Current Newsletter


President’s Letter

Dear fellow members of the Working Class Studies Association,

In my letter to you last fall, I talked about the importance of expanding our membership  through a variety of efforts.  One specific effort near and dear to my heart entails making way and making space within the organization, including the organization’s leadership, for a new generation of scholars, teachers, and activists.  As past president Jack Metzgar has reminded me, my presidency is a part of that generational shift in the leadership.  And for the record, let’s just say that I am no spring chicken.

A key part of welcoming a new generation to the organization is our Young Scholars and Activists Initiative (YSAI), and I am pleased to report that, in our second year of making awards to support attendance at the conference, we received over fifty applications.  This is an indication that a large number of graduate students and people early in their careers are planning to attend and present at the conference, which is heartening news.  The down side is that we are able to support, at least in a material sense, only a small number of them.  Treasurer Cherie Rankin recently sent out a message to our membership asking people to consider making a designated donation to the WCSA to support both the Young Scholars and Activists Initiative and our need-based Travel Grants Fund; I would like to echo her request.  Having read the proposals of all the YSAI applicants, believe me when I say that as a group, they are doing very interesting work that deserves to be nurtured and supported.

Buoyed by the success of last year’s effort at the Stony Brook conference, we are planning a meet-and-greet reception for the Georgetown conference specifically designed to welcome newcomers and graduate students.  We are finalizing the details, which we’ll pass along as soon as possible, but please try and join us on the evening of Wednesday, May 27th to meet some new faces and reconnect with familiar ones.

Another possibility for expanding our membership takes a different approach.  Prior to the conference, I will be circulating a proposal to the membership via e-mail outlining a plan for the Association of Working Class Academics (AWCA) to join our ranks, functioning as a caucus within the Working Class Studies Association.  For those unfamiliar with them, the Association of Working Class Academics advocates for students and faculty of poverty- and working-class origins; strives to implement reforms designed to assure greater class equity within colleges and universities; establishes relationships and connections between poverty- and working-class academics, and serves as an informational resource for those interested in issues affecting poverty- and working-class people.​  The proposal, which has been approved by the Working Class Studies Association’s steering committee, lays out the details and logistics of the plan to incorporate the AWCA.  Please watch your inboxes for this proposal, and be prepared to discuss and vote on it.

As you read further in this issue of the newsletter, please take a few minutes to read Sherry Linkon’s report on the upcoming Fighting Inequality conference.  I am hopeful that this joint conference with  the Labor and Working Class History Association will result in stimulating and unexpected dialogue between members of our organizations, and I also hope that it will have lingering effects, perhaps in the form of future collaborations on conference panels or research projects.  I hope to see many of you there.

Finally, as spring approaches, it is time to begin thinking about our elections process.  When the call for nominations goes out to the membership, please consider getting involved in the organization.  Those of us in current leadership positions would be more than happy to speak with anyone considering increasing their involvement.  The future health and stability of the WCSA depends on the visionary ideas and dedication of its members.

All my best,

Christie Launius



WCSA 2015 Conference Report

Sherry Linkon

Fighting Inequality Conference, May 28-31

Join us at Georgetown University for this year’s Working-Class Studies Association conference, Fighting Inequality.  We’ve joined forces with the Labor and Working-Class History Association, and we expect more than 400 presenters from around the world.  Plenaries will address “Reinventing the Labor Movement to Fight Inequality and Save Democracy,” “Testing Inequality: Teachers, Parents, and Unions Organizing for Education Justice,” and “Arts as Activism.”  Plenary speakers include Karen Nussbaum.  We’ll also have a DC labor tour; workshops on poverty, activism, and labor archives; film screenings; and our annual banquet followed by a music and poetry open mic.  Festivities begin on the eve of the conference, with a meet and greet on Wednesday, May 27, followed by a film event sponsored by the DC Labor Fest. The conference continues through Sunday morning.

Travel to DC is expensive, so we’ve kept this year’s conference fees as low as possible — $125 for full-time workers, $75 for others, with a $50 one-day rate.  We have a limited number of dorm rooms available, and we will give priority for these to students and others with fewer resources.  To request a dorm room, contact Jessica Chilin at   We’ve also reserved a block of rooms at the union Holiday Inn-Georgetown.  You’ll find links to these on the Travel page of the conference website.

The conference schedule and registration are also online at


Secretary’s Report

Michele Fazio

The 2015 Young Scholar’s and Activists Initiative (YSAI) committee is currently considering candidates for this year’s conference. Based on the success of last year’s event, a meet-and-greet reception for newcomers and returning members has been arranged for Wednesday before the opening night film screening at Georgetown.  A new membership campaign has been underway since early fall, and the Communications Committee is currently expanding the visibility of the WCSA on social media as well as updating the website regularly to feature various news items.  The Steering Committee has approved a proposal for the Association of Working-Class Academics to join WCSA as a caucus; the proposal will be circulated to the WCSA membership prior to our conference in May. Lastly, the Travel Grant application was revised to clarify information for international applicants as well as to determine funding limits for all applicants.


Treasurer’s Report

Cherie Rankin 

The Association continues to be solid financially, with just over $25,000 in our accounts.

The next significant expense coming up is travel grant funding for scholars in need who are attending our upcoming conference at Georgetown, and funding for the Young Scholars Initiative.  In past years, we’ve received several hundred dollars in designated travel fund donations; this year, those donations have been significantly lower.

At present, we plan to fund both Travel Grant programs at their usual levels, in spite of the lower donation amounts.  However, should you be so inclined, you are encouraged to make a designated donation to the travel grant funds.  You may do so by making a PayPal payment through the WCSA website, or you may send a donation via personal check (made out to the WCSA) to me at the address below:  Cherie Rankin / PO Box 264 / Emden, IL  62635.

Thanks in advance for your support of these travel grant funds.

Centers and Programs

Texas Center for Working-Class Studies

The Texas Center for Working-Class Studies (TCWCS), to be housed at Collin College, a two-year institution in Texas, is in the process of gaining formal approval. The Center seeks to raise awareness about issues of …

Book Notes

Working on Earth. Class and Environmental JusticeWorking on Earth: Class and Environmental Justice (U. of Nevada Press), edited by Christina Robertson and Jennifer Westerman

This collection of essays traces the various connections between modern industrial capitalism and ecological and human health, examining the relationship between environmental …

Book Reviews

Class LivesChuck Collins, Jennifer Ladd, Maynard Seider, and Felice Yeskel, editors. Class Lives: Stories from across Our Economic Divide. (Cornell, 2014)

Review by Liesl Orenic, Dominican University

Class Lives is a powerful, welcome and timely collection of personal reflections. The narratives …

Member News

Helen Diana Eidson, assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at Auburn University, is teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in rhetorical theory and practice this spring. This semester’s theme is working-class rhetoric, and the students are looking at primary sources by and about Alabama sharecroppers and tenant families.  One of the main units of study focuses on Nate Shaw (Ned Cobb), a tenant farmer from Tallapoosa County, Alabama. The students are reading Shaw’s oral history All God’s Dangers: A Life of Nate Shaw (1974; compiled and edited by Theodore Rosengarten) and Robin D.G. Kelly’s Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Depression (1990). The students are completing primary research projects, including articles for the Encyclopedia of Alabama ( The primary purpose is for students to understand how to analyze and produce rhetorical texts through a deep understanding of the ways theory and practice inform one another.


Jennifer Westerman, assistant professor of sustainable development at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, is co-editor of a collection of essays entitled Working on Earth: Class and Environmental Justice.  (See “Book Notes” for more.)


Dick Roman’s co-authored book (with Edur Velasco Arregui), Continental Crucible: Big Business, Workers and Unions in the Transformation of North America, will be out in a second edition in April 2015, co-published by PM (U.S.) and Fernwood (Canada).  Dick and Edur also published an article, “Partners in Crime: The Continental Capitalist Offensive and the Killing Fields of Mexico” in November, 2014 ( An abridged and slightly revised version, “The Spectre of Ayotzinapa Haunts the Continent,” appeared in December, 2014 (  They also were the guest editors of a special issue of NACLA Report on the Americas: Mexico—The State Against the Working Class (Spring 2014) and wrote the “Introduction: Mexican Workers in the Continental Crucible” to that issue. (


Barbara Jensen

Greetings, working class studies scholars and activists!  We have a full docket of submissions for our five award categories, The CLR James Award for best academic or general audience book of the year; the Tillie Olson Creative Writing …

The Working-Class Studies Association aims to develop and promote multiple forms of scholarship, teaching, and activism related to working-class life and cultures.