Labour in the US West

Conference in Portland, OR

The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association, the Southwest Labor Studies Association, and the Western Labor Communications Association 2001 Joint Conference
3-6 May 2001 in Portland, Oregon

Call for Papers, Presentations, Exhibits and Performances

The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association and the Southwest Labor Studies Association will host a joint conference in Portland, Oregon, in May 2001. This conference aims to bring together people from unions, universities, and social justice groups that want to explore how workers and unions have overcome barriers to solidarity on the West Coast and how they are pulling together to meet the challenges of the 21st century. PNLHA is unique in its inclusion of a Canadian membership and hopes to continue cultivating this perspective by offering space on the program for special Canadian/BC topics. The Western Labor Communications Association, hosting its own meeting and journalism contest, is also planning several joint events with PNLHA and SWLSA.

We invite proposals for papers and other presentations that address the history and current issues of workers and the labor movement in the West, including both the U.S. and Canada. We welcome all proposals, especially those that address one or more of the following issues:

  • The uniqueness of the West's labor movement: Unions "out West" have developed in a historically and culturally unique frontier environment. What are the similarities and differences between Western unions and others? How have Western unions dealt with issues like immigration, the environment, and community alliances?
  • Organizing "Out West": Analysis of recent organizing activity and creative approaches to organizing in the service and high tech sectors, and among young workers.
  • Building Solidarity on the Pacific Rim: How have unions in the Western U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia and other Pacific Rim countries built coalitions and created solidarity among themselves and with community organizations and religious groups? How have U.S., Canadian, and Mexican unions cooperated across borders?
  • Race and Labor Out West: How has the issue of race and divergent cultures affected unions' ability to organize and represent their members? What are the challenges we face in future organizing, and how can lessons from history inform our efforts?
  • Working for the Union: Communications, Education, and History: How have labor communications specialists, labor educators, and labor historians worked within unions to further labor's goals?
  • Topics in Western Canadian Labor History: An opportunity for U.S. members to learn more about the struggles of their Canadian brothers and sisters, and for all of us to benefit from comparative studies.

Workshops will be designed to accommodate several individual presentations of approximately 15-20 minutes each, and will be formatted to allow maximum participation and sharing of experiences from the audience. We encourage informal and lively presentations and discourage the reading of papers. Proposals for workshops should include a 1-page summary, a list of presenters and/or papers, and brief bio(s) or vitas. Individual paper proposals also accepted.

In addition to paper submissions, we encourage proposals for exhibits of union memorabilia, panels of labor participants in important labor struggles, readings of working class literature, performances of labor music or theater, and other creative examples that reflect the history, culture, and current activity of the Western region's working class.

Deadline for proposals is January 15, 2001. Submitters will be contacted by February 15.

Send proposals to 2001 PNLHA/SWLSA Conference, c/o Gene Vrana, ILWU, 1188 Franklin St., San Francisco, CA 94109; or by e-mail to:

For additional information, contact Barbara Byrd at the Labor Education and Research Center, University of Oregon: or (503) 725-3295.

Posted: 17 October 2000