Fishman Grantees: 2017

The Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University is pleased to announce the awards from the Sam Fishman Travel Grant program for 2017. These annual grants provide up to $1,000 to support travel to the Reuther Library to access archival records related to the American labor movement. The award is named in honor of Sam Fishman, a former UAW and Michigan AFL-CIO leader.

As part of their research visits, awardees are invited to speak about their work at an informal event at the Reuther Library or as part of the North American Labor History Conference (NALHC) held on the Wayne State University campus in the fall. Watch for details of these events as individuals finalize their travel and research plans.

The 2017 awardees are:

Michael Aguirre, PhD candidate, University of Washington
“The Wages of Borders: Political Economy and the Eastern California Borderlands Working Classes, 1964-1979.” Research examines class formations, labor activism, and gender constructions in Imperial County, California, and Mexicali, Baja California Norte, Mexico, exploring how the termination of the guest worker Bracero Program in 1964 prompted the United States and Mexico to invest in unregulated agricultural and industrial regimes. Aguirre is planning to visit Detroit in July and August to conduct his research in the United Farm Workers collection and the papers of UFW presidents Cesar Chavez and Arturo Rodriguez.
Dr. Robert Bussel, Professor of History, University of Oregon.
“’Brotherhood of Man’: The Quest for Interracial Unionism, 1945-1968.” This research assesses a series of labor initiatives intended to counter racism and promote tolerance following World War II. These efforts sought to establish the foundations for working-class solidarity and interracial unionism. Dr. Bussel will undertake his research during a visit the Reuther Library in late March or early April and will review anti-discrimination materials in the UAW records, as well as the records of the Michigan office of the Jewish Labor Committee.

Bonnie Ernst, PhD Candidate, Northwestern University
“Women in the Age of Mass Incarceration: Gender, Rights, and Punishment in Michigan.” Studies how women experienced mass incarceration in the final decades of the twentieth century and organized to protest its oppressive aspects. The research will illustrate how women agitated from inside the prison and formed coalitions with attorneys and law students, while also exploring the role that corrections officers’ unions took in the development of policy concerning female inmates. Ernst will visit Detroit in July to conduct her research and intends to examine SEIU, AFSCME, and Michigan AFL-CIO records relating to the Michigan Corrections Organization.

Dr. Julia Gunn, Lecturer in History, University of Pennsylvania
“Civil Rights Anti-Unionism: Charlotte and the Remaking of Anti-Labor Politics in the Modern South.” Examines how progressive civil rights politics enabled Charlotte, North Carolina, to become the nation’s second-largest largest financial capital while obscuring its intransigence towards working-class protest, including public sector sanitation workers, bus drivers, firefighters, and domestic workers. Dr. Gunn intends to undertake research at the Reuther Library in June to seek materials relating to North Carolina labor in records of the SEIU, AFSCME, AFT, UAW, and CLUW.

Dr. Dawn Mabalon, Associate Professor, San Francisco State University
“Larry Itliong: The Story of the Farm Labor Organizer Who Changed the World.” Research explores the life and work of this leader of California’s farm labor movement. It focuses on relationships between Filpino and Mexican farm workers, reframing this struggle in multi-ethnic and multi-generational contexts more inclusive of radical Filipino American perspectives. Dr. Mabalon intends to visit Detroit in June to continue her research into the personal papers of Larry Itliong, as well as the Reuther Library’s extensive records of the United Farm Workers and its other leaders. .

Dr. Kristin Szylvian, Associate Professor, St. John’s University
“Operation Breakthrough, George Romney, and the Unrealized Promise of the Factory-Built House.” In the late 1960s, the federal government explored factory-built dwellings as affordable options for working people. This research considers the challenges encountered by labor unions in balancing progressive goals for fair housing and desegregation with the protection of traditional approaches to home construction and trades labor. Dr. Szylvian expects to conduct research at the Reuther Library during the spring and summer, examining the papers of UAW President Walter Reuther and other records pertaining to fair housing during this period.

Amy Zanoni, PhD Candidate Rutgers University
“Poor Health: Retrenchment and Resistance in Chicago’s Public Hospital.” This research explores disinvestment, austerity, and privatization efforts beginning in the 1970s at the Cook County Hospital. As Chicago’s only public hospital, organized labor responded to protect its largely African American and Latino/a patient base. Zanoni intends to visit Detroit in early April to continue her work, which includes records from AFSCME’s Cook County Hospital clerical worker’s Local 1111, as well as SEIU Locals 46 and 73 which represented workers in the region.

The Sam Fishman Travel Grant Program operates on an annual basis, with applications due in January each year. Announcements for the 2018 application process will be announced in November 2017 with an application deadline in January 2018.

For further information about the Sam Fishman Travel Grant Program, please contact Erik Nordberg, Reuther Library Director, by phone at 313-577-2013 or by e-mail at