Sol Stetin Awar for Labor History goes to Nelson LichtensteinHistorians in the News
NEW YORK - The 2012 Sol Stetin Award for Labor History will go to historian Nelson Lichtenstein, who will receive the award at the annual 2012 Hillman Prizes ceremony on May 1 at The TimesCenter.
Lichtenstein will receive the Stetin Award at the ceremony and reception to honor this year’s Hillman Prize winners for excellence in journalism in service of the common good. The Stetin Award is given each year to scholars whose work has helped shape our understanding of working people and the labor movement. Previous Stetin awards have gone to David Montgomery, David Brody, Dorothy Sue Cobble and others.
About Nelson Lichtenstein:
Nelson Lichtenstein is the MacArthur Foundation Chair in History at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of California Berkeley in 1974. He previously taught at the Catholic University of America and the University of Virginia.
Professor Lichtenstein has been at the forefront of historians of American labor since the publication of his first book, Labor’s War at Home: the CIO in World War II, thirty years ago. In that path-breaking volume, in his magisterial biography of United Automobile Workers’ president Walter Reuther, The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit (1996), and in many widely-read essays, Lichtenstein traced the rise of industrial unionism during the middle decades of the 20th century, the impact it had on the structure of power both in the workplace and the political economy, and the obstacles that ultimately narrowed the movement’s vision and limited its gains. More recently, Lichtenstein has gone from analyzing labor relations and business models at key mid-twentieth century corporations, such as General Motors, to analyzing how a new set of companies and industries, exemplified by Wal-Mart, have created a transformative business template for 21st century world capitalism. Lichtenstein’s The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business appeared in 2009. And in his influential survey of the 20th century labor movement, State of the Union, Lichtenstein emphasized how shifts in social ideology and legal thinking among liberals and radicals first prepared the way for the emergence of a mass union movement and then subverted its promise.
Professor Lichtenstein has long been an active supporter of the labor movement. A regular commentator on labor matters in the press, he has helped train a new generation of scholar-activists at the UC Santa Barbara Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy, of which he is founder and director. As a leading expert on Wal-Mart and other retail-sector businesses, he has worked with labor groups in the United States and abroad to improve conditions for its workers.
About Sol Stetin:
Sol Stetin was born on April 2, 1910, near Lodz, Poland. When he was 10, his family immigrated to the United States, settling in “silk city” Paterson, NJ. Stetin dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and was fond of saying he got his education in the labor movement. In 1930, he took a job at a dye shop for 32 cents an hour. He became active in the nationwide textile strike of 1934, and rose in the ranks of the union’s leadership. As President of the Textile Workers Union of America, Stetin led the 17-year organizing drive at J. P. Stevens, one of the most ambitious union organizing campaigns in the anti-union South. During the campaign, Stetin merged his 174,000-member union with the larger Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America so as to make more money and manpower available for the Stevens campaign, on which the 1979 movie "Norma Rae" was based. The union eventually organized 3,500 workers at 12 Stevens textile mills.
Stetin was passionate about preserving the stories of workers’ lives. He co-founded the American Labor Museum, housed in the Botto House National Landmark, the former home of silk mill worker, Pietro Botto and his wife Maria. Their house was the meeting place for over 20,000 silk mill workers during the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike. The strikers called for safe working conditions, an end to child labor, and an eight-hour day.
Stetin loved the United States and spent his lifetime fighting for a better life for the people of his adopted homeland. The Sidney Hillman Foundation inaugurated the Sol Stetin Award for Labor History after his death in 2005. Judges for the 2012 Award were Joshua Freeman, Dorothy Sue Cobble and Joan Suarez.
The award ceremony and reception will be held Tuesday, May 1, 2012, 6-9 PM, at TheTimesCenter, 242 West 41st Street, New York City.
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