Instructor, Department of History
At present, I am working on a book manuscript (very) provisionally entitled Individual Rights and Collective Action: The Strange Career of the Closed Shop, under contract with the University of Illinois Press. The manuscript examines how it came to be that labor unions are routinely accused of being bad for workers; it does so by focusing on employer, reformer, and union views of the closed or union shop in the period from roughly 1880 to 1930. In other words, it argues for deep continuities in American debates about labor relations that stretch across the New Deal divide. It also argues that debates over who was to govern at the workplace have crucially shaped American ideas about governance, democratic participation, and the relationship between individual rights and collective action.
I'm also working on a number of digital projects, some of which are related to the manuscript. A while back I wrote a paper (presented at LaTeCH 2016 and published in the ACL anthology) experimenting with using sentence structure analysis (subjects and objects) as a kind of a proxy for seeing who is accorded "agency" in research articles about labor (thanks, JSTOR Data for Research!) More recently, working with people at the University of Turku who have found a reasonably efficient way of detecting reprints (see their paper), I've been trying to uncover employer-produced or employer-distributed stories in the Chronicling America newspaper collection. Increasingly, though, I'm thinking not just in terms of "planted" stories (aka fake news) but more broadly in terms of a "news diet" – what kind of a world did the small-town newspapers that were the staple of most ordinary Americans' news consumption serve up? In particular, of course, I'm interested in what they reported (and did not report) about labor unions. I haven't gotten around to writing up all this properly yet, but here's a conference paper I presented at the LAWCHA 2019 conference.
In addition to the news diet project, I'm analyzing who testified at Congressional hearings between roughly 1877 and the present–i.e., who engaged in this most accessible form of lobbying. Of course, again I'm particularly interested in the patterns of lobbying/testimony by employer groups versus labor organizations. I've presented versions of this at different fora: the American Historical Association meeting in 2017, the North American Labor History Conference 2018, and Current Research in Digital History in 2019 – as well as DH2019 this summer. The latter two required papers; links below.