Class, Labor, and American Capitalism

Professor James Gregory

Office Hours: Tuesday 3:0-4:30 and by appointment
                                        118 Smith;  543-7792
email: gregoryj@u.washington.edu



  • Chrystia Freeland, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else
  • James Green, Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America
  • Carlos Bulosan, America is in the Heart
  • Rick Fantasia and Kim Voss, Hard Work: Remaking the American Labor Movement


Midterm, final, 3 page labor event observation paper, and 7-10 page research paper or service learning report, weekly reading responses. No one may pass the course without completing each of these assignments.

They will be weighted as follows: midterm (20%), final (25%), research paper or service learning project (30%), labor event report (10%), class participation/reading responses (15%).  The class participation grade will depend largely on the weekly discussions of assigned readings and on several short response-to-readings assignments. Generally we will set aside an hour each Thursday to discuss the readings.


  • Project proposals (1 page) due April 17 (Thursday)
  • Midterm: April 29 (Tuesday)
  • Observation paper should be turned in as early as possible; deadline May 8
  • Research paper due: May 23 (Thursday); service learning report: June 6 (Friday)
  • Final exam:  To be arranged.
NOTE: Recording lectures or class discussions is allowed only under special circumstances and with the express permission of the instructor.


Week 1: ( read Freeland, Plutocrats, 1-87)
4/1: Thinking about class
4/3: Thinking about capitalism and labor

Week 2: (read Freeland, Plutocrats, 141-287)
4/8: Industrial revolutions
4/10: Work and opportunity in 19th century America

  Week 3: (read Green, Death in Haymarket,  1-159)
4/15: Class and race formations
4/17: 19 th century labor organizations

  Week 4: (read Green, Death in Haymarket,  160-320)
4/22: The Knights of Labor vs. the American Federation of Labor
4/24: The Socialist Challenge: varieties of radicalism

Week 5 : (readings for research projects TBA) 
4/29: Midterm
5/1: Born Red: Washington State’s radical labor heritage

Week 6 : (readings for research projects TBA) 
5/6: Gender at work: sexual divisions of labor
5/8: Managerial Revolutions and the Era of Corporate Capitalism 1890-1930

  Week 7: (read Bulosan, America is in the Heart, 1-151) 
5/13: Labor's giant step: The Wagner Act and the CIO
5/15: Death on the Job: Occupational Health Then and Now 

Week 8 : (read Bulosan, America is in the Heart, 152-327)
5/20: The Age of the CIO
5/22: From social movement to interest group during the Cold War

  Week 9: (read Fantasia and Voss, Hard Work, 1-119)
5/27:  Degrading a Middle-Class Society, 1975-2014
5/29: Class and Race Formations in the 21 st century

Week 10: (read Fantasia and Voss, Hard Work, 120-175)
6/3: Not your father's labor movement: the new faces of labor
6/5: Inequality for all?  



The object of this assignment is to learn something about how contemporary labor movements operate. You should make plans to observe a labor event, either a cultural event, meeting, picket line, or protest. Then submit a 3 page observation paper describing what you have seen and offering observations and analysis of what it reveals about contemporary labor culture. What attitudes and practices do you observe? Do they reflect aspects of labor history and labor culture that we have been discussing in class? By labor culture I mean ideas, values, rituals, symbols, tactics, etc. Grades will be based on the quality of observations and the quality of writing. This assignment should be completed early and turned in as soon as possible. Deadline: May 8.

See canvas page for list of events. As I learn about events, I will post them. Feel free to suggest others.



There are two options for this assignment: (1) a 7-10 page historical research paper (2) participate in a service learning assignment with an eligible union or poverty program and write a 7-10 page report. Consult the canvas site for full descriptions of each.

Labor Yearbook Projects:

We are developing yearly accounts of labor activism in Washington State. This project involves reading the Seattle Union Record on microfilm for a single year. Collect a digital copy of all articles about strikes or labor protests, create an excel database, and write a summary report. Here is an example report and database: http://depts.washington.edu/labhist/encyclopedia/yearbook1918.shtml. Choose any year between 1904 and 1917

IWW in the Pacific Northwest Project:

We are developing a set of resources about the IWW that will be published online. Work on this project involves reading the Industrial Worker on microfilm and collecting articles about strikes and other incidents. Students will create a database and write about IWW activities during any two year period from 1909 to 1921. Or you can research and write about events like the Spokane free speech fight, Everett massacre, 1917 timber strike.

Other research papers:

These projects will require library research involving primary and secondary sources .

  • 1918 Influenza epidemic in Seattle

  • Olympia Hunger March of 1933 (1/17/33 and 3/2/33)

  • The Workers Alliance (1935-1938)

  • Boeing and the early years of the machinist union
  • 1936 Newspaper Guild Strike

  • African American workers during the Depression

  • 1886 Campaign against Chinese in Tacoma and Seattle.
  • 1905 Seattle streetcar strike

  • 1913 Seattle Teamsters strike

  • 1916 Longshore Strike (May-October)
  • Biography of Harry Ault, Socialist editor
  • Colored Marine Employment Benevolent Association (CMEBA) vs. the Marine Cooks and Stewards Association of the Pacific (MCSAP)

  • 1948 Boeing Strike (March-November)



We have arranged with the Carlson Leadership and Public Service Center for service learning positions with the following organizations:


  • Labor Archives of Washington, UW Library
  • UNITE HERE! Local 8
  • Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS)
  • Washington State Labor Education and Research Center, South Seattle Community College


Most will require 5 hours work each week. Your grade for this assignment will be based in equal parts on work performance and your final paper. This will be a report about the organization and how it operates. It will be based on your observations and you will hopefully also have a chance to interview one or more officials of the organization. It should be 7or more pages in length.

More information: visit the Carlson Center web site at uw.edu/Carlson and find the link to Spring Service-Learning classes. You can log in using your UW Net ID to browse positions. For this class, service-learning registration opens on Thursday April 4 at 8 am and closes on Sunday, April 7.