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.
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.
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.
Labor historian Dr. Toni Gilpin explores how the McCormick family’s greed and union-busting in the late 19th century set the stage for a bitter battle between the International Harvester corporation and the radical Farm Equipment Workers union in the 1930s and 1940s. Although the union was absorbed by the United Auto Workers in 1955, Gilpin describes how the militancy bred into generations of International Harvester workers influenced UAW tactics into the 1970s.
Dr. Gilpin’s book, The Long Deep Grudge: A Story of Big Capital, Radical Labor, and Class War in the American Heartland, received a Taft Labor History Award honorable mention award in 2020.
Dr. Timothy Minchin explores how the SEIU nearly doubled its membership from 1980-1995, during a time of significantly declining numbers in most other American labor unions. Through an exploration of SEIU’s membership drives at nursing homes, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and its long-running Justice for Janitors campaign, Minchin credits the union’s growth to a combination of organizing, affiliation with independent unions, legislative advances for public employee unions, and the prevalence of low-wage jobs in the growing service sector. Dr. Minchin is a Professor of History at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.
In the second of a two-episode series, artist Robbin Légère Henderson discusses the life of her grandmother, Matilda Rabinowitz Robbins, a Socialist, IWW organizer, feminist, writer, mother, and social worker. Henderson shares stories from Robbins’ autobiography, Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir from the Early Twentieth Century, explaining how the optimism of a 13-year-old immigrant from the Ukraine was soon undone by the realities of working in garment sweatshops on the East Coast, leading to Matilda Robbins’ brief but influential role as labor organizer for the International Workers of the World from 1912 to 1917.
American Federation of Teachers archivist Dan Golodner tells guest host Bart Bealmear about the 1933 Chicago Teachers Walkout, when Chicago teachers joined together to demand that they be paid in actual money and on time, rather than in scrip that wasn’t honored by local businesses and banks during the Great Depression. Paid only nine times in four years because property taxes meant to fund Chicago schools were withheld by corrupt businesses, banks, and school board members, students and teachers staged public demonstrations on the streets and in bank lobbies, ultimately shaming the banks into releasing school funds and the school board into issuing consistent paychecks.