Each presentation sparked lively discussion from members of the audience, with the majority being students who embodied the “Worker and Learner” experience themselves. Likewise, some of the features shed light on stories that are commonly left out of mainstream representations of the student worker. For example, a photo series captured the story of the student journalist working for free, a news article detailed the college student paying their tuition by dancing at a nightclub, and a video interview featured an LGBTQ+ student worker speaking out against gender discrimination in the workplace.
The projects were inspired by the multi-year study entitled, “Workers and Learners in LA County,” led by the UCLA Labor Center. The report is set for release in Fall 2020.
While the students integrated data from the study into their performances, much of the content was inspired by their own experiences as student workers.
“As Bertolt Brecht said, ‘Art is not a mirror held up to reality but rather a hammer with which to shape it,’” says Janna Shadduck-Hernandez, professor of Labor Studies 152, “Similarly, by integrating art, performance, and storytelling into social justice research agendas, we shape research in innovative, engaging and impactful ways that are accessible and appealing to students, workers, and community stakeholders.”
“It was a wonderful opportunity to transform the stories and experiences of the workers and learners into different art forms,” says Brittany Montaño, fourth-year History and Labor Studies double-major who participated in the Workers and Learners research team, “The different mediums my peers and I chose to create are a remarkable feat, whether through podcasting, song or story. We honed in on humanizing and empathizing the worker and learner experience since it is our truth.”