About Ron Verzuh

Independent Labor Historian, Oregon Trustee, Pacific Northwest Labor History Association.

Oregon Labor History Quarterly – Winter 2020-21

The Oregon Labor History Quarterly (Winter 2020-21) includes an update on PNLHA Oregon’s recently published Working Oregon – A Labor History Chronology. Also featured are a labor podcast roundup, labor film festival offerings, oral labor histories, labor history awards, a poem, a KBOO review of “Crazy Blues” by Mamie Smith, and a Solidarity Forever rap song. Plus historical facts about the Supreme Court, an Oregon connection to the Centralia Tragedy, labor dailies, police unions, and the real father of Labor Day. At 14 pages, it is the largest edition so far. 

Oregon Labor History Quarterly Fall 2020


The Fall 2020 edition of the Oregon Labor History Quarterly contains an announcement about a new PNLHA chronology booklet, a look back at unions and the Spanish Flu of 1918, the first Labor Day remembered, and news from other labor history societies. The edition also includes book reviews, a free Zoom conference, “Covid Chronicles” in British Columbia, a remembrance of the Tolpuddle Martyrs in Britain, a feature on police unions, and another on the history of postal unions now battling to save the postal service.

Oregon Labor History Quarterly Summer 2020


The Summer 2020 edition of the Oregon Labor History Quarterly includes information on proposed bylaw changes and where to vote, where to see a new musical on racism and the fight for social justice, and where to hear one of our favorite labor troubadours. Also noted is a film on the women’s emergency brigade during the 1936-1937 autoworkers sit-down strike in Flint, Michigan. Other items: labor radio on Covid-19, workers’ action during the pandemic, a celebration of the eight-hour movement, and more labor history resources.

Oregon Labor History Quarterly Winter 2019-2020


The Winter 2019-20 edition of the Oregon Labor History Quarterly contains conference announcements, calls for papers, awards, new studies, novels, films, and lectures. And it’s all about labor history. This edition also features a roundup of Oregon radio labor programs and a look at other labor history associations in the United States. Send feedback to rverzuh@shaw.ca.

Oregon Labor History Quarterly Fall 2019


The Fall 2019 edition of the Oregon Labor History Quarterly has been expanded to include more labor history background on current labor news issues. It also features a special section of excerpts and summaries from some of the presentations at the Portland conference in May. See the full newsletter below.

Happy Labor Day film watching

There aren’t many movies that qualify as appropriate viewing on Labor Day. One that does is Salt of the Earth, the story of a 1950s strike at a zinc mine in New Mexico that features a clash between the company and the mostly Mexican-American miners. It also features early feminist union supporters in action. You can see it on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3VPWmqaOb4. A PNLHA connection: Oregon trustee Ron Verzuh has made a short documentary film called Remembering Salt that is also available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQdV9B8Zj-c.

Working Oregon – A Labor History Chronology


Did you know that the great pro-labor writer John Reed, author of Ten Days That Shook the World, was born in Portland, OR, in 1887, that Dr. Marie Equi was selected to spread some of Joe Hill’s ashes, or that the Portland newspaper strike was the longest in Oregon history, lasting from 1959 to 1965.

Working Oregon recalls these and hundreds of other events in Oregon’s working past, providing a roadmap to the lives and struggles of the Beaver State’s workers and their union.

As an ongoing project of the Oregon PNLHA, we welcome your input. Publication date and purchasing information will be posted at pnlha.org and by contacting Oregon trustee Ron Verzuh at rverzuh@shaw.ca. 

Conference 2019 Report: More than 200 attend in Portland


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The Oregon PNLHA is pleased to report that the 51st annual conference, held May 3-5 in Portland, was a resounding success.

In commemoration of 1919 as a key year in labor history for both the United States and Canada, conference organizers chose the theme “General Strike 1919-2019: Radicalism, Repression, and Solidarity.” It recognized the Seattle and Winnipeg General Strikes and other significant labor movement events that occurred that year.

Of the more than 225 participants, 138 were from unions, 30 had university or college affiliations, 11 were students, and 12 were with non-profit, advocacy or non-school or non-union groups. Evaluations show that they appreciated the breadth and quality of the program as well as the diversity and size of participation.

About 80 people attended our Friday evening program and reception and were entertained with two artistic reprisals of general strikes of 1919. Former Oregon vice-president Ron Verzuh introduced and showed a video custom-produced for this conference by the director of a new musical on the Winnipeg General Strike called “Stand!” which included the movie trailer.

This was followed by a unique and enlightening re-interpretation of select songs from the rock opera, “Seattle, 1919” (which tells a story of the Seattle general strike). Rob Rosenthal, half of the duo that composed “Seattle, 1919,” introduced each selection and Earle Peach (Vancouver, BC musician) and Janet Stecher and Susan Lewis (Rebel Voices, Seattle) performed their rousing new arrangements of the songs. A spontaneous discussion followed, creating a great sense of camaraderie and inquiry for the next day and a half.

The first plenary, “1919–General Strikes & Global Solidarities,” focused on the historic events of 1919. Jim Gregory (University of Washington), Rob Rosenthal (professor emeritus, sociology, Wesleyan University) and Rob Mickleburgh (Canadian journalist and author) discussed the Seattle and Winnipeg General Strikes in historical perspective.

Georgetown University’s Lane Windham added her own perspective on another important 1919 landmark – the founding of the International Labor Organization. The plenary was very well attended and the panelists engendered a great deal of interest from the overflow audience.

The second plenary, titled “The New Labor Movement-Historical Roots & Contemporary Struggles,” featured a keynote presentation by Lane Windham, whose recent book, Knockin’ on Labor’s Door, focuses on some of the hitherto discounted labor activism of the 1970s, placing it in the larger context of 20thcentury U.S. labor history.

Contemporary Portland area labor organizers Margaret Butler and Luis Brennan connected the dots to local labor struggles like the Powell’s book campaign and the ongoing Burgerville workers’ struggle.

More than 17 workshops and panels were held Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning (Program link here).  Some of those that were particularly highly rated in the program evaluations included Sista in the Brotherhood, Labor and International Trade, The Protest Song as Art, Red for Ed, The Care Revolution, Demanding Dignity: Work from Farm to Table, Work the Indian Way(s). and several others.

The conference planning committee strove to connect historical topics with contemporary labor struggles and to address issues of diversity in labor organizing.  As always, younger workers attended our conference to share views on the history of our movement.

Our Saturday Awards Banquet was the best-attended event of the conference. Co-winners of this year’s PNLHA Person of the Year Award were former SEIU 503 and 49 leader Alice Dale, and local labor educator and activist Norm Diamond.  Both gave stirring accounts of their development as leaders and their connections to the heritage of PNW labor activism.

Our Making History Worker Award this year went to the Portland Burgerville Workers’ Union, a chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World.  Two of their membersEsther Mann and Emmett Schlenzwere on hand to accept the award and inspire the audience with their contemporary vision of Wobbly unionism.

Following the awards presentations, activist singer-songwriter David Rovics fired up the crowd with a rousing set of original and diverse social justice, political, and labor songs, many highlighting the Pacific Northwest.

Thirty-six participants completed the evaluation question. Of those, 24 said the opening night was excellent or very good. The plenaries earned an excellent rating from 23 and 11 found them very good. Eighteen participants said the Saturday awards banquet was excellent and 10 said it was very good.  Overall, 19 participants rated the conference excellent, 10 very good, and four good.

This conference realized a modest financial surplus that will be used for future Oregon PNLHA projects and activities. The following sponsors and donors made it all possible:

AFM Local 99, AFSCME Local 328, AFT Oregon, Bakers Local 114, Portland State University’s Conflict Resolution Program, PSU History Department, IAM Local 1005, IAM Local 63, IAM Woodworkers District W24, IBEW Local 48, KBOO Radio, University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center, Members and Friends of Labor, Northwest Labor Press, Northwest Oregon Labor Council, Oregon AFL-CIO, Oregon Historical Society, Oregon School Employees’ Association, Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, PNLHA British Columbia, Rebel Voices, SEIU Local 503, Teamsters Local 162, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, United Steelworkers District 12 and several individual donors.

Next year’s PNLHA conference will be held in Vancouver, B.C. Consult http://www.pnlha.org for details and a Call for Presentations. For more photographs of the Portland conference: https://pipilio.smugmug.com/PNHLA-Portland-2019/