Under the leadership of Gary M. Fink and Merl E. Reed, Georgia State University hosts the Southern Labor Studies Conferences approximately every two years. The conferences have yielded two previous volumes, published in 1977 and 1981, and this volume, which contains selected papers from the seventh conference held in 1991.
As evidence by the quality of these essays, the field of southern labor history has come into its own. Research interest is peaking: the practitioners are younger scholars, and much of their work emphasizes the new social and political history. While the topics covered in this volume usually reflect that methodology, their chronology ranges from the antebellum period to the 1970s, suggesting the variety of sources and changing research approaches that can be used in rendering new meaning to the past. Although the subject of gender was generally a minor theme in these sessions, work now being done leaves no doubt that at some future conference gender will attract a commanding amount of attention.
In introducing and describing their respective areas, the associate editors, Robert H. Zieger (textile workers), Joe W. Trotter (African Americans), and Clifford Kuhn (labor politics), have provided a rich historiographical background.
The essays in this volume will enlighten the reader on many important aspects of the history of southern labor, and they will also raise new questions to be explained by other scholars and future conferences.
Race on the Line is the first book to address the convergence of race, gender, and technology in the telephone industry. Venus Green—a former Bell System employee and current labor historian—presents a hundred year history of telephone operators and their work processes, from the invention of the telephone in 1876 to the period immediately before the break-up of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1984. Green shows how, as technology changed from a manual process to a computerized one, sexual and racial stereotypes enabled management to manipulate both the workers and the workplace. More than a simple story of the impact of technology, Race on the Line combines oral history, personal experience, and archival research to weave a complicated history of how skill is constructed and how its meanings change within a rapidly expanding industry. Green discusses how women faced an environment where male union leaders displayed economic as well as gender biases and where racism served as a persistent system of division. Separated into chronological sections, the study moves from the early years when the Bell company gave both male and female workers opportunities to advance; to the era of the “white lady” image of the company, when African American women were excluded from the industry and feminist working-class consciousness among white women was consequently inhibited; to the computer era, a time when black women had waged a successful struggle to integrate the telephone operating system but faced technological displacement and unrewarding work. An important study of working-class American women during the twentieth century, this book will appeal to a wide audience, particularly students and scholars with interest in women’s history, labor history, African American history, the history of technology, and business history.
This compelling ethnography of women working in Bulgaria’s popular sea and ski resorts challenges the idea that women have consistently fared worse than men in Eastern Europe’s transition from socialism to a market economy. For decades western European tourists have flocked to Bulgaria’s beautiful beaches and mountains; tourism is today one of the few successful—and expanding—sectors of the country’s economy. Even at the highest levels of management, employment in the tourism industry has long been dominated by women. Kristen Ghodsee explains why this is and how women working in the industry have successfully negotiated their way through Bulgaria’s capitalist transformation while the fortunes of most of the population have plummeted. She highlights how, prior to 1989, the communist planners sought to create full employment for all at the same time that they steered women into the service sector. The women given jobs in tourism obtained higher educations, foreign language skills, and experiences working with Westerners, all of which positioned them to take advantage of the institutional changes eventually brought about by privatization.
Interspersed throughout The Red Riviera are vivid examinations of the lives of Bulgarian women, including a waitress, a tour operator, a chef, a maid, a receptionist, and a travel agent. Through these women’s stories, Ghodsee describes their employment prior to 1989 and after. She considers the postsocialist forces that have shaped the tourist industry over the past fifteen years: the emergence of a new democratic state, the small but increasing interest of foreign investors and transnational corporations, and the proliferation of ngos. Ghodsee suggests that many of the ngos, by insisting that Bulgarian women are necessarily disenfranchised, ignore their significant professional successes.
Reformed American Dreams explores the experiences of low-income single mothers who pursued higher education while on welfare after the 1996 welfare reforms. This research occurred in an area where grassroots activism by and for mothers on welfare in higher education was directly able to affect the implementation of public policy. Half of the participants in Sheila M. Katz’s research were activists with the grassroots welfare rights organization, LIFETIME, trying to change welfare policy and to advocate for better access to higher education. Reformed American Dreams takes up their struggle to raise families, attend school, and become student activists, all while trying to escape poverty. Katz highlights mothers’ experiences as they pursued higher education on welfare and became grassroots activists during the Great Recession.
Dedicated to organizing workers from diverse racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, many of whom were considered "unorganizable" by other unions, the progressive New York City-based labor union District 65 counted among its 30,000 members retail clerks, office workers, warehouse workers, and wholesale workers. In this book, Lisa Phillips presents a distinctive study of District 65 and its efforts to secure economic equality for minority workers in sales and processing jobs in small, low-end shops and warehouses throughout the city. Phillips shows how organizers fought tirelessly to achieve better hours and higher wages for "unskilled," unrepresented workers and to destigmatize the kind of work they performed.
Closely examining the strategies employed by District 65 from the 1930s through the early Cold War years, Phillips assesses the impact of the McCarthy era on the union's quest for economic equality across divisions of race, ethnicity, and skill. Though their stories have been overshadowed by those of auto, steel, and electrical workers who forced American manufacturing giants to unionize, the District 65 workers believed their union provided them with an opportunity to re-value their work, the result of an economy inclining toward fewer manufacturing jobs and more low-wage service and processing jobs.
Phillips recounts how District 65 first broke with the CIO over the latter's hostility to left-oriented politics and organizing agendas, then rejoined to facilitate alliances with the NAACP. In telling the story of District 65 and detailing community organizing efforts during the first part of the Cold War and under the AFL-CIO umbrella, A Renegade Union continues to revise the history of the left-led unions of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
During the middle third of the 20th century, workers in most industrialized countries secured a substantial measure of job security, whether through legislation, contract or social practice. This “standard employment contract,” as it was known, became the foundation of an impressive array of rights and entitlements, including social insurance and pensions, protection against unsociable working conditions, and the right to bargain collectively. Recent changes in technology and the global economy, however, have dramatically eroded this traditional form of employment. Employers now value flexibility over stability, and increasingly hire employees for short-term or temporary work. Many countries have also repealed labor laws, relaxed employee protections, and reduced state-provided benefits. As the old system of worker protection declines, how can labor regulation be improved to protect workers? In Rethinking Workplace Regulation, nineteen leading scholars from ten countries and half a dozen disciplines present a sweeping tour of the latest policy experiments across the world that attempt to balance worker security and the new flexible employment paradigm. Edited by noted socio-legal scholars Katherine V.W. Stone and Harry Arthurs, Rethinking Workplace Regulation presents case studies on new forms of dispute resolution, job training programs, social insurance and collective representation that could serve as policy models in the contemporary industrialized world. The volume leads with an intriguing set of essays on legal attempts to update the employment contract. For example, Bruno Caruso reports on efforts in the European Union to “constitutionalize” employment and other contracts to better preserve protective principles for workers and to extend their legal impact. The volume then turns to the field of labor relations, where promising regulatory strategies have emerged. Sociologist Jelle Visser offers a fresh assessment of the Dutch version of the ‘flexicurity’ model, which attempts to balance the rise in nonstandard employment with improved social protection by indexing the minimum wage and strengthening rights of access to health insurance, pensions, and training. Sociologist Ida Regalia provides an engaging account of experimental local and regional “pacts” in Italy and France that allow several employers to share temporary workers, thereby providing workers job security within the group rather than with an individual firm. The volume also illustrates the power of governments to influence labor market institutions. Legal scholars John Howe and Michael Rawling discuss Australia's innovative legislation on supply chains that holds companies at the top of the supply chain responsible for employment law violations of their subcontractors. Contributors also analyze ways in which more general social policy is being renegotiated in light of the changing nature of work. Kendra Strauss, a geographer, offers a wide-ranging comparative analysis of pension systems and calls for a new model that offers “flexible pensions for flexible workers.” With its ambitious scope and broad inquiry, Rethinking Workplace Regulation illustrates the diverse innovations countries have developed to confront the policy challenges created by the changing nature of work. The experiments evaluated in this volume will provide inspiration and instruction for policymakers and advocates seeking to improve worker’s lives in this latest era of global capitalism.