Past Event

Conference - Labor Past and Present: Bringing History and Activism Together

February 2, 2024
9:00 AM - 7:00 PM
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Columbia University Law School, Jerome L. Greene Hall, Room 106

Register here.

What is the value of history to labor? What is the value of labor to history? How might we better bring the lessons of the past to laborers, labor organizers, scholars, students, and the public at large? And how does centering non-traditional labor and underrepresented experiences in labor organizing and labor history help us to better understand both?

Join us as we explore these questions through the research of graduate student panelists and roundtable discussions. Panels and roundtables include: "Labor & Culture," "Labor & Health," "State, Statelessness, and the Law," "Teaching Labor and Labor History," and "Labor Today: Crisis and Resurgence."

Scheduled times are tentative and subject to change.

All registered guests will receive a boxed lunch and are invited to join the speakers and presenters for a reception from 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm. All attendees must pre-register by January 31, 2024.


Full Schedule

Welcoming Remarks (9:00 am - 9:15 am)

Panel 1: Labor & Culture (9:20 am - 10:30 am)


Shannan Clark, Associate Professor of History, Montclair State University


Theodore Jansen, University of Cincinnati, “A “Veritable Purgatory”: Nativism and the 1907 Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Labor Dispute”

Dana Kopel, University of California: Los Angeles, ““Pictorial Resistance”: Political Art Documentation/Distribution and the District 1199 Bread and Roses Cultural Project in 1980s New York"

Amanda Ripley, Ohio State University, “Because You (Still) Can’t Eat Prestige: PASTA MoMA and Contemporary U.S. Art Museum Unionization”

Roundtable 1: Teaching Labor and Labor History (10:45 AM-12:00 PM)

Samir Sonti, CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

Raza Gillani, NYU, Co-Founder of Pakistan's Progressive Students Collective and the Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement

Daniel Judt, Yale University, Coordinator of Political Education, Worker Power

Lunch (12:00 pm - 12:45 pm)

Panel 2: Labor & Health (12:45 pm - 2:00 pm)


Merlin Chowkwanyun, Donald H. Gemson Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University


Richard Bachmann. University of Michigan, “Materializing the Blue-Collar Blues on the Auto Assembly Line: The UAW, Industrial Psychologists, and the Origins of Workplace Mental Health Activism, 1950-1965”

Keith Rosenthal, CUNY, ““The Blind Leading the Blind on the Picket Line”: The 1937 Strike of the Blind Workers Union”

Stephanie van Damm, University of Cambridge, “Workplace-injury compensation in the British Empire, 1930-1940”

Panel 3: Statelessness, Labor, and the Law (2:15 pm - 3:30 pm)


Mae Ngai, Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies and History, Columbia University


Parvati Dhananjayan, Geneva Graduate Institute, “Negotiating Homeland and Statelessness: Sri Lankan repatriates, rehabilitation and Kerala's rubber estates”

Martha Guerrero, Yale University, “Undocumented Labor in the Wake of 9/11: Community Organizers, Ground Zero Workers & the Road to the 2006 Immigrant Rights Protests”

Maha Shehade Switat, Harvard Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, “Settling for (In)equality: How Settlements in Legal Labor Disputes Affect Gender and Ethnic Stratification, the Case of Israel”

Roundtable 2: Labor Today: Crisis and Resurgence (3:45 AM-5:00 PM)

Mireya Loza, Associate Professor of History, Georgetown University

Lisa Nakamura, Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor, Precarity Lab Principal Investigator, University of Michigan

Keynote: Conversation on Labor with Premilla Nadasen and Linda Oalican (5:00-6:00 pm) 

Premilla Nadasen, Professor of History, Barnard College

Linda Oalican, Co-founder and former Executive Director of Damayan Migrant Workers Association

Reception (6:00 pm - 7:00 pm)


Labor Past and Present is administered by the Columbia University Department of History. The conference organizers would like to thank the following sponsors for generously supporting the conference:

Columbia University | Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy

Columbia Law School | Legal History Workshop

Columbia University | The Lehman Center for American History

Columbia University | The Eric Holder Jr. Initiative for Civil and Political Rights

Columbia University | Arts and Sciences Graduate Council

Columbia University | Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race

Columbia Teachers College | Center on History and Education at Teachers College

Register here.