HC431H - Labor Radicalism in the Pacific Northwest

Professor: James Breen

4.00 credits

CRN 35747: Monday & Wednesday, 2:00-3:50pm @ GSH 132

According to The American Prospect, the United States experienced just seven major strikes in the private sector in 2017—a far cry from the almost three hundred major strikes per year throughout the 1970s. But American labor militancy has since exploded in both the private and public sectors. Americans have seen highly publicized unionization drives at Starbucks and Amazon. Also, in the past half-decade, Americans have watched thousands of teachers and healthcare workers walk off the job to protest low pay and/or poor working conditions. President Joe Biden even promised in 2021 to be the "pro-union president leading the most pro-union administration in American history." Labor radicalism has a deep, uneven history in the Pacific Northwest. In this course, we will explore the people, events, music, and ideas that shaped working-class movements in Oregon and Washington from the late nineteenth century to the present day. We will examine the ideals, successes, struggles, and contradictions of those movements. We will read articles and book chapters, listen to podcasts and labor songs, and watch documentaries. Students should expect to participate in lively class discussions, write short reading responses each week, and design an interdisciplinary final project (in consultation with the professor) that relates to the theme of the course.