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 Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 46 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 55 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 52 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.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 18 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.