Labor Pioneers: Their Stories

We stand on the shoulders of those who devoted their lives to the cause of labor. We asked DSA activists to share some of their favorite biographies. This is an evolving list. Check the DL blog for further additions.—Ed.

 

Debs_book_cover2.jpgEugene Debs Though best known as presidential candidate of the Socialist Party, USA (SPUSA) from 1900-1920, Eugene V. Debs first became important as a leader of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, later becoming a founder of the American Railway Union. Debs’s most famous action as a labor leader was the nationwide Pullman Strike, broken by President Grover Cleveland. After helping found the SPUSA, Debs also took part in organizing the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Ray Ginger’s The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene V. Debs (1949) is rightly hailed as a classic. If you can’t find a cheap used copy, be sure to pick up the 2007 reissue by Haymarket Books, which contains an introduction by veteran Marxist author Mike Davis. —Jason Schulman

Joe_HIll2.jpgJoe Hill, born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund (aka Joseph Hillström), was a songwriter, union organizer, and labor martyr. Executed in Utah after a show trial, Hill maintained his innocence until the end. One of the best biographies is Gibbs Smith’s Joe Hill (1969). A later work by William Adler, The Man Who Never Died (2011) reveals information that was never introduced during the trial. Hill is best remembered for the phrase: “pie in the sky” and his final wish: “Don’t waste any time mourning, organize!” To learn more about him, check out the University of Utah’s Joe Hill website at joehill.org. —Neil H. Olsen

Dolores_Huerta_Reader2.jpgDolores Huerta Although hundreds of magazine and news articles have been written about her, A Dolores Huerta Reader, edited by Mario Garcia, is the first adult book to focus on Huerta’s life and work. Huerta, who is a DSA Honorary Chair, has contributed to movements for union rights and social justice since she helped found the United Farm Workers (UFW) union. The creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing in the Southwest and contributed significantly to the growth of Latino politics in the United States. She became a UFW vice president and was the primary negotiator of the first UFW contracts. Today, at age 84, she speaks frequently at colleges, universities, and high schools where she presents a Latina feminist perspective to labor, civil rights, and immigration issues. Huerta is a founding board member of the Feminist Majority Foundation and serves on the board of Ms. Magazine. —Duane Campbell

Mother_Jones_film_cover_photo2.jpgMother Jones DSA member Rosemary Feurer has written, produced, and co-directed a documentary about Mary Harris (“Mother”) Jones, who is most remembered for her injunction to “Pray for the dead but fight like hell for the living.” After her husband and four children died from yellow fever, Jones became a labor organizer, crisscrossing the country in support of striking miners and families. A powerful orator, she also campaigned against child labor. An Irish immigrant, she opposed white supremacy, supported African Americans and others in low-skilled mining jobs, and worked to bring together Mexican and Italian miners in the Southwest. Information about various biographies and the documentary DVD is available at motherjonesmuseum.org —Peg Strobel

This article originally appeared in the fall 2015 issue of the Democratic Left magazine.

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

February 25, 2017
· 15 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am PT.  

What Is DSA? Training Call

March 07, 2017
· 50 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Feminist Working Group

March 07, 2017
· 26 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 13 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 21 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.