The annual summer school, organized by the Labor Education and Research Centre (LERC) at UO, provides union members from across the state with courses on bargaining, labor law and numerous other topics of value and interest to union activists.
Preceding a rousing “fight back” speech on opening night from AFL-CIO Oregon president Tom Chamberlain, PNLHA Oregon vice-president Ron Verzuh encouraged participants to join or renew their memberships.
“Make some labor history of your own,” he told the plenary session after presenting some background on the PNLHA and outlining the benefits of membership.
“This is your kind of organization because the PNLHA doesn’t lose site of who makes labor history – its YOU,” Verzuh said. “The PNLHA offers a healthy mix of academic scholars and street-wise union activists.”
“By reviving and commemorating past events,” Verzuh said, “we not only celebrate their historical significance but we also remind ourselves that the struggle continues and that we can learn from our history.”
He then offered several examples of how labor history is relevant to today’s labor movement, citing both the Oregon PNLHA’s recent “Bloody Wednesday” event which commemorated the 1934 ILWU strike and the Astoria mini-conference earlier this year.
“Our annual conference is also full of other examples of how labor history can assist today’s unions,” Verzuh added, noting the May 20-22, 2016, Portland conference dates.
The PNLHA also got a plug for new members on the school’s film night when Verzuh’s short documentary, Joe Hill’s Secret Canadian Hideout, opened for Pride, the British feature film about an LGBT group that supported the coal miners during their 1980s strike.
“People will always remember Joe Hill,” Verzuh told the film night audience, “and his songs still influence local actions to promote progressive social change. It’s another example of how history helps the contemporary labor movement.”
Another well-liked feature during the school was the Saturday night concert performed by Eugene’s Low Tide Drifters with PNLHA trustee Nathan Moore on guitar and vocals.
Many school participants visited the PNLHA booth during the three-day event to discuss their own interest in labor history and to join the association.