To encourage labor education outside of the classroom, communications team member and labor studies student Ashley Michel created a weekly social media graphic series that shares informative, yet easily-digestible, content about labor history and current workplace issues. Recognizing that social media merely serves as a starting point for individuals to learn about issues, Michel takes a deeper dive into the topics highlighted in the series in the blog post below.
As part of the Labor Studies weekly social media series, we explored Los Angeles’ rich labor organizing history. While at first glance, LA may not be a labor historian’s first guess as the epicenter for labor mobilizing, this series proved differently.
Through our exploration of the garment industry, the public school system, the app-based gig economy, and the public sector, we learned that each provided instances of everyday workers rising up and organizing for equity for immigrants rights, Black workers’ rights, working-class BIPOC youth and misclassified, precarious workers. With our recently-launched course, Labor Studies M115: We Gone Be Alright: Developing the Next Generation of Black Organizers, in partnership with Center for the Advancement of Racial Equity (CARE) at Work initiative, we also explored a relationship between the university and the community that intends to further a research justice and grassroots organizing approach to addressing underemployment and racial equity in Los Angeles.
In recent years addressing the opportunity gap (commonly misidentified as an “achievement gap”) was an object of importance for service-worker trade unions and local grassroots organizations, namely SEIU, UNITE HERE Local 11, and InnerCity Struggle. In the early 2000s, researchers identified a pattern: children of service sector union members had significantly lower graduation rates than their affluent counterparts. Education policy researchers believe that lack of access to quality public education is a legacy of housing segregation, which has roots in redlining practices of the 1930s, and inequitable funding formulas.
In 2010, a coalition of union and community advocates launched a campaign aimed at ensuring that every LAUSD high school had access to A-G Course Requirements. After years of organizing, a policy known as Equity in A-G passed, which invested $31 million in academic support for college preparation courses over two years. By 2016, a historic 80% of Eastside high school students graduated with A-G courses fulfilled, speaking to a significant correlation between investment and student achievement.
Even in the midst of a global pandemic, workers are standing up for workplace justice in ways never seen before. Undoubtedly, we are standing at a pivotal moment in labor history as our social, economic, and political conditions now face a landscape that is changing by the day. History provides an insightful look into how workers have fought back and won, even when the odds seemed insurmountable. At this point in history, workers are encountering some of the most dire material conditions ever seen before.
As students in Labor Studies, we are tasked with knowing these trends and leading a movement for economic justice. It is humbling to know that as our network of student organizers continues to grow, more and more people will look to us. By studying our city and the story of our workers, I am confident that we will create a bright future.