at conferences; and the development of more labor history tours. If you are interested in participating in these projects or have suggestions about others, let us know! Meanwhile, do please join us at the North American Labor History Conference at Wayne State University, October 19-21, 2000. As noted, our annual membership meeting will be held on Saturday, Oct. 21, and we hope to see you there. If you have questions for us or suggestions of any sort, please contact Kathryn Beard at

In Solidarity,

Julie Greene
Executive Committee Member,

Posted: 10 July 2000