The Southern Labor Studies Association is scheduled to host its tenth-ever conference since 1976 this week — and for the first time in North Carolina.
Taking place on Sept. 9 to 11 at the University's Graham Memorial Hall, the conference is titled “Putting Workers First: Southern Labor from 1619 to COVID-19.”
The academic organization works to promote connections between scholars and labor activists, and to educate the public on the history of southern labor. For example, the SLSA supplies teachers in public schools with materials about the history of the working class.
“I think this conference will be really worthwhile for anyone interested in questions of work and labor of economic justice, racial justice, because it will explore the past of the South and its history in terms of labor,” Erik Gellman, UNC history professor and host of the conference, said.
Gellman said that a variety of perspectives will be discussed — including topics such as feminism, immigration and disability, as well as policing, civil rights unionism and sexuality.
The conference was originally scheduled for 2020, but had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
While some of the original speakers from the 2020 schedule remain in attendance, the association put out an additional call for proposals a year ago and received a “tremendous” response.
“It wasn’t hard to put the conference program together because there were just so many great panels, and a real diversity of panels as well,” Gellman said.
One speaker in particular, Laura King of Auburn University, is taking this opportunity to share research about the unionization of a textile mill in Alabama. Her dissertation paper focuses on the presence of paternalism in the mill’s work environment.