America's union story: Blood, struggle and bargaining for good and bad

Historians in the News

Eighty-one-year-old labor historian Ken Germanson watches the news from home in Milwaukee every night, mystified.

"All those people raising their signs, protesting," he said. "Well, geez, what did our governor think was going to happen?"

Germanson ran the Wisconsin Labor History Society for nearly two decades, an organization that teaches students about the state's union heritage....

"The reason these protests have drawn so much energy from people across the country is that on a gut level, banding together to defend how you work has historically felt like a fundamental right to many Americans," said Patricia Greenfield, a professor at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The college itself is a symbol of how unions have grown in the United States. The school was founded by the AFL-CIO in 1969 and offers degrees in labor negotiating and union management. The courses are now mostly online so that students can work full-time.

"I teach my students that what's happening in Wisconsin is a historical pattern," said Greenfield and other historians, including Nelson Lichtenstein, the director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at University of California-Santa Barbara....

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