Working groups support UW faculty who come together with community members to research a particular labor-related topic.
The groups produce educational resources and events, including websites, publications, seminars, books, articles and more.
To apply for funding, click here.
In-depth labor policy and industry analysis in Washington State
Important faculty and graduate student research across disciplines
The best Labor Studies graduate and undergraduate papers
Lectures and scholarly papers published by the Bridges Center
Educational websites supported by the Bridges Center
Conferences, forums and other special projects
Brand Responsibility Project
The role of universities as institutional consumers
Rep. Steve Conway,
WA State Legislature
MLKing County Labor Council
The Brand Responsibility Project works with the University of Washington's Advisory Committee on Trademarks and Licensing (ACTL) to develop an oral and digital history project documenting the recent and historic dispute settlement between Nike Inc. and the Central General de Trabajadores of Honduras (CGT).
Following the bankruptcy and closure in January 2009 of two Honduran factories that appeared to be part of Nike's supply chain, the CGT of Hounduras claimed that Nike bore some of the responsibility for providing terminal compensation, benefits and priority rehiring for 1,800 factory employees. Upon learning of the case, in keeping with its mission, ACTL proceeded to evaluate whether or not Nike had violated the university's code of conduct. ACTL was then part of a campaign to pressure Nike to ensure the workers received what was owed them under Honduran law. The dispute was resolved successfully when Nike announced on July 29, 2010 that it had set aside $1.5 million as part of a compensation package for the terminated workers.
Fall 2012 Update
The working group has developed a website based on materials collected for an archive housed at the University of Washington. The site documents key negotiations in the Nike case as well as two other apparel industry cases (involving Russell Athletics and Gear for Sports) in which global brands have changed labor practices in direct response to pressure from universities.
Available on the website are audio and video of interviews conducted by the Project. Additionally, the site features a collection of media coverage of the apparel labor disputes, as well as numerous links to relevant resources and organizations.
The Project can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally funded 2010-2011. Additional funding granted 2011-2012.
Labor, Knowledge, and the Economy
Ensuring workers benefit from the emerging knowledge-based economy
Howard Jay Chizeck,
Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering
Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences,
Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences,
MLKing County Labor Council
The emergence of a "knowledge" economy has made human capital relatively important compared to the machinery that gave rise to the industrial age. The Labor, Knowledge and Economy (LKE) working group is researching how low cost information processing has changed where and how we work, as well as how we organize ourselves.
The work of the group has produced conferences, scholarly seminars, forums and other events, including a conference in October 2006 titled Organizing Our Futures. Additionally, the LKE group has allowed members to develop their research in the company of fellow scholars, spurring discusison and collaboration. Papers produced include work on technology workers by JW Harrington, work from Stan Sorcher on H1B (Hi-tech) visas, and investigation by Dan Jacoby into the Bellevue Teacher's strike of 2008.
Fall 2010 Update
In 2009-2010, LKE took time to showcase works and writing by working group members and related speakers in a seminar series on Labor Knowledge and the Economy. This included a talk by Amy Hagopian from the School of Public Health discussing the consequences of the enticement of health professional from less developed countries. Additionally, a talk by JW Harrington addressed contemporary job security among software workers; Gina Neff spoke on the state of media workers in the age of YouTube; and Dan Jacoby presented new research on graduate student unions and the conceptualization of academic labor. Streaming video of Gina Neff's talk is available on-line.
The seminiar series culminated in a forum held at UW Seattle titled 2010 and Beyond: The Road Ahead for Organized Labor on January 12, 2010. The forum brought labor and faculty together to discuss what the opportunities and needs were for labor to move forward in the new year. Member Dave Freiboth, Executive Secretary of the King County Labor Council, as well as David Rolf, President of SEIU local 775, Jim Gregory, Harry Bridges Chair, Gina Neff, Professor in Communication Professor, and Dan Jacoby participated.
Originally funded 2007-2008. Funding extended 2008-2009.
Race, Class and Work-Life Balance
Intersectionality in the Domains of Work and Care
School of Social Work
School of Business, UW-Bothell
This working group focuses on illuminating the ways that race, ethnicity and class shape individuals' and families' ability to balance work and care responsibilities. It was originally proposed by a set of UW faculty who saw a glaring gap in the coverage of these important "intersectionalities" in academic and popular literature.
In its first year, the group created a website, hosted a series of community events, and submitted a proposal to fund a new research project by our members on the work-life experiences of professionals of color. In its second year, it continued to organize community events and work with partners in the community, notably MomsRising and the Economic Opportunity Institute. In April 2008 the group held an interdisciplinary research conference that highlighted graduate student research on the intersections of care, work and diversity.
Following the conference, the group's focus shifted to producing new scholarly research with policy or other practical applications. In 2008-2009, the group received funding from the State of Washington (via the Bridges Center's Washington State Labor Research grant) to continue research on work-life balance. Analyzing survey and census data, the research is exploring broad patterns of work, home and care in the United States, and how race/ethnicity and class shape earning and care-giving.
Fall 2014 Update
Anna Haley-Lock's (who has relocated to University of Wisconsin, Madison)HBCLS funded research was recently featured in an online edition of The New Yorker in an article entitled The Flextime Blues, focusing on how increasing instability of hours, both in small businesses and large-scale retailers, leaves many people struggling to balance their work and their lives.
Kim England recently received a Washington State Research Grant from HBCLS to continue the work originally done by the Race, Class, and Work-Life Balance working group, the proposal for which can be found here.
Race, Radicalism, and Labor
Critical Reflections for Today's Struggles
Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Tacoma
Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, UW Tacoma
WA State Rep., 11th District
MLKing County Labor Council
Race and labor have been at the heart of radical struggles in the United States, from the abolitionist movement in the nineteenth century to the current movement for immigrant workers' rights. This working group explores the historical links between race, radicalism, and labor in the U.S., with an eye toward generating critical reflections and interpretations for today's on-going struggles for democracy and justice, within and beyond the U.S.
Since 2005, the Race, Radicalism and Labor working group has funded many research and public history projects, including the award-winning Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project.
The working group has also supported several events. The group supported Dr. Kimberley L. Phillips from College of William and Mary in presenting "'Will the Battlefield Kill Jim Crow?': Black Freedom Struggles in the Korean War Epoch" on February 25, 2009 at Seattle's Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. In 2008, the group provided funds in support of the visit of Reverend James Lawson to the UW Tacoma campus during Black History Month 2008, February 25 to 27. Lawson visited in order to engage in scholarly work and dialogue with students, faculty and the religious and labor community. Streaming video of Lawson's visit is available on-line. In October 2010, prolific scholar Robin D.G. Kelley joined with activist Jack O'Dell for a discussion of the black freedom movement and its legacies for today's movements for social change at UW Tacoma.
Fall 2011 Update
While the collective work of the group has come to an end, the legacy of their collaborations continues in many ventures. In May 2011, members of the working group, along with the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies and the Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest hosted a major scholarly conference titled "Race, Radicalism, and Repression on the Pacific Coast and Beyond." Featuring keynote speaker George Lipsetz, (University of California, Santa Barbara) the conference explored the many aspects of labor and race, radicalism and repression throughout the Pacific Coast's history. The full program is available as a PDF here.
Originally funded 2005-2006. Funding extended 2006-2007.
SeaTac-Seattle Minimum Wage History Project
The definitive public archive of the successful local minimum wage campaigns
Labor Archives of Washington
Simpson Center for the Humanities
The SeaTac-Seattle Minimum Wage History Project works to construct a highly visible and accessible web based archive providing resources for students, faculty, journalists, and the general public who seek to understand how the campaigns for minimum wage developed, were sustained, and then prevailed through the efforts of many organizations and individuals.
In response to years of stifled union organizing in SeaTac Airport, a labor and community coalition successfully organized City of SeaTac ballot initiative Proposition 1, which aimed to raise the local minimum wage for some airport and hotel workers, including baggage handlers, to fifteen dollars an hour, which would be the highest minimum wage in the nation, and more than double the national minimum wage. Along with the living wage commitment, the ordinance also strengthened protections against tip and wage theft and banned new hiring without an offer of full-time work to existing employees.
Just six months after the successful campaign in its smaller neighbor to the south, in early June, 2014, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a $15 minimum wage, a 61% wage increase that would be phased in over seven years. Despite protests from 15 Now activists and their headline-grabbing socialist city council member ally Kshama Sawant as well as lawsuits again immediately filed by business groups, the new law expanded the fifteen dollar an hour standard to nearly 20,000 workers in Seattle.
Summer 2015 Update
On April 11th the Labor Archives of Washington and Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies held a heavily attended event to kick off the Minimum Wage History Project. After introductions by project director Michael McCann and labor archivist Conor Casey, Kshama Sawant (Seattle City Council), James Gregory (UW Professor of History), Sarah Cherin (UFCW 21), and Heather Weiner (YES! For SeaTac campaign) each spoke to the history and development of the movements and the project.
The after a quarter of working with UW undergraduates to compile an impressive archive of journalism, academic papers, and other media on the history and current events of the minimum wage both locally and nationally, the Minimum Wage History Project has begun its phase of collective audio and video oral history from labor leaders, clergy, community organizations, workers, and other activists.
Funding provided by a grant from the Simpson Center for the Humanities and a Bridges Center Washington State Labor Research Grant 2015-2016.
Union Democracy Reexamined
A model for participatory, rank-and-file driven democracy
Gene Vrana, ILWU
Joe Wenzl, ILWU
ILWU, Local 12
ILWU, Local 19
ILWU, Local 23
The Union Democracy Re-Examined working group is currently completing several years of research on democratic practices within the International Longshore and Wharehouse Union (ILWU).
The group's major products include a series of prize-winning undergraduate posters (available to unions on demand) and a journal article published in Politics & Society. Titled "Union Democracy Re-examined," the article argues that the ILWU serves as a model for a more participatory, rank-and-file driven democracy than currently exists in most unions.
The working group has enjoyed the support of the officers, education committees and pensioners of Locals 13, 19, and 23. They have received unprecedented access to union archives at the local and international level and to rarely analyzed data on union electoral participation. They have given papers at conferences, run a conference featuring a important international scholars, and worked with the ILWU education department and local committees to provide aimed younger members with information about their union's history and democratic practices. They are engaging in similar work in Australia, with the MUA, and are equally grateful to international and local officers and staff there.
Fall 2010 Update
The Union Democracy Re-Examined working group entering the final year of a $300,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant funding a longitudinal survey of changes in ILWU member preferences and beliefs over time. The second round of membership surveys are underway in two locals, while the first round of surveys is commencing in a third. They continue to produce educational materials for union members, students, and scholars. These will be made publicly available through the project website and the ongoing archival project, the Waterside Workers History Project.
Margaret Levi and John Ahlquist have a forthcoming article on leadership in the Annual Review of Political Science. Their book manuscript should be complete by the end of summer 2011. Amanda Clayton has been working on spatially mapping, via GIS, the residential density of ILWU and Teamster members in Seattle and Tacoma of MUA (Maritime Union of Australia) members in Melbourne, and Sydney. This project will also be her M.A. thesis, to be completed in the next quarter. Finally, Margaret Levi, Chris Adolph and Amanda Clayton are currently working on a statistical project concerning how leaders progress through the ILWU.
Finally, Levi and Agnone presented results of their research at a special American Sociological Association plenary panel on "Consequences of the San Francisco General Strike of 1934" commemorating the 75th anniversary of the San Francisco general strike. The project also displayed posters at the ILWU Convention in Seattle this June, and was invited to participate in an upcoming ILWU leadership training event, LEAD, to take place in September, 2010.
Originally funded 2004-2005. Funding extended 2005-2006 and 2006-2007.
Waterfront Workers History Project
Vital History of the West Coast's Ports
Ian Kennedy, ILWU
Gene Vrana, ILWU
The Waterfront Workers History Project is developing a public history project that explores the history of waterfront workers and their unions on the West Coast from the 1880s to the present. The heart of the project will be a multi-media website that displays this research in ways that can be used by union members, students, teachers, researchers, and the general public.
With the help of a team of research assistants, the group has made remarkable progress. Working with Ron Magden's amazing collection of archival materials, the team has created a digital archive of nearly 200 photographs showing waterfront workers from the 1880s to the present. Thanks to Gene Vrana, who loaned the group an invaluable collection from the ILWU Archives, they have also digitized every known copy of the Waterfront Worker, the rank and file newspaper that helped radicalize the waterfront in the early 1930s, spurring the 1934 strike and the creation of the ILWU.
Fall 2010 Update
In Summer 2010, students Michael Reagan and Brittany Barrett were brought in to continue work on the Waterfront Workers History Project. Brittany helped digitize and post online hundreds of documents relating to many of the sections on the site. Michael added original content and posting online archives of photos, video and historic documents. In addition to the hundreds of historic photos and documents, and several films of major waterfront events like the 1934 longshore strike, the following special sections were developed:
- A special section of the site was developed to review the life longshore rank and filer, and union president Harry Bridges. In that section photos, essays, and video interviews provide color and context for his life and work.
- In the Maritime Workers site, sections on sailors, engineers and cooks and steward give important historical context to the development of three unions fundamental to the maritime tradition. Of special notice is an original essay provided by historian and labor activist George Robertson about desegregating the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union.
- A site was developed for the History of Cannery Workers, with video, photos, documents, and newspapers about the largely Filipino industry, its unions and their struggles for social justice.
In addition, the site continues to build off the materials being collected, preserved and presented by the new Labor Archives of Washington State.
Labor and Politics in an Era of Inequality
Kathy Cummings, WA St. Labor Council
Larry Evans, King County
Teresa Mosqueda, WA St. Labor Council
Matias Valenzuela, King County
Steve Williamson, UFCW 21
American democracy is in crisis. The crisis reveals itself in a variety of ways:
- Polarization, gridlock, and destructive brinksmanship in national institutions
- Longstanding and catastrophic levels of unemployment
- Accelerating attacks on workers' collective bargaining rights
- Widespread employer violations of labor laws
- Diminished controls on corporate influence in politics
- Increasing attacks on voter rights.
These complex and intertwined problems create considerable challenges that threaten not just the future of organized labor, but the continued survival of the constitutional system.
Bringing together activists, scholars, labor and community leaders, the Working Democracy working group seeks to build the capacity of our political institutions to provide meaningfully democratic response to the growing inequalities in income, wealth, and opportunity.
The group's primary project is a conference, scheduled for April 24-25, 2014. Conferences themes will range from labor law reform and employer lawlessness, to new organizing strategies in the workplace and at the ballot box.
Visit the Working Democracy website for updates on the conference, reading lists on the conference themes, commentary from working group members, and more!