In 1981, workers at the Brown and Sharpe factory in North Kingstown, Rhode Island began what became the longest strike in American history. But the workers had almost no chance of winning because conditions for labor changed dramatically from the height of union power in the 1940s and 1950s. This talk places one of Rhode Island’s iconic moments in the context of the larger decline of the labor movement, demonstrating the structural issues that have always limited union power in the United States. Finally, it considers recent changes to the labor movement in Rhode Island and nationally and suggests some reason for cautious optimism about its future.
Local independent bookstore Riffraff is selling copies of Loomis’ book The History of America in Ten Strikes on behalf of RIHS. Order a signed copy now, and you’ll receive yours after the public lecture later this month.
Erik Loomis is Associate Professor of History at the University of Rhode island. He is the author of three books, including Out of Sight: The Long and Disturbing Story of Corporations Outsourcing Catastrophe (2015), Empire of Timber: Labor Unions and the Pacific Northwest Forests (2016), and A History of America in Ten Strikes (2018). His work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Nation, Dissent, and other journals.
Order The History of America in Ten Strikes here: https://riffraffpvd.com/a-history-of-america-in-ten-strikes/