Category Archives: Labor History

Environmental Activism in Deindustrialized Detroit



Brandon Ward explains how Detroit residents, community organizations, and the labor movement, alarmed by the pollution remaining in Detroit’s deindustrialized era that mostly heavily impacted Black Americans and the working class, worked together from the 1970s onward to create a healthier, greener, and more livable city.

Ward is a lecturer at Perimeter College at Georgia State University and author of Living Detroit: Environmental Activism in an Age of Urban Crisis.

Donations to the Walter P. Reuther Library Endowment Fund are gratefully accepted to support this podcast and enhance access to the Reuther Library’s collections.

Related Collections:
Detroit Revolutionary Movements Records
Olga Madar Papers
UAW Conservation and Recreation Department Records
UAW Local 600 Records

Related Resources:
Living Detroit: Environmental Activism in an Age of Urban Crisis

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Brandon Ward
Music: Bart Bealmear


Bargaining for the Common Good: Milton Tambor Reflects on 50 Years in Labor and Social Activism



Labor leader and social activist Milton Tambor discusses his life’s work in Detroit since the 1950s as a social worker; AFSCME local union president, staff representative and assistant education director; and teaching faculty in both labor studies and social work at Wayne State University and other institutions. He also discusses the intersection of labor and social political movements through his involvement in organizations such as the Detroit Coalition to End the War Now, the Michigan Labor Committee on Central America, and the Democratic Socialists of America in both Detroit and Atlanta. Tambor recently published a memoir titled A Democratic Socialist’s Fifty Year Adventure.

Related Collections:
AFSCME Michigan Council 25 Records
Detroit Coalition to End the War Now! Records
Milton Tambor Papers

Related Resources:
A Democratic Socialist’s Fifty Year Adventure

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Milton Tambor
Music: Bart Bealmear


SEIU Local 82, Justice for Janitors Demonstration, Baltimore, Maryland, 2001

And Many More: Celebrating SEIU’s Centennial in the Archives



Reuther Library SEIU archivist Sarah Lebovitz shares highlights from the union’s first 100 years, and explains how its archives at the Reuther Library have supported labor organizing and centennial celebrations.

Related Collections:
SEIU District 925 Records
SEIU Executive Office: George Hardy Records
SEIU Executive Office: John Sweeney Records
SEIU Executive Office: William McFetridge Records
SEIU Historical Records
SEIU Photographs
SEIU Publications

Related Resources:
Blog: SEIU at Churchill Downs
Blog: SEIU’s Justice for Janitors MOPSCAR Awards
Blog: Notable Women of SEIU
Podcast: SEIU: A Successful Union in an Era of Labor Decline
Podcast: Documenting the Now: SEIU Archivist Sarah Lebovitz on Using Archives to Empower the Future

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Sarah Lebovitz
Music: Bart Bealmear


Brewing a Boycott: Collective Activism and the Decades-Long Coors Beer Boycott



Dr. Allyson Brantley explains how large and diverse groups joined together for a decades-long consumer boycott of the Coors Brewing Company to fight against its union busting, discriminatory hiring practices, and politics. Brantley is an assistant professor of history and Director of Honors & Interdisciplinary Initiatives at the University of La Verne and author of Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism.

Related Collections:
AFSCME Office of the President: Gerald W. McEntee Records
AFT President’s Office: Albert Shanker Records
Bob Barber Papers
Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) Records
Dolores Huerta Papers
Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO Council: Tom Turner Records
Michigan Coalition for Human Rights Records
UAW President’s Office: Owen Bieber Records
UFW Office of the President: Arturo Rodriguez Records

Related Resources:
Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Allyson Brantley
Music: Bart Bealmear


Group of people some wearing labor union emblems, carry picket signs denouncing the deportation of Sam Sweet outside the Detroit Federal Building, 1950-04-08.

Communists and Community in Wartime Detroit



Dr. Ryan Pettengill explains how communist activists in Detroit worked with labor activists during and after the Second World War to enhance the quality of life in the community by advocating for civil rights, affordable housing, protections for the foreign-born, and more. Pettengill is a Professor of History at Collin College and author of Communists and Community: Activism in Detroit’s Labor Movement, 1941-1956.

Related Collections:
Don Binkowski Papers
Nat Ganley and Saul Wellman Papers
Maurice Sugar Papers
Sam Sweet Papers
Shelton Tappes Papers
Edith Van Horn Papers

UAW Fair Practices and Anti-Discrimination Department Records

UAW President’s Office: Walter P. Reuther Records

Related Resources:
Communists and Community: Activism in Detroit’s Labor Movement, 1941-1956

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Ryan Pettengill
Music: Bart Bealmear


Midnight in Vehicle City: Modern Lessons From the Flint Sit-Down Strike



Edward McClelland recounts the gripping details of the Flint sit-down strike, and considers what we can learn today from the strikers’ successful fight for shared prosperity in 1936-1937. McClelland is a journalist, historian, and author of Midnight in Vehicle City: General Motors, Flint, and the Strike That Built the Middle Class.

Related Collections:
Flint Labor Records
Genora and Sol Dollinger Papers
Henry Kraus Papers
Hy Fish Papers
Joe Walton Papers
Roy Reuther Oral History
Victor G. Reuther Papers
Wyndham Mortimer Papers

Related Resources:
Midnight in Vehicle City: General Motors, Flint, and the Strike That Built the Middle Class

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Edward McClelland
Music: Bart Bealmear


Blaming Teachers: How America Simultaneously Professionalized and Patronized Education



Dr. Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz explains how the push to professionalize and standardize educators beginning in the mid-1800s, without granting them decision-making power, has made them the public face of foundering school policies developed and implemented by local school administrators and state and national policymakers. Widespread policy narratives that schools and teachers acting as mother figures can solve communities’ problems have inherently placed the public’s blame on teachers when those problems don’t disappear, as seen most recently during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. D’Amico Pawlewicz is an assistant professor in the Educational Foundations and Research Program at the University of North Dakota, where she focuses on the history of education and social policy. She received the 2021 Society of Professors of Education Outstanding Book Award for her recent publication, Blaming Teachers: Professionalization Policies and the Failure of Reform in American History.

Related Collections:
Albert Shanker Papers
AFT Educational Issues Department Records
AFT Inventory Part I Records
AFT Inventory Part II Records
AFT Office of the President Records
American Federation of Teachers Publications

Related Resources:
Blaming Teachers: Professionalization Policies and the Failure of Reform in American History

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Diana D’Amico Pawlewicz
Music: Bart Bealmear


From Bargaining Table to Diplomatic Table: Leonard Woodcock in China (Part 2)



After Leonard Woodcock stepped down as president of the UAW in 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter sent him to Beijing as a diplomatic envoy and ultimately as the nation’s first ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. In the second of a two-part interview, his wife Sharon Woodcock talks about Deng Xiaoping’s visit to the United States; Leonard Woodcock’s work after leaving the State Department, including his work on the Board of Governors of Wayne State University; and his support of the Reuther Library. UAW archivist Gavin Strassel discusses Leonard Woodcock’s archival collections at the Reuther Library and the unique, first-hand view they provide into the formation of modern China and U.S / China relations.

Related Collections:
Leonard Woodcock Papers
Sharon Woodcock Oral History
UAW President’s Office: Leonard Woodcock Records
UAW Vice President’s Office: Leonard Woodcock Records

Related Resources:
Collection Spotlight: Leonard Woodcock Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Gavin Strassel
Interviewee: Sharon Woodcock
Music: Bart Bealmear


From Bargaining Table to Diplomatic Table: Leonard Woodcock in China (Part 1)



After Leonard Woodcock stepped down as president of the UAW in 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter sent him to Beijing as a diplomatic envoy and ultimately as the nation’s first ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. In the first of a two-part interview, his wife Sharon Woodcock talks about Leonard’s labor ideals and shares tales about their time in the ambassador’s residence, including his unusually close relationship with Deng Xiaoping, the leader and architect of modern China.

Related Collections:
Leonard Woodcock Papers
Sharon Woodcock Oral History
UAW President’s Office: Leonard Woodcock Records
UAW Vice President’s Office: Leonard Woodcock Records

Related Resources:
Collection Spotlight: Leonard Woodcock Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Gavin Strassel
Interviewee: Sharon Woodcock
Music: Bart Bealmear


Cover Art, Sheet Music, "The Rebel Girl"

Jane Street and the Rebel Maids of Denver



Historian Jane Little Botkin explains how Jane Street, a single mother, firebrand, and little-known IWW organizer, orchestrated a 1916 housemaids’ rebellion in Denver. To fight for better pay and working conditions in the elite Capitol Hill neighborhood, Street worked with—and later, despite—the IWW to blacklist and shame the area’s worst domestic employers, thereby disrupting the comfort and reputations of some of Denver’s most influential and powerful families.

Author of The Girl Who Dared to Defy: Jane Street and the Rebel Maids of Denver and Frank Little and the IWW: The Blood That Stained an American Family, Botkin has received two Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America, the Caroline Bancroft History Prize from the Denver Public Library Western History and Genealogy Department, and the Best Historical Nonfiction Award from the Texas Association of Authors.

Related Collections:
Industrial Workers of the World Records

Related Resources:
Botkin, J.L. (2021). The Girl Who Dared to Defy: Jane Street and the Rebel Maids of Denver. University of Oklahoma Press.

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Jane Little Botkin
Music: Bart Bealmear