Oregon trustee launches new biography on social unionism

Bussel book coverA new double biography by Oregon PNLHA trustee Bob Bussel, director of the Labor Education and Research Center (LERC) in Eugene, tells the story of two St. Louis Teamster leaders who practiced their unionism in a different way.

Fighting for Total Person Unionism shares the visions of Harold Gibbons and Ernest Calloway. Gibbons was a top assistant to Jimmy Hoffa and Calloway was a leader of the National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Both were leaders of Teamsters Local 688 in St. Louis during the 1950s and 1960s.

What is total person unionism? It’s “a visionary form of social unionism,” Bussel told the Northwest Labor Press (Oct. 16, 2015). Gibbons and Calloway “were interested in using the knowledge and power that workers had – to act as effective citizens in the community.”

In the book, his second labor biography, Bussel talks about the “working-class citizenship” that the two men exhibited and promoted in their union leadership roles. Borrowing on the shop steward model, they encouraged members to become “community stewards.”

Issues they championed: improving public transportation, public health, better public housing and education, preventing juvenile delinquency, and even rat control. “They were really trying to fashion a way in which workers could improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods,” Bussel told the paper.

Bussel will discuss his work at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 3, at the Wayne Morse Commons, Knight Law Center in Eugene, and at 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 5 in Room 302 of the UO White Stage Building, 70 NW Couch St. in Portland.

Fighting for Total Person Unionism: Harold Gibbons, Ernest Calloway, and Working-Class Citizenship (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2015), 272 pages, $32 (paper). For more details.

New book by PNLHA songsters

Rika Ruebsaat %26 Jon Bartlett MED

Rika Ruebsaat and Jon Bartlett perform at Princeton traditional music festival.

In the winter of 1932–33 Mounties charged into picket lines in Princeton, B.C., the Ku Klux Klan issued threats, and legendary labor organizer Arthur “Slim” Evans was bundled onto the next train out of town.

That’s the historical backdrop of a new book called Soviet Princeton by PNLHA regulars Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat. They were most recently seen and heard at our Seattle conference on May 1-3, 2015, where they led us in songs by Wobbly Joe Hill.

The book promises to take us back to the days when “Princeton’s few thousand citizens saw much of the human drama of the Great Depression play out right in their own lives over the course of just a few months.”

NSB cover tempSoviet Princeton adds a fascinating sidebar to Canadian left-labor history in that two years after the Princeton strike Evans led the 1935 On to Ottawa Trek to protest Depression-era homelessness and deplorable conditions in the relief camps of the day.

The book will be available in October 2015. You can order your copy at NewStar Books at info@newstarbooks.com or 604-738-9429. Cost is $18 USD and $19 CDN for the 160-page volume with 12 black and white illustrations.

First Annual Labor Archives of Washington Annual Event April 11

PLabor Archives Event 2015 3reserving Solidarity Forever: The Labor Archives Minimum Wage Project
Walker-Ames Room (225), Kane Hall, University of Washington

Date: Saturday, April 11, 2015
Time: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
University of Washington
4000 15th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98195

Join the Labor Archives of Washington as we kick off the SeaTac-Seattle Minimum Wage History Project!

The Minimum Wage History Project documents the historic and nationally recognized campaigns that in 2013-14 succeeded in mandating a $15 minimum wage in SeaTac and Seattle. The project will culminate in an on-line resource for students, faculty, and the general public who seek to understand how the campaigns achieved victory.

Speakers to include:

KSHAMA SAWANT, Seattle City Council
JAMES GREGORY, Professor of History, University of Washington
SARAH CHERIN, Political Director, UFCW 21
HEATHER WEINER, YES! for Sea-Tac Campaign

The mission of the Labor Archives of Washington at the University of Washington is to preserve and make accessible the history of work, workers, and their organizations. Founded in 2010, the Labor Archives is made possible by the contributions of dozens of unions and hundreds of individuals.

This event is free and open to the public. Free parking is available and a reception with drinks and refreshments will follow the program.

Questions? Call (206) 543-7946, or e-mail uwlabor@uw.edu.

Date: Saturday, April 11, 2015
Time: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
University of Washington
4000 15th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98195

Michael Honey, blending oral history, music and scholarship

MIchael HoneyPNLHA Washington trustee Michael Honey has been described as an “educator who combines scholarship with civic engagement” and that’s exactly what he’s done with his lecturing, publishing and music.

Earlier this year, visitors to the opening of the labour display at Clark County Historical Museum got a taste of Michael’s unique blend of solid research and musical talent when he gave the introductory lecture on the museum’s unique labor history display. The project involved PNLHA members.

As a biographical note says, through his work on civil rights and liberties, Michael “links scholarship, music, and public speaking with community and labor organizing.” He is noted for his “extensive use of oral history, deep archival research, and vibrant writing style,” the biography adds.

Honey coverHis recent book Sharecropper’s Troubadour (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) is an excellent example of that combination of skills. It’s about John L. Handcox, an organizer of the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union and composer of tunes such as “Roll the Union On.” In the tradition of African American song, Handcox used his music to bridge “racial divides and kept the spirits of striking workers high.”

Commenting on Sharecropper’s Troubadour, historian David Roediger said, “Honey’s and Handcox’s voices mix in a unique combination of oral history and scholarly research that reminds us of the centrality of music, and of poetry, to US freedom movements.”

Michael has taught at University of Washington, Tacoma, since 1990. He has previously served as the Harry Bridges Chair of Labor Studies for the University of Washington and as President of the Labor and Working-Class History Association.

His previous books include the award-winning Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign (New York: W.W. Norton, 2007) and Black Workers Remember: An Oral History of Unionism, Segregation and the Freedom Struggle (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 1999), and his first book, Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights: Organizing Memphis Workers (Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1993).

Here’s Michael singing “Join the Union Tonight”.

Memories of a Mac-Pap

Lessons from a conflict that served as the practice round for World War II

Ronald Liversedge with David Yorke, ed., Mac-Pap – Memoir of a Canadian in The Spanish Civil War (Vancouver: New Star Books, 2013), 220 pages (paper), $19 (CD and USD).

Review By Ron Verzuh

Mac-Pap cover             A bloody harbinger of what Hitler and Mussolini had in store for the world, the Spanish Civil War served as an almost forgotten prelude to the Second World War. Equally buried in that history is the story of a group of Canadian volunteers known as the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, the Mac-Paps.

Memories of a Mac-Pap