Labor and Social Justice Fair 2009

"I felt something magical here that I haven't felt in a long time." This comment made by one of the participants of the Labor and Social Justice Fair still lingers in my mind. Our goal was to create an innovative space to inspire people's imagination about organizing for change.

My students in a labor leadership class, labor folks, and I began working on the event some six months before it took place on the campus of California State University Dominguez Hills. The planning process was itself a magical journey, with people jumping in from many quarters to help, including the Diane Middleton Foundation. A full list of sponsors appears on our webpage at dhlaborstudies.org.

We wanted to bring labor and community groups to the attention of the campus community, where Labor Studies has been a small but unflagging program for thirty years. Scott Hill, a major in the department, thought of creating an event that would answer the question, "what do you do with a Labor Studies degree?" With President Obama popularizing the role of an organizer, we felt that our students were ready to consider making a career out of working for social change.

On April 30th over fifty organizations, including labor unions and progressive community organizations set up booths outside of the Loker Student Union. One hundred sixty high school youth from Miguel Contreras Learning Center and Crenshaw High arrived on buses sponsored by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas' office and the UTLA Collective Bargaining Unit, and had a great time going to workshops, hearing an amazing speech by Dolores Huerta, Jason George, Tony Valdez, and many others. They joined three hundred and fifty other students eating lunch, getting a tee-shirt from the event, and going through the many booths on this beautiful California day.

Our students helped to create and participate in the workshops on the subjects of the Employee Free Choice Act, Careers in the Labor Movement, and New Ways of Organizing, all of which were well attended. People watched labor films, viewed the ILWU history panels, and were part of a "Piece of the Pie" performance led by a guest artist from Otis Art Institute.

The students devised an art and a labor essay contest. The impressive results were exhibited at the Fair, and three winners from Inglewood High School came with their families and friends to get their awards at the wonderful dinner we held that evening.

Kent Wong was our fiery keynote speaker, addressing the history of May Day and its roots in the immigrant and US workers labor communities. Another of our goals for the event was to remind people about May Day's significance as an International Workers' Holiday, and to encourage people to join the march for immigrant rights the next day. The evening closed with music and dance and even a short play, echoing Emma Goldman's words, "If I can't dance, I won't join your revolution."

Vivian Price, Coordinator, Labor Studies Program and Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies/PACE vprice@csudh.edu

See also

See more photos from the Labor and Social Justice Fair on the Facebook and Flickr pages
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Vivian Price
Assistant Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies/PACE
Coordinator, Labor Studies
California State University, Dominguez Hills
1000E Victoria St.
Carson, CA 90747
my office 310-243-3583
PACE office 310-243-3640
office fax 310-516-3339

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