Teaching Associate Professor, Department of History
My first book, The Bosses' Union: How Employers Organized to Fight Labor before the New Deal was published by the University of Illinois Press in 2023. It examines a moment in the early twentieth century when it briefly seemed that labor organizations might become a standard feature of the American workplace—but did not, in good part due to vociferous opposition from organized employers. The book examines employer efforts to influence the state through lobbying and involvement in electoral campaigns, shape the news via pressure on newspapers and purchasing of stories, and generally strengthen employers' position by working hard to organize employers into a united front (while, with no apparent sense of irony, complaining that labor unions were an evil development because they relied on collective approaches and undermined workers' individual rights and efforts). The book also sets these struggles in the longer and broader context of union ideas about workers' rights to governing the workplace and societal views about who is entitled to and capable of self-government.
The book can be downloaded for free thanks to a TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem) grant.
My new project (well, no longer all that new, but the ongoing one) is called Speaking to the State, and it analyzes who testified at Congressional hearings between roughly 1877 and the present—i.e., who engaged in this most accessible form of lobbying. Of course, as a labor historian, I'm particularly interested in the patterns of lobbying/testimony by employer groups versus labor organizations, though the larger project also aims to analyze the representation of women's groups before and after suffrage and witnesses at hearings about the environment around 1970. 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.
- Labor and Business at Congressional Hearings, 1877–1990: Unequal Power and the Significance of Elections (CRDH2019)
- Labor Witnesses at U.S. Congressional Hearings: Historical Patterns (DH2019)
I've also done some other computationally oriented work, some of which is ongoing. 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 wrote a short paper about it for Current Research in Digital History.