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A RENEGADE UNION: ORGANIZING IN THE SERVICE AND DISTRIBUTIVE INDUSTRIES, SOME LESSONS FROM THE PAST

Authors


  • Lisa Phillips is an Assistant Professor History at Indiana State University where she teaches U.S. Labor, Women's, and African-American History. She holds a PhD in history from Rutgers University. A “first-generation” college student, she grew up in Chicago in a working-class family. Her grandparents worked at McCormick Harvester, the Ford Motor plant, and at the Cracker Jack factory, and her grandfather was a long-time organizer for the UAW. She is active in the Labor and Working Class History Association and the American Association of University Professors, which is now organizing against higher education reform in Indiana.

Lisa Phillips, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN 47809, USA. Telephone: 011-812-237-2706. E-mail: lisa.phillips@indstate.edu.

Abstract

This article examines the history of labor organizing in the service, distribution, and processing industries. It examines Local/District 65's (Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union) efforts to find a “home” for its differing “orientation” as it targeted low-wage distribution, processing, and service workers, more often Black, Puerto Rican, and Jewish, in New York who worked in small, largely “invisible,” 10–20-person shops, using what it called a “catchall” or area-based organizing strategy. The union's history helps us better understand the challenges the contemporary labor movement faces organizing in the Wal-Mart era as low-wage service, distribution, and processing (warehouse) jobs become the norm.

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