UNION MEMBERS CAN LEARN FROM HIDDEN HISTORY
Where did worker rights come from? What is the difference between “working class” and “middle class?” Why is funding for public services so inadequate? Who isn’t paying their fair share? And why do these things matter?
In “California Labor History,” a three unit San Francisco City College course offered at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday evenings at Mission Campus, 1125 Valencia Street, beginning August 17, students learn that the fight for a better society stretches back before the Gold Rush, and that stories of worker struggles back in the day can shed light on today’s world.
The course is taught by California Federation of Teachers communications director Fred Glass. It showcases efforts by California’s working people to achieve dignity, economic security, and civil rights.
Most of the students who take the course are union members. The ages range from newly minted high school graduates to grizzled veterans of decades of labor wars. Many have noted that the class provides a space tucked away from the rest of their often hectic lives to reflect on the meaning of work and the social issues that surround it. The discussions among students are lively, and the oral history assignment often turns up surprising things about students’ own unions and family histories.
One former student, Jessica Buchsbaum says, “Taking the class was a great introduction to labor history in California.” For her final project, she interviewed and videotaped a former president of her union. “It was a privilege and an education to hear Lauri describe the early days of our Union, and the strides that it has made to improve our pay, benefits, and working conditions. I showed the video at Lauri’s retirement party this year. It was really meaningful for me to feel connected to the labor leaders who’ve paved the way for us, and to honor Lauri with a tribute that was created in the California Labor History class.”
The course is built around the ten-part public television documentary series Golden Lands, Working Hands. All students completing the course will receive a free copy of the award-winning DVD series.
For more information or to register call Bill Shields at the CCSF Labor and Community Studies Department, 415-550-4472, or Fred Glass at 510-523-5238.