2016 Barbara Wertheimer Prize

NYLHA is proud to announce the winner of the 2015 Barbara Wertheimer Prize!

Luke Mielke is the winner of this year’s Barbara Wertheimer Prize, for his Macalester College American Studies Honors Thesis “Racial Uplift in a Jim Crow Local: Black Union Organizing in Minneapolis Hotels, 1930-1940.”  Duchess Harris was the Project Advisor.


In the 1930s and 1940s, Minneapolis hotels employed two-thirds of all African-Americans working in the city. For black workers in Minneapolis, hotels were a site rife with contradictions: while these jobs offered prestige and union wages, they simultaneously drew upon hotel’s appeal to white customers’ slavery fantasy by promoting an atmosphere of racialized luxury. My research examines how narratives of respectability and racial uplift— generally at odds with the militant working-class politics of unions—became important for black hotel workers in Minneapolis, whose ability to conform to middle-class patriarchal norms was jeopardized by the submissive stereotypes promoted by hotels. Despite its status as a “Jim Crow local,” the all-black Hotel Employee and Restaurant Employee (HERE) Local 614 won significant wage increases for black waiters and represented a grassroots effort to participate in a labor movement that wanted to exclude them. Drawing from oral histories with the black leadership of Local 614 and its close ally, the integrated HERE Local 665, I argue that unions offered a few individuals an opportunity to rise from just another rank-and-file waiter to an influential leader. Leadership gained status both within a mostly white labor movement and the class-stratified black Minnesotan community, shaping the early civil rights movement in Minneapolis. The story of how these workers, mostly waiters in the dining rooms of the city’s finest hotels, deepens our understanding of the complicated position of black workers in the 1930-1940 labor movement by illuminating the diversity of the motivations and ideologies that informed black union leaders in Local 614 and Local 665.



30th Annual John Commerford Labor Education Awards

The New York Labor History Association is pleased to honor Keith Mestrich, CEO and President of Amalgamated Bank, and Ruth Milkman, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and Research Director at the Murphy Institute for Worker Education.

Join us in celebrating their commitment to workers’ rights and economic justice.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
1199/SEIU Penthouse
330 West 42nd Street, New York City

Tickets are $50 each. To purchase tickets, please make your check out to the “New York Labor History Association” and mail your order to:

Loraine Baratti, NYLHA
116 Pinehurst Avenue
Apt. K-1
New York, NY 10033

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The New York Labor History Association is pleased to present:


Join us for the award presentation and a discussion about using history
to understand workers’ stories with historian Kimberly Phillips-Fein
(NYU), and investigative journalists Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!),
and Tom Robbins (CUNY)

Thursday October 13, 2016   6-8pm
Tamiment Library / Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
10th Floor, 70 Washington Square South, Bobst Library, NYU

RSVP recommended, e-mail Tamiment.events@nyu.edu with guest names &
title of event.

This NYLHA award is co-sponsored by LaborArts / Metro New York Labor
Communications Council / the NYC Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO / and
the Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at NYU’s Tamiment Library.

More information at LaborArts.org/Bernhardt; contact
info@LaborArts.org  or   212 966-4014 x1703

A downloadable version of the flyer is available below:


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